Digital Transformation and Marketing:

What next for the CMO?

For most CMOs, the ability to implement new channels, processes, and technologies is ‘all in a day’s work’. But can the same be said for leaders in other parts of the company? When it comes to business-wide transformation, marketing should lead by example…

Organisational transformation: marketers should be at the top table

Why do organisations embark on digital transformation? The precise drivers differ from company to company, but in most cases, it’s driven by a desire to deliver a stronger customer experience, to boost efficiency, and gain a competitive advantage. For marketing leaders, it’s worth giving careful thought to the role you play in all of this.

You could take a narrow view: i.e. focusing squarely and solely on upgrading your own function’s capabilities. The smarter move – especially if your aim is to elevate the status of the marketing function – involves leading by example.

You arguably understand the customer and customer trends better than any other function. Working with data – e.g. around advertising traffic and engagement – is already second nature to your team. Building on all of this, marketing is uniquely positioned to take a leading role in transformation throughout the whole business.

But what does taking a lead role actually mean? We would suggest the following:

Develop the wider value of marketing data

Think about the various categories of data generated and owned by marketing (surrounding, for instance, customer behaviour, preferences and demand trends). To what extent might this information be of value beyond the marketing function when it comes to updating legacy processes?

For example, when it comes to digital marketing initiatives, it is likely that you have a wealth of data linked to metrics such as browsing behaviour, average session duration, click-through, and engagement (to name just a few). Looking beyond a narrow, marketing-specific perspective, this type of information tells you a lot about your customers; i.e. what devices and channels they prefer and what type of material encourages the most engagement.

Now consider this in the context of digital transformation across the wider business – for instance, in sales, customer service and product development. What type of new features and capabilities should those departments be developing in order to really resonate with your customers? Your marketing data can potentially provide valuable intel on all of this.

Action points:

  • The desire to build a stronger customer experience is a major reason for instigating digital transformation right across the business. The marketing function typically owns a rich seam of data that provides intel on how customers perceive value and usefulness. This data can enhance decision-making surrounding a wide range of digital transformation initiatives.
  • A few examples of digital transformation initiatives where marketing data may prove valuable include AI-driven virtual assistants in customer support, customer self-service portals in fulfillment, and digital payment platforms in finance.
  • Marketing leaders should consider carrying out periodic audits of the data they own, to determine possible business-wide applications.

Do you have the right solutions to turn that data into workable insight? Consider the use of visualisation tools (e.g. Tableau, Microsoft Power BI – to name just a couple) to help make complex datasets easier to understand, analyse, and communicate.

Become a champion of integrated planning

Marketing leaders are generally no strangers to joined-up strategic thinking, whether it’s integrating sales and marketing touchpoints in B2B spheres or seeking to create a consistent ‘omnichannel’ experience for customers across multiple sales platforms and social channels.

As part of this, most marketers know instinctively (and often from experience) that silos are bad news. They lead to mixed messaging, wasted resources, confused customers, and lost revenue. But it isn’t just campaign execution where silos can cause problems; siloed approaches are also problematic when it comes to budgeting, planning and allocation of resources.

Let’s say you are seeking to allocate your department’s budget and devise an operational plan for the coming year. The traditional approach to this generally involves using mostly marketing-specific data, setting your own targets and working with your own spreadsheets. Meanwhile, however, other departments – e.g. HR, sales, production, and finance – are carrying out their own planning processes, using independent data silos, and devising their own targets.

Let’s also say you want to increase activity linked to a particular sales channel, product range, or geographical market. You can see how this will impact the marketing budget. But what knock-on effects will it have on, say, production, HR, and IT support? Analysing the data and getting answers can mean having to obtain and reconcile data from disparate systems – often drawing on a range of different assumptions and arrived at using different methodologies. It’s an approach which can be both drawn-out and error prone, and one which can very easily result in inaccurate conclusions being drawn.

Especially if you are still reliant on siloed, spreadsheet-based processes, it’s time to give serious consideration to integrated planning; i.e. the ability to bring together information from across strategic and operational areas of the business. For all decision-makers, this can help deliver a more joined-up view of business performance, equipping you to assess the company-wide consequences of decisions.

Action points:

  • Rather than focusing solely on meeting department-specific goals, CMOs should ensure that everyone within the marketing department is aware of the organisation’s overall business objectives.
  • Ensure that each new marketing initiative is fully aligned with the company’s broader strategic agenda.
  • Encourage joined-up planning and strategic thinking by building closer relationships with colleagues from other departments (e.g. IT, sales, operations, and customer service). Seek opportunities to work together on cross-functional projects and initiatives that support digital transformation.
  • Make the case for a single source of data and a single platform for financial, operational, and strategic planning and budgeting.
  • CMOs can and should take a prominent role when new planning and analysis tools are being considered or implemented across the business. This includes input in choice of vendor, and helping to define organisation-wide, customer-centric KPIs.

Lead by example

Will the return justify the cost? How much disruption can we expect, and what will be the impact on day-to-day operations? What will new technologies mean on a purely personal level? When it comes to digital transformation, a certain degree of hesitancy or pushback is inevitable. It’s also fair to say that some parts of the business will be more resistant to change than others.

For most marketers however, responding to change is second nature. Creative thinking combined with the ability to ‘read the room’ are essential; whether it’s experimenting with new digital channels, or leveraging data and analytics capabilities to optimise the performance of campaigns.

If a willingness to innovate is already an important element of your team’s culture, how might this be put to work throughout the wider business? The CMO can and should be a change agent within the organisation as a whole. It’s a case of leading by example, and inspiring others to embrace innovation.

Action points:

  • Look for ‘easy wins’, for instance, by carrying out an audit of activities within the marketing department, and highlighting those time-consuming manual tasks that are ripe for automation (thereby potentially creating more bandwidth to devote to more strategic and growth-oriented activities)
  • Use the customer experience as a starting point. Map out the entire customer journey from the first marketing touchpoints right through to contract fulfillment (and beyond). Consider what type of capabilities and functionality are needed to deliver a standout customer experience (this will likely span multiple departments).
  • From collaboration tools through to data analysis, carry out your own research to identify those tools and technologies that are most likely to boost efficiency, drive business growth, and create differentiation.
  • Become an advocate of a collaborative approach to strategic development, for instance, by suggesting multi-department strategic planning sessions to consider digital transformation. Be ready to share your insights from a marketing perspective, while referring back to the organisation’s wider goals and objectives.

What next?

Digital transformation should always be a collaborative process. And when it comes to creating the type of experiences that will really resonate with your customers, marketing leaders should be taking a leading role in change-related conversations.

With a range of expertise that spans data analytics, data architecture, automation, cybersecurity and more, Millennium Consulting is ideally placed to help you on the next stage of your digital transformation journey. To explore what’s possible, speak to us today.

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