Marketing strategy must be about business growth
It was David Bowie who said, “you can’t stand still in one point your entire life.” And with Bowie’s words ringing posthumously in our heads, the same can still be said for marketers.
For several years now, we’ve been hearing about the so-called inevitable extinction of the CMO or how many are morphing into another alias – Chief Data Officer, Chief Customer Officer and more recently, the Chief Growth Officer.
Ever since the birth of mass advertising, arguably when the first advert popped up on Americans’ TV screen in 1941, advertising and marketing has constantly had to adapt and change to suit new mediums and an increasingly savvy audience.
Whilst it’s easy to veer into debate about a marketer’s alias, one thing remains constant: Marketing and marketers exist to drive growth.
The biggest headache for many marketers nowadays isn’t necessarily their job title or the hyperbole around it, it’s proving they are doing a great job at driving efficacy on their investments.
Brands and Marketing in 2018
We live in a world where profitable brand growth in some sectors has declined; economic and political uncertainty has kept us bracing for the worst; and there is an all-time low in trust concerning digital mediums from both advertisers and consumers. In this environment, many marketers are facing the same question:
‘What’s the single most important thing I need to think about when managing the efficacy of my marketing spend?’
With that question in mind, let’s start at the beginning…
Marketing Strategy = Business Strategy
With the foundation that marketing exists to drive business growth, we must consider our business strategy, goals and overall purpose.
Marketing strategy has to be synchronised with business strategy.
Whilst not rocket science, I believe this is why (in some instances) marketing fails to market itself and why some organisations have recently replaced the CMO with a ‘Chief Growth Officer’.. This shift is quite telling – in those cases it signals that the marketing function is not perceived as growth contributor or generating the required business outcomes by CEOs. Using the right language helps, of course, if your 2018 strategy is all about personalisation, storytelling, content or being data-centric, your CEO might think, “Great, but what does this mean to our bottom line?”.
As Manjiry Tamhane - Gain Theory’s Global CEO - recently said at the Advertising Association’s LEAD 2018 conference in London, “‘Marketing must be seen to be the engine of growth for businesses.”’.
As a senior marketer, being crystal clear on business strategy is imperative before embarking on any marketing strategy. This entails being clear on the answer to key business strategy elements such as:
- What is our vision, mission and goal?
- What is the five-year financial plan and where are we on that journey?
- How are we going to get to our revenue goals - acquisitions, diversification, expansion, flotation, etc.?
- What are the business priorities this year and next?
What are you trying to achieve?
The next question to tackle is: ‘What are our business goals, in the long- and short-term?’
Based on the purchase funnel, these can be broken down into two main areas:
- Demand Generation: what does your business need to achieve from an awareness and a perception point of view?
- Demand Conversion: following up on generation of demand, what do you need to achieve when it comes to customer intent and sales?
It’s incumbent on marketers to factor in the current state of the business. In other words, are you in growth stage like Airbnb is or do you need to maintain market position like Hertz?
How will you measure success?
Many marketers find themselves data rich but insights poor. During a CMO dinner with executives from several companies including Gain Theory and The Marketing Society, one marketer asserted, “Just because you can measure, doesn’t mean you can manage.”
To help drive the right insights, marketers must understand the metrics against which they will evaluate the success.
With measurement, there are two key considerations:
1. The ‘Right’ Metrics: Always link back to hard business data that ladder up to the business strategy and KPIs. For many companies, supporting data could point to sales revenue and profitability or a company’s share price.
2. Measure Holistically: Some marketing activity is demand generating while others are demand gathering. It’s important to understand how demand generating activity yields demand gathering activity in the future and how each channels contribution to the path to purchase. Don’t just measure the short- term response to media – advertising seeks to change people’s tastes and preferences, and will have an impact on sales revenue for a much longer period.
Who else do you need?
Marketing is not just advertising and communications. We’ve moved on from the classic 4P model for quite some time and - there are many factors that impact growth and subsequently the Marketing Mix. In some companies, depending on the marketing organisation’s structure, some of these factors will lie outside of the marketing team’s ‘control,’ e.g. product, placement, process of delivery. So you need to think about who you will need to bring along in the journey to ensure a successful marketing strategy, that leads to business growth. Here are some thoughts to consider:
1. Organisational Alignment: It’s imperative to approach a marketing strategy consultatively, with partners who lead factors which will impact success. Smart questions to ask are: What can marketing do to help ensure success? What role can it play? Are we aligned on the same metrics that ladder up to business strategy?
2. Partner Alignment: Many CMOs and their teams lean on external partners to deliver their strategy including e.g. media agencies, PR firms, and specialists in content and , SEO. It’s incumbent on marketers to ensure full transparency on the goals, strategy and how you will measure success.
Close the Loop
As marketers we are constantly on a journey of re-invention in the face of consumer expectations, technology or market disruption.
What remains constant is that marketing has to be seen as the engine of growth so the choices we make along that journey, need to always come back ‘home’ to the core business strategy.
And as Bowie would say ‘The truth, of course, is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time’.
By Claudia Sestini, global marketing officer, Gain Theory. Follow her @IamSestini