So what makes me say that? In my career to date, I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to work across various marketing disciplines, in-house and agency side and for wildly varied industries and company sizes. I’ve been part of a large marketing team for a FTSE 100 company; to being a freelance marketing consultant for SMEs and currently reside as Director for a small but ambitious start-up agency. These experiences have shaped my observations on the relevance of marketing departments and practices today, and I’d love to share them with you.
Marketing doesn’t exist
Or at least in the traditional sense, it doesn’t. The old-school broadcast model of selling to and ‘persuading’ customers just isn’t relevant today. We can’t tell people what associations to make with brands anymore. Free, open communication and sharing online has stopped all that. A clever advertising campaign can be discredited in a minute by bad press gone viral.
People make their own minds up about the value you can bring to them, and it’s shaped by a sea of news, information and opinions about you online. Your own carefully crafted words resonate a lot less than trusted referrals and the live reviews of your customers.
Instead, we as marketers, must find ways to invite conversation about brands; to let our advocates do the talking for us. This is done by offering no-strings value, raising awareness and inviting conversation.
So marketing has to adapt to survive; if we can’t keep up with ever-changing consumer trends and behaviours (from buying, and interacting to communicating and engaging), we can’t serve our purpose. So how do disconnected marketing departments serve constantly connected consumers?
Channel ‘Marketing’ teams are redundant
A very simple definition of marketing is ‘telling people why you have what they need and listening and responding to what they have to say’. But what happens when one team manages the ‘listening’ and another the ‘telling’?
My job today affords me the luxury of speaking directly to my customers and I have access to all the metrics and analytics I need to tell me how they interact with my business. Looking back, I now feel like a total fraud for having ever designed a campaign or written an email to customers and never having been on the receiving end of those customer’s responses – because ‘they go to a different team’
I’m willing to bet that those of you who have worked for huge companies are familiar with conversations like these: “but the customer insight teams are in a different building”; “complaints are handled by so and so in another city and the data will take a week to request” or my favourite “an agency deals with all our analytics”…. It just doesn’t cut it anymore.
The reason I think that smaller businesses with in-house marketing expertise work so well is because they have a direct line to customers – access to the full picture of their customer’s interactions with them and are ready to respond and adapt instantly.
Customers expect to have a consistent conversation with companies; regardless of channel; how can you make that happen when channel marketers are isolated from one another? When feedback from one channel isn’t shared with those who work on another? How can you keep a consistent; omni-channel experience when you don’t have consistent; omni-channel teams?
Even multi-disciplinary marketing departments in isolation can’t work
Every person and department responsible for servicing customers throughout their lifecycle needs to be brought closer together – to be agile and deliver consistent and constantly improving customer experience.
If you’re in a small business you’re already wearing many hats and you’re in a good place. It can be frustrating that you may not have the budgets or resources that massive businesses do; but in reality, you have a huge advantage.
If you’re a big organisation, you have to pool your resources, build in an ability to move quickly and adapt to your customers or someone else will pull them out from underneath you. You cannot expect to ride on the coat tails of your brand forever – that brand is only as strong as your next interaction and if you aren’t ready and able to adapt then you will be disrupted by someone who is.
Understand how to work together across not just marketing disciplines but also customer service, product development, support and research to get the whole picture of your customers’ experience with your business.
So what now?
What about shaping teams around customers instead of channels? So let’s say you sell a product targeted at new businesses; and you have another for bigger businesses – why not build multi-disciplinary teams around those specific customer groups? Teams who sit together and have a responsibility for servicing those customers throughout their journey and at every touchpoint.
In marketing, we learn to segment; target; and learn about our customers to optimise our messages for them. But this is a principle that transcends just marketing now in my opinion, it should be a business-wide responsibility that every person is accountable for. Now more than ever we need to constantly be listening; to take every opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of the customer – combining call centres; marketing analytics; frontline employees and all those who are involved in connecting with the customer and constantly listening; the faster you can predict and react, the faster you can optimise your products and services to survive.
What do you think?
These thoughts are all shaped by my personal experience rather than independent research so I’d love to hear more thoughts and opinions about this as I’m just one voice. Have you got alternative ideas about the future of marketing? Have you experienced multi-disciplinary teams in action and do they work? Please comment below or get in touch with me to continue the conversation!