Once Again, Digital Is Not A Department -- And Marketing Should Be Everywhere

I recently wrote about how silly it is to embed a team of digitally focused folks in your marketing department, call it a team and expect results.  The response was overwhelming to that article, which shocked me because I thought that idea was taken for granted.  Apparently I was overstating the understanding of that concept.

Well, if that topic resonated, let’s take the thinking a few steps further.  I could also argue that in today’s customer-centric marketing environment, marketing can no longer be a stand-alone department, but needs to be integrated into every facet of the organization based on three lynchpins: audience, data and revenue. 

If we acknowledge that marketing is fast branching out to integrate its tentacles into other areas of the business, we have to understand what those areas mean. First, it’s the audience. Customer experience is certainly a key component of creating a customer-driven business, but there are a lot of people whom you speak to who are not currently customers, and that effort is about branding, perception and consideration.  It’s about influencing a portion of the audience that may eventually become customers. The fact is you may not be able to identify these people as customers in the near term (regardless of lookalike modeling).  You might only be able to identify 50% of your audience as potential customers at any given time.  Of course that creates a 50% increase in outbound efficiency right off the bat, which saves a lot of money.



Second, it’s about data.  Data that comes in from other areas of the organization can be used to influence marketing.  Data from marketing can be pushed out to other areas of the business as well.  Data warehousing started this trend many years ago, enabling a single repository of complex business analytics, but this effort was mostly owned by IT.  DMPs, data services and data exchanges make this vision more robust by offering direct activation of those insights, a process that’s been owned by marketing.  Marketing is the obvious place because you use audience insights to optimize messaging and spend. 

But what about refining the billing process based on customer feedback?  What about leveraging social listening to drive R&D and packaging?  Many CPG companies have done this, with the Swiffer being one of the most famous crowd-sourced products, but what if you institutionalize that kind of process and use it across multiple stacks in the organization?     

The last of the ways marketing to embed in the rest of the organization is the responsibility for revenue.  I also recently discussed that marketing and sales should be more aligned, and that the CMO should be responsible for revenue.  If  marketing folks are tasked to feed the sales funnel, they should be able to influence the actual process for sales, including everything from pricing and packaging through sales reporting.  In some larger organizations this is the case, but in others marketing has been separated from sales because it was less accountable.  Everyone in marketing is trying to shoot for the same target these days: proving their worth. Having revenue responsibility is one way to accomplish that goal.

I wouldn’t argue the marketing department should be dismantled in the same way that the digital team be ripped apart and embedded in the org, but I do see marketing hiring people or taking on the headcount of embedded figures in other areas of the organization.   These embedded marketers represent the audience and the customer throughout the organization.  They sit in meetings for IT.  They sit in sales.  They sit in operations. They influence the organization, with the support of the CEO and the CMO.  They are a sounding board for new ideas and they provide strategic support for everything that goes on.  This integrated model of embedding marketing-focused people with  customer insights into every area of the org represents the beginning of a truly customer-driven enterprise.

Maybe I am being optimistic, but I see this as a distinct possibility.  What do you think?

1 comment about "Once Again, Digital Is Not A Department -- And Marketing Should Be Everywhere".
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  1. John Ellett from nFusion Group, September 11, 2014 at 11:50 a.m.

    Cory, great thinking here. As the basis of competitive advantage is shifting to customer experiences from product differentiation, it is imperative that customer-centric thinking (frequently championed by Marketing) is embedded into every department. The biggest challenge to creating highly relevant personalized experiences is organizational silos. Your recommendation of building "connective tissue" through embedded marketers is an interesting proposition. Anyone doing that today?

    John Ellett (@jellett)

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