Content Marketing
Modern Marketing Transformation Starts with the Right Culture!

Modern Marketing Transformation Starts with the Right Culture!

April 29, 2020
10 min read

The digital experience is more important no than ever before. The power of Big Data, agile marketing, compelling content strategies, marketing automation, a customer-centric approach – the core tenets of modern marketing weren’t born yesterday.

So, why are some marketing teams struggling to keep up? Difficult times like these will shine a light on a very specific kind of marketing leader. The ones who inspire change across the whole culture.

Change isn’t easy. A full-blown transformation involving an entire team of individuals can be a Mt. Everest-sized obstacle. Throw in problems with corporate management and getting the right employees, and the situation becomes even more pressurized. No wonder the CMO role is known as the most dangerous job title around.

41 percent of all marketers believe C-suite grasps the importance and potential of digital. On the employee side, 48 percent of marketing managers say that retaining good digital employees is a problem. Yet, 99.9 percent of your target audience expects more, the type of ‘more’ that can only be delivered via the power of digital.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Marketing is changing but marketers aren’t changing as fast.
  • The focus of marketing has shifted from the product to the customer.
  • The team and the culture of the organization are central to marketing’s ability to evolve and consequently, its success.

The (Changing) State of Marketing

Modern marketing transformation is a complete evolution in the marketing landscape. And, it’s not finished evolving. In fact, it’s not going to stop, slow down, or plateau, ever.

In response to the rise of digital, social and mobile technologies, and rapid changes in the way everyone on the planet gets and processes information, governments, businesses and individuals are all facing the challenges of adapting to continuous change.

As organizations seek to differentiate themselves, Marketing has taken on a more prominent role in many organizations. Simple advertising campaigns and tactical approaches to gain new customers are no longer enough. CMOs see the need to define the vision and path to real marketing transformation.

Why? Because business innovation cycles have sped up. Communication happens across the globe in milliseconds  Customers expect real-time service and support. All while the global, political and economic landscapes have become more complex.  As a result, CMOs need new skills.

(Need help transforming your marketing organization? Contact me today.)

When you look at how comprehensive the shift has been from traditional to modern, it’s no surprise that marketing teams are having trouble. We used to work in a predictable world of investing weeks, if not months, into each campaign. We’d hit the launch button and let go.

Today, it’s a by-the-moment process of development, analysis, and refinement of current campaigns. It’s the sparking of new ideas for what we’ll work on after lunch – not after the holidays – and the ongoing learning of new skills, techniques, and methodologies.

We’ve gone from making a splash with each big unveil to rushing down the gurgling, effervescent river of modern marketing. We’re mobile, social, and agile. Many of us have minimized our advertising – if we’re even using ads at all – having already embraced the more impactful world of content marketing.

Marketing is different now. A new shape, a new mindset. From land-bound caterpillar to see-you-later butterfly. If you want this new creature to thrive, you’ve got to provide the right environment. Culture has to become unbounded.

Enough flowing rivers and fluttering butterflies. What does this look like in real terms? What is the right culture for a powerful, sustainable, modern marketing transformation?

What Happens When Marketing Transforms?

The biggest driver of the evolution of marketing is the consumer. Customer expectations have become more sophisticated. As a response, modern brands need to deliver what the customer wants to remain competitive.

This is true when it comes to both lead generation and customer retention. As a result, we’ve shifted from the marketing mix and the 7 P’s to the customer mix and the 6 W’s. The focus is no longer on what we’re selling but rather who we are selling to.

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What is it that customers want?

  • They want to plug a search query into Google and get back an answer to their question. The brand websites that have stellar online libraries of SEO optimized content are the ones who are going to capture this search traffic and generate the most leads.
  • To pull out their smartphone and look up a recipe on a brand’s website for the product they just bought, or watch a video on how to get the most out of a service they signed up for.
  • To contact a brand with a question, comment, or issue through social media, email, or better yet, real-time chat, and have the issue addressed that day.
  • A cohesive flow between on-site and online marketplaces.
  • Online brand communities where they can see what other consumers are saying about a product or service, hear inspiring stories about how another consumer improved their lives with the product they just bought or are considering, and get expert advice and guidance.

That’s quite a bit more complex than a collection of products and services, along with the billboards, radio ads, online ads, and commercials plastered in as many places as possible to let consumers know those products and services exist.

Both the solution to meeting these needs (and the root cause of the customer expectation revolution) lies in digital.

Digital tools, resources, skills, and the mindset to embrace this new, still largely unchartered territory. This is the foundation of a culture that can withstand a sustainable modern marketing transformation.

Key Features of a Modern Marketing Culture

So, how can today’s marketing managers facilitate this type of digital-friendly culture?

  1. With an evolved team structure. Modern marketing will have difficulty working in a traditional hierarchical culture. When creative, innovative ideas are a marketing team’s strongest asset, the most successful marketing teams are the ones that embrace input, communication, and collaboration in an environment that fosters workplace equality.
  2. With evolved skills. The right culture will look for people who have the skills that are necessary for a strong digital marketing team. Individuals who specialize in SEO, content management, website maintenance, copywriting, social media, data analytics, event planning, mobile strategy, graphic design, and lead nurturing are all important. A lot of the next-generation marketers are proficient in several skills and are hybrid professionals. Modern marketing agencies and managers are also filling skill gaps by outsourcing. From video production to coding, today there is such a breadth of essential skills. Few marketing teams are going to have someone who is strong in every area.
  3. With an evolved mindset. A modern marketing culture embraces an entirely different set of values. Taking initiative, asking questions, disruption, a willingness to try something, fail, and learn – these are the ingredients that go into a strong, agile marketing team that can live up to the modern consumer’s evolving expectations.

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Dr. Tim Sparkes, business psychologist of Hudson Talent Management explains this mindset shift well:

“With every indication that the workplace will continue to accelerate and fragment, mindset is entering center stage in defining talent for an unknown future. Of course, skills are crucial to do a job but identifying individuals with the right mindset to navigate business transformation and disruption, and to quickly learn and deploy new skills will – or already is – the key to competitive advantage in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous at its heart.”

Critical Competencies Required for Marketing Transformation

Caren Fleit and Brigitte Morel-Curran from Korn-Ferry released “The transformative CMO: Three must-have competencies to meet the growing demands placed on marketing leaders.” (No registration required.)

Caren and Brigitte argue that today’s CMO must move beyond brand-building and even voice of the customer to become strategic leaders who carry the weight of delivering quantifiable business results. They must think more broadly than ever before and need the skills (and the relationships) to drive change across the organization. To become a transformative CMO or marketing executives, they believe you need to acquire 3 new competencies:

The report defines the 3 skills required for marketing transformation as:

  • Creating the New and Different: more than just the ability to “create new ideas” this skill requires the acumen to manage the innovation process and implement change
  • Focusing on Action and Outcomes: requires the ability to make decisions with “incomplete data” that have the largest potential to impact the bottom line.
  • Inspiring Others: transformative marketing leaders understand the importance of “compelling vision, commitment, and superior communication” in a diverse work force.

After seeing the report, I reached out to SAP’s CMO, Jonathan Becher (@jbecher) who is leading the marketing transformation effort here at SAP.  Jonathan also speaks and writes quite a bit about the need for marketing transformation. Jonathan agreed with the main points of the report but added “the one thing that might be missing is Culture.”

In What Every CEO Should Expect From Their CMO, Jonathan mirrors the need to create “the new and the different” by capitalizing on insights. Jonathan says “For the first time, marketing has the ability to get a view of customers in real time.  Jonathan also suggests marketing leaders “inspire others” by not just “representing the voice of the market,” by being “the champion of the overall experience” and the “brand steward” but also by being an “integrator and force multiplier across the company.”

Finally, Jonathan agreed with the need for a “focus on actions and outcomes” in Three Must Dos For The Modern Marketer where he recommends marketers “measure what matters.” Jonathan states “I believe we should track outcome metrics, not activities.

The OPPOSITE Approach to Digital Transformation

For marketers who are looking to lead change within their organization, where do they start? Altimeter Group interviewed executives from 32 industries undergoing digital transformation at their companies, to better understand the journey they are taking towards success. And they learned that successful marketers lead their efforts with an “O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E.” approach.

opposite approach to digital transformation

OPPOSITE is an acronym that represents eight best practices and steps that help brands jumpstart their digital transformation efforts, to bring your teams together and work towards a relevant, compelling customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at each stage:

1. Orientation

The first step to successful digital transformation starts with establishing a new perspective to drive meaningful change. All stakeholders and teams involved must first shift how they see, understand and appreciate customers and their expectations, preferences, behaviors, values and other factors that may impact their actions.

Change can be scary and undesirable for many leaders, particularly when they lack a clear view of the changing customer behaviors and trends that are reshaping the market. Success begins with helping executives and other change agents understand the need to take action even in the absence of a complete customer picture, and start establishing this view and perspective with the data and insights you have. Look at both current and emerging trends and how they compare to your brand’s existing roadmap.

2. People

The second stage involves discovering and understanding your customer values, behaviors and expectations. These customer insights will help reveal opportunities to deliver a more compelling, relevant experience throughout the customer journey.

Step into your customers’ shoes and start mapping the customer journey and identifying touchpoints that are missing or could be improved on. Then design a customer experience strategy that leverages your existing journey as well as the research, trends and insights you’ve gathered.

Beyond research, journey mapping and data, consider conducting customer interviews to help you better understand your target audience and guide your investments in a new customer experience that truly meets the needs of your target audience.

Your work must take into account your customers’ intentions, desired outcomes and behaviors at each touchpoint on different devices. All touchpoints must be seamlessly integrated to deliver a desirable, smooth experience throughout the customer journey for all devices.

3. Processes

As the next step, conduct an audit of your existing business models, processes, policies and systems to determine the roadblocks that may get in the way of your transformation efforts. Revise or write new policies, processes and models that will drive forward the new direction and scale.

At some point of the digital transformation journey, Altimeter Group found that companies will reach the point of scale that requires governance work to standardize and manage the new processes, policies and systems. This work will be performed by a cross-functional committee supported by executive sponsors.

The workgroup’s planning and collaboration efforts overtime will lead to the development of interim structures supporting pilot programs and changes to existing departments and teams. New models will be established to continue to scale and enhance the transformation journey and customer experience.

4. Objectives

In this stage, you’ll define the goals for digital transformation and why the new customer experience is critical to driving value for all stakeholders and shareholders. When setting your objectives, make sure they align with both your short and long-term milestones relevant to the customer experience.

Every initiative you execute at each phase of the journey must map back to your goals, and all teams involved in the transformation efforts must be held accountable. As well, it’s important to determine in this stage how progress and success will be measured, and the steps to get there.

Document your transformation efforts in intervals, ranging from six months to the next five years, so your workgroup and stakeholders can see what they are working towards and how they can translate the accomplishment of key objectives into additional budgetary support and resources.

5. Structure

With a transformation workgroup established in step three, in this stage you’ll form a dedicated customer experience team by uniting all key stakeholders, in various departments and roles within your organization, responsible for managing different touchpoints of your customer experience. This ensures everyone shares a universal understanding and goal when it comes to their customers.

While the transformation workgroup and customer experience team regularly work together, they serve different purposes. The transformation workgroup oversees transformation at the executive level, and the customer experience team manages the transformation efforts across different departments.

Ownership is one of the biggest challenges marketers and their brands face with digital transformation, and establishing these two committees will help manage those pain points. Successful transformation involves defining and assigning roles within each workgroup to avoid confusion and to drive change efficiently. These responsibilities are often based on the RA(S)CI process model: Responsible, Accountable, Supported, Consulted, Informed.

6. Insights And Intent

It’s important to conduct research and gather data throughout the transformation process. This helps to develop an informed strategy that optimizes and reiterates the evolving customer experience, which adapts to changing technology and consumer behaviors, trends and expectations.

Research is of limited value and use if the data is not analyzed and translated into actionable insights. You need to look at the context, device, intent and behavior behind your customer data and research. Some questions to ask include: Why did this transaction occur? What were the customer’s intentions and motivations? What device did they use? What are the events that will occur as a result of this transaction?

7. Technology

The OPPOSITE approach requires one to think about the role technology plays in the customer journey and experience, so collaboration with IT is crucial. While it is not an end-all solution to all your customer experience challenges, technology plays an important role in that it helps you reach your transformation goals by enabling and facilitating seamless, personalized and cross-channel customer engagement.

All IT departments have their own technology roadmaps to modernize and upgrade existing infrastructure, so you must work together to determine whether all legacy investments and plans can support the company’s transformation efforts or not. If outdated or misaligned, they must be updated so the roadmaps align with and support your digital transformation and customer experience work.

It’s important to fight the “shiny object syndrome” and not fall for the latest systems and platforms for their novelty. Instead, you need to select technology solutions that will help you solve your current challenges and create opportunities at each stage of the OPPOSITE framework.

8. Execution

Execution of your transformation strategy is as important as the vision that leads it. Since your transformation efforts require heavy investments of resources and time, execution should be broken into tangible, attainable steps, with related metrics and KPIs that you can measure progress against over time to validate your work.

Even the smallest pilot programs can have big impacts on your company’s path to digital transformation maturity. So it’s important that all key leaders and change agents driving the transformation are committed to learning and sharing best practices with one another, to continuously improve your brand’s digital transformation and customer experience.

What Do You Do Now?

All marketing teams are changing. There’s not a CMO out there who denies digital or is still drumming up support for a major print ad campaign, at least without it being nothing more than a fragment of a holistic digital-traditional strategy. But not all marketers can go with the flow of the modern, digital, customer-centric reality.

If you want to get from point A to point B, from traditional to modern (and good at it), don’t take a linear approach. Don’t move towards point B, hitting your goal posts along the way. You’ll never get there. Transform point A into point B. Change your culture. Change the way your team interacts with one another. Bring in new talent and help your current employees take on new skills. And, consciously align values and mindset with this brave new marketing world. That’s how you make space for point B to evolve.

Maybe culture, innovation or the challenges of modern marketing transformation is something I can help you with?  I’ve helped dozens of companies, I’ve helped activate hundreds, even thousands of thought leaders. I’ve done it for numerous clients. And I can do it for you. Contact me today!

2 thoughts on “Modern Marketing Transformation Starts with the Right Culture!

  1. Absolutely – customers’ expectation keep setting the bar higher and higher… and businesses have to adjust to it.

    That’s why giving the “right” audience the right form of content is more important than ever.

    1. Thanks Andrea, that’s absolutely right and culture is what keeps getting in the way!

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

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