Process and Objectives – then programs and tactics!

When I engage with a new client or lead a new marketing team, I’m often struck by how the drive to ‘get things done’ in Marketing, often with little budget and with immense time pressure – usually from Sales who are chasing quarterly numbers – takes over from thinking about planned outcomes. Everyone is busy. But do we stop long enough to determine if we are busy doing the right things?

Many marketing managers seem isolated from the sharp end of closing business and delivering revenue, with metrics, where they exist, still focused on opens, clicks and downloads rather than closed opportunities driven by Marketing activity. In a complex, long sales cycle, this is even more the case. So how does activity get associated with key business KPIs?

For those companies embracing marketing automation that by necessity drives a focus on process, data and measurement of outcomes, the automation project may for the first time encourage an explicit look at Marketing as more than a set of disparate activities. However a recent report suggests this is not always successful. ‘Walk before you can run’ was the key message of a recent DemandGen Report article on best practice for automation new adopters.

“Many companies rush to make an automation purchase before taking the time to define their internal requirements, such as what will they need from the automation solution,” said Carlos Hidalgo, President,  The Annuitas Group. “It is best to approach the purchase of automation in a cross-functional manner that includes groups beyond marketing including sales, operations, customer service and finance as these decisions will have an impact on each of these functional areas.”

This multi-functional, but marketing-led, approach to implementing what is effectively ‘ERP for Marketing’ introduces a fundamental change to the way marketing is practised in most B-to-B organisations. It produces a focus on outcomes rather than on activity. It requires Marketing to integrate at a process level with other functions and departments and demonstrate the link between what Marketing is doing and its impact on business performance. This is important stuff and it won’t happen overnight.

I have yet to see many UK case studies of successful implementation and shows attended by many Marketing Managers continue to promote individual tactics, such as SEO and viral. Is this likely to change now that business is harder to come by and every dollar is being scrutinised?