Spence Darrington, Author at MarTech Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Marketing Transformation Mon, 13 Jun 2022 19:55:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 If Harry Potter led marketing operations, where would his team sit? https://martech.org/if-harry-potter-led-marketing-operations-where-would-his-team-sit/ Mon, 16 May 2022 18:13:00 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=352387 Understanding the pros and cons of locating the marketing ops function within your firm can pay big dividends. Here's a spell that can help.

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You’ve just graduated from MOpswarts and been declared a marketing ops (MOps) wizard. As you step off the train armed with a wand, sweet robes and cache of spells, you’re ready to help your company thrive with martech magic.

You’re especially jazzed about the AlohoMOpsa spell you found hidden away in the bowels of MOpswarts, which allows you to remake the org structure of any company and move MOps closest to the department where it can best flourish. Should it sit with marketing? Wait, maybe IT? Perhaps sales? 

Thinking of your company, you break out your MOpsrauder’s Map, and state, “I solemnly swear I’m trying to help customers,” and the options magically appear with their pros and cons.

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Move MOps closer to marketing

It is marketing operations after all, right? Maybe. Success depends on the CMO. If they see MOps as a trusted advisor and have a solid understanding of martech tools and governance, prepare for raging success. If the opposite is true, consider another department destination.

Goodies:  The closer MOps is to the heart of the marketing organization, the higher the MOps marketing IQ and empathy, focusing innovation and energy on what matters most. This enables an agile MOps organization that can power a CMO’s vision. With closer proximity to MOps, marketers are also better sensitized to martech, governance and process. The more marketers know, the more likely they will design programs that work with (and not against) MOps’ strengths.

Gotchas:  Like a Ferrari with the wrong driver, a rockstar MOps team with an unreasonable CMO can end in a fiery, Fast and Furious-like explosion. When CMOs thwart governance, ignore process and prioritization and disregard tech constraints, MOps is better situated in an adjoining department to create a protective buffer. Another gotcha to watch out for: if MOps is situated too far from IT, it will be harder to get larger systems integrations or data projects funded and prioritized.

When this works well: When CMOs truly partner with and understand MOps orgs, magic happens. CMOs must also be tight with CIOs, framing the prioritization discussions regarding revenue and ROI to get a seat at the table. If the CIO solves 500k problems, a CMO’s revenue or cost-saving opportunities must exceed that bar to gain traction. Consider funding marketing dedicated resources on the CIO’s team to benefit from IT’s overall tech bench and get marketing prioritized.

Move MOps closer to IT

Being closer to the “big iron” of infrastructure in a company can unlock sophisticated capabilities; it can also result in slower programs or efforts that stray from marketing priorities.

Goodies:  MOps teams have better access to IT budgets, prioritization processes and technical firepower, giving larger systems integrations and data projects a higher chance of success. Compared with marketing, IT orgs tend toward more structure and process, making governance easier to enable. The org buffer that being in IT creates is also useful for MOps when CMOs are unreasonable (you know who you are), making sensible pushback possible.

Gotchas:  Removed from the marketing team, MOps can lose touch with marketing pain points and stray from the CMO’s vision, resulting in strategic misfires. The sense of urgency can also be lost as the CIO’s shadow shields MOps from the heat of the CMO’s sun – or completely blots it out with other company priorities.   

When this works well: When MOps is closer to IT but funded by marketing, you get the best of two worlds: first, IT doesn’t stray from marketing priorities; second, marketing gets the benefit of IT’s technical depth needed for more sophisticated programs. Without budget or another form of authority, marketing is often too low on the IT list of priorities.

Move MOps closer to sales

The closer MOps is to customers, the tighter marketing programs are interwoven with revenue objectives. Go too far, however, and longer-term marketing priorities like brand suffer.

Goodies:  Sitting closer to customers will focus MOps like a laser on enabling revenue-producing programs. As MOps participates in sales discussions, marketing gets crisper and more focused to ensure a healthy, high-quality pipeline, as there is little support for anything that doesn’t immediately add value. The heat is also on for better, more consistent sales enablement content to keep sales leaders closing deals rather than creating decks.

Gotchas:  Sales’ intense focus on short-term revenue can come at the expense of longer-term growth. Sales orgs may not see or wish to invest in brand or other more esoteric forms of marketing that don’t generate immediate benefits for bearers of quota. While demand gen campaigns provide more tangible fuel for the sales engine, cultivating brand, advocacy or social media presence clears the road for a longer, more profitable journey.    

When this works well: Exec leadership must buy into the power of marketing to engage with customers at scale. In-person customer conversations are superior to emails or webinars but far less economical to execute. By casting a wider net, marketing can more economically identify valuable prospects and transition revenue-ready leads to sales. 

Which model is the best? No model is perfect, so it depends on your needs. Desire to power a CMOs vision to deliver world-class programs? Marketing could be your best bet. Need sophisticated programs that require deep technical expertise? Proximity to IT will help. Want to ensure sales and marketing work hand in glove? Closer to sales is a good bet. 

What if you want the benefits of all three? As RevOps matures, incredible possibilities exist in the harmonized world of sales, marketing and service. But you may have to head back to MOpswarts and find a potion or spell to crack that one. 

You close up the MOpsrauder’s Map and whisper, “AlohoMOpsa,” while flicking your wand. With revenue targets and customer delight on your mind, the company’s departments swirl before you, and you make your choice.

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5 CMO tips to transform marketing operations from killer to dream fulfiller https://martech.org/5-cmo-tips-to-transform-marketing-operations-from-killer-to-dream-fulfiller/ Thu, 31 Mar 2022 19:00:58 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=350751 Insights gleaned from time working on both the creative and operational sides of marketing.

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You just applied a dose of shampoo to your hair. You finished your best singing-in-the-shower rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers” when BAM! That once-in-a-lifetime genius marketing idea hits that will enrapture customers and slay your KPIs. As the firm’s newly appointed CMO, you need a breakthrough. 

Tripping out of the shower with shampoo still in your hair, you schedule an urgent Zoom call with your leadership team to unveil your brilliance. Your Marketing Operations (MOps) director’s face looks like you just ate her puppy for breakfast. Was it your bathrobe? As she begins explaining her concerns, you see your idea dashing up against the shoals of MOps reality. 


For many CMOs, the marketing ops team is the killer of dreams, stopping creative marketing strategies in their tracks or diluting them beyond recognition. The best CMOs balance creativity with marketing ops constraints and partner with rather than dictate to this vital team. Where your technology expenditures top marketing budgets, ensuring your marketing ops is a fulfiller of dreams has never been more important.

Here are five CMO tips to help your MOps team become a fulfiller of dreams:

1. Temper the reality distortion field

Steve Jobs was infamous for his “reality distortion field,” continuously ignoring engineering constraints in favor of harnessing creativity. Early in his career, he challenged everything, eventually leading to his ousting from Apple. Later, he found more balance, challenging constraints at critical junctures while channeling his creative genius to transform industries. CMOs can learn from Jobs. MOps works under many constraints: what marketing tools can do, how data is structured, whether the data is clean and what team capacity is available. Rather than distorting reality, take time to understand constraints so you can build marketing strategies that work with rather than against these limitations.

For example, CMOs understand what MOps platforms are designed to do, but few understand how they are engineered. If you’re using your enterprise-grade CMS to create hand-crafted, custom-coded websites, you’re missing the power of its configuration and modularity.

It’s not to say there aren’t times for custom-coded websites and that constraints shouldn’t be challenged, but leveraging strength is the fastest track to progress. Where you are weak, push MOps to get better, but don’t push all weaknesses at once or all the time, or you risk a MOps mutiny. CMOs that find a sensible balance will gain the respect and trust of MOps, fueling their desire to find those breakthroughs.

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2. Avoid the $100 hamburger

A New York City chef advertises a succulent, $100 hamburger of the finest ingredients. While she can taste all $100 of her culinary genius, the average consumer’s palette tops out at $20, leaving $80 of hamburger enjoyment wasted. Similarly, creating the $100 hamburger of marketing content means obsessing over a delicate turn of phrase, a 1-pixel move of an image to the right, or the judicious use of a semi-colon. Endless feedback loops on delicate nuances require staging, rendering, publishing and localizing, burdening MOps with rework largely undetectable by customers. Savvy CMOs understand this law of diminishing returns and seek progress over perfection. It pains some to think of putting out “really good” versus “near perfect” content, but they should ask themselves, “by making these changes, how many incremental conversions am I going to drive?”

Thankfully, site analytics can be an impartial judge in determining how tasty the site needs to be to drive conversion before additional flavor becomes superfluous. Making practical content tradeoffs will secure MOps’ loyalty.

3. Stay on target

A fellow MOps colleague built a bullet-proof process for his CMO to prioritize MOps work, complete with a martech stack roadmap, program enablement, and new features. His first priority meeting went swimmingly as the CMO raved about the process, gloried its clarity and set a clear direction. My friend was delighted until the next priority meeting.

It was as though the CMO had amnesia, experiencing the priority process for the first time. Despite MOps cautions, she made dramatic shifts, reordered priorities, and inserted new, ambitious asks, citing shifts in strategic direction that were largely unknown to the team. When asked to make tradeoffs, she struggled while questioning the longer delivery lead times. My MOps friend left deflated only to experience a Jekyll and Hyde CMO for the next few months with more “strategic” shifts in direction that masked the CMOs inability to hold to a consistent strategy.

In the whiplash of changes, my MOps friend suffered disproportionately as his platforms and data were not as pliable as creative and copy, making him look like a laggard. Of course, MOps teams expect change, but they will bend over backward for the CMO that holds a steady course.

4. Reward more fire prevention, less firefighting

Too many marketing organizations embrace the Hair on Fire (HOF) approach where teams madly scramble in a continual state of chaos. When rewards are handed out, those whose flames burned the brightest (longest hours, most frantic pace) are recognized, perpetuating the cycle as HOF becomes the “go-to” method for execution. The HOF approach may look like the fastest way to get stuff done; ironically, when process and structure are consistently trampled in the panic to hit deadlines, things get slower. Each heroic HOF effort gets harder to muster. While HOF has its place for legit emergencies, it’s not viable long term as its “crack the whip” impact is painful for MOps, especially during last-mile execution.

CMOs should recognize that MOps can optimize the marketing supply chain, getting faster, efficient, and increased throughput as chaos is tamed. Through methods like standard processes, RACIs, intake forms, SLAs and powerful platforms, MOps can better organize and orchestrate marketing. CMOs must ditch their HOF security blanket and reward MOps’ efforts that prevent HOF rather than perpetuate it. Too much process will choke any organization, but sensible structure increases productivity and will charm the socks off your MOps team.

5. Empower the people

Some CMOs have a high need for creative control. I was assigned an ambitious, from-the-ground-up redesign and re-platforming of our marketing website by one marketing exec. Enthused, I presented the strategy, gained sign-off from my exec and planned our project kick-off. The exec asked to attend, and I assumed he would be there to see that things got off to a good start.

Within minutes it was clear he would drive the marketing strategy. As time progressed, he selected the design theme, spent late nights writing copy and hand-picked images, all while requesting iterative, finely-nuanced changes (see $100 Hamburger). Over time, key decisions backed up as he struggled to push decision-making deep enough into the organization to hit milestones. While the entire marketing team struggled with micro-management, the MOps team was hit hardest as backups begat emergencies, and their schedules were crashed to hit milestones. MOps teams appreciate a CMO that articulates clear governing principles and empowers the people to do the work.

I spend time reading online MOps forums, and there is a consistent theme of MOps feeling snake-bitten and underappreciated. They truly want to be fulfillers and not killers of dreams but need marketing leadership to understand their domain better. So, before you stumble out of the shower again with your next brilliant idea, share this article with MOps and ask them what resonates, what they need to become a fulfiller of dreams. Drop me a note at sdarrington@bridge.partners and let me know how it goes!

Marketing work management: A snapshot

What it is: Marketing work management platforms help marketing leaders and their teams structure their day-to-day work to meet their goals on deadline and within budget constraints, all while managing resources and facilitating communication and collaboration. Functions may include task assignments, time tracking, budgeting, team communication and file sharing, among others.

Why it’s important today. Work environments have changed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has heightened the need for work management tools that help marketers navigate these new workflows.

Marketers have been at work developing processes that allow them to work with those outside their own offices since marketing projects—campaigns, websites, white papers, or webinars—frequently involve working with outside sources.

Also, with marketers required to design interfaces, write content, and create engaging visual assets today, more marketers are adopting agile workflow practices, which often have features to support agile practices.

What the tools do. All of these changes have heightened the need for marketing work management software, which optimizes and documents the projects undertaken by digital marketers. They often integrate with other systems like digital asset management platforms and creative suites. But most importantly, these systems improve process clarity, transparency, and accountability, helping marketers keep work on track.

Read next: What is marketing work management and how do these platforms support agile marketing

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Driving marketing at scale: People, processes, platforms and programs https://martech.org/driving-marketing-at-scale-people-processes-platforms-and-programs/ Fri, 05 Nov 2021 13:16:18 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=341624 Expect to make trade-offs between these four key elements of the new model.

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The first part of this two part article considered reasons a business might move from decentralized, rapid response marketing to a more mature centralized (or hybrid) model. This second part looks at how to make the move.

The reality is nuanced, as you must consider needs and tradeoffs across all elements (people, processes, platforms, and programs) when shaping your model.  Each element has opposing attributes that pull against each other in constant tension; changing your approach on any element (e.g. people) will positively and negatively impact the other three elements.   

Unfortunately, many marketing execs stumble here, insisting on having all the positive benefits of a model with none of the downsides.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and as the Dread Pirate Roberts says, “anyone who says differently is selling something.”  But there are ways to nibble at the edges.

Image courtesy of the author.

People: Deep vs broad

Your broad people approach is experiencing growing pains and needs to scale.  While it would be incredible to have a team of copywriters who code HTML, do mockups in Figma, manipulate data in Python, and are whizzes at Google Analytics, those unicorns only exist in CMO fantasies.  People are usually deep or broad in their skills, but rarely both.

The tradeoffs

A “broad” people approach relies on generalists who handle a variety of tasks with agility and flexibility.  This decentralized model is adaptable and responsive, enabling teams to capitalize on shifting market conditions.  On the flip side, broad approach can suffer from redundancy and waste as generalists create duplicate solutions.  Compliance and governance are also harder to enforce across a more distributed workforce.

A “deep” people approach relies on specialists who are experts in a domain.   Operating with efficiency and proficiency, this centralized model unlocks additional platform capability, enforces governance by better enabling checks and balances, and powers more sophisticated programs that generate demand at scale.  In contrast, a deep approach creates more dependencies between teams and decreases agility and response time.

Implications of moving from broad to deep

How can you retain the benefits of a broad people model while deepening your expertise?  Hybrid models offer a balance where some functions are centralized (e.g. marketing operations, content creation, strategy) in support of distributed functions (e.g. marketing execution, event management, social) to capture the best of both worlds.  In these models, centralized teams do the heavy lifting, while decentralized teams focus on last-mile customization and delivery.

If it consistently takes a specialist longer to explain how to do the work than it does to do it, the specialist performs the work.  In contrast, if it consistently takes a generalist longer to fill out a request intake form than it would to perform the work, the generalist performs the work.

When considering what to centralize or decentralize, tasks that are simple and easily transferrable are best done by generalists (e.g. making an update to a blog post) while more complex tasks are performed by specialists (e.g. coding up a new blog template).  Don’t burden generalists with tasks beyond their skills and don’t give specialists tasks beneath their skills.  Getting the right tasks into the right hands gives you the best chance for success.

Processes: Controlled vs flexible   

As a decentralized approach, the whatever it takes to get stuff done (WITTGSD) approach has its time and place helping you capitalize on fast and furious opportunities without pausing to create the perfect process while a competitor zooms ahead.  But your continued growth brings risk that must be purposefully managed.  While amazing for facilitating early, rapid expansion, it’s difficult for hyper-flexible processes to deliver consistent and compliant outcomes. 

The Tradeoffs

A “flexible” approach empowers marketers across the organization to set process as needed to achieve outcomes.  This decentralized, method is incredibly useful during early, rapid growth giving marketers autonomy to mold process around quickly changing needs.  This allows the business to breath, giving it room to grow without too many restrictions.  If not managed carefully, the flexibility can give way to compliance gaps, inefficient delivery, and inconsistent programs.

A “controlled,” centralized process approach uses checks and balances to ensure tight consistency and compliance throughout the marketing lifecycle.  This method may use a structured, end-to-end marketing process complete with necessary pre-launch approvals from subject matter experts in privacy, data security, or brand.  Be aware that a more controlled process will enable standards to be enforced but also introduces friction which slows bringing programs to market.

Implications of moving from flexible to controlled

What’s the best way to achieve more control without over-restricting flexibility?  Having tighter governance but still giving room to maneuver? 

Your marketers only have so much “share of mind” that can be occupied by governance and process.  When mistakes happen, things start to slow down, or people skip important steps, these are signs you are struggling to self-manage and it’s only a matter of time before it bites you.  Governance can be overseen by a person or team of experts who review work prior to delivery.  These experts may specialize in anything from privacy and data security, brand adherence, or correct campaign tagging.  By unburdening front-line marketers from these governance responsibilities, you free them up to fully focus on their superpowers.  If you can’t afford a headcount for governance, have someone trained to do it as part of their current role.

To mitigate the slowdowns that come from relying on others, consider marketing-oriented workflow solutions (Workfront, Wrike, Jira, etc.) to digitize and orchestrate your end-to-end process.  These tools digitize your marketing supply chain while enabling a balance between speed and compliance.  They track projects at all points in their lifecycle, manage and trigger approvals, and keep teams on the same page.  As a marketing “system of record” they can serve as the institutional memory regarding process and governance, freeing up everyone to focus on what they do best.       

It’s also okay to decide where you need more process control and where you are ok with less (e.g. privacy and data security versus brand guidelines and campaign tagging).  Consistent brand representation and reporting is important, but honoring privacy preferences and securing customer data is critical.   

Enforcing a standard, end-to-end marketing process will be slower at first but will prove much faster with time.  When establishing process discipline, be forewarned people will speak of the WITTGSD “glory days” when requests were delivered in five minutes.  Selfishly these individuals myopically see their small piece of a growingly complex marketing supply chain.  WITTGSD was faster in the early days, but it’s inability to scale will crater your agility and become less compliant with time, putting all marketing at risk. 

Platforms: Sophisticated vs streamlined  

Despite what all SaaS vendors will tell you, marketing platforms cannot be both thoroughly sophisticated and simple-to-use.  While today’s martech allows mere mortals to perform tasks once the domain of only the most technical, tools don’t stand still, begetting richer features and connecting with other tools in a growing cycle of complexity.  Any capability worth its salt is rarely “walk-up-and-use” friendly beyond simple use cases, rather it takes longer to master and requires dedicated martech specialists. 

The tradeoffs

A “streamlined” platform approach relies on essential capabilities, lightly connected, that use simple rules and intelligence to execute programs.  This decentralized model has minimal tech debt, uses out-of-the-box capabilities where possible (avoiding code), and enables basic marketing programs.   The streamlined approach enables agility and flexibility, and its simpler structure empowers generalists to do most of the work.  While responsive, streamlined platforms produce more basic programs that are not as interconnected, leaving market opportunity on the table only more sophisticated programs and specialists will capture.

A “sophisticated” platform approach is rich, interconnected, and employs complex business rules and intelligence to enable powerful marketing programs.  This centralized approach boasts massive efficiency through highly automated and scalable marketing, requiring specialists to effectively operate the ecosystem of capabilities.  Its interconnected nature allows for rich programs where customers and prospects seamlessly move across channels as they interact with content.   While these platforms are powerful, modifying the ecosystem is like turning a cruise ship; once turned it’s a party, but the process leaves marketers exhausted and frustrated.

Implications of moving from streamlined to sophisticated

As a fast growth company, whether your marketing tech is sophisticated or not, you’re likely leveraging core functionality to enable delivery.  With continued rapid growth on the horizon, do you need to unlock more sophisticated capabilities or purchase additional tools? Or are your current platforms sufficient?

When deciding on your platform approach, ask yourself if “the juice is worth the squeeze” to enable your programs.  A VP of Marketing I worked for always wanted the organic, freshly squeezed orange juice of sophisticated marketing programs, requiring deep platform expertise.  Where most of our audiences were happy with frozen OJ concentrate from a can, making all the platform squeezing for premium juice unnecessary.  While everyone loves a shiny new SaaS tool or sexy feature, adding more sophistication adds power but also adds complexity and debt.  Make sure the value is there before investing.

A hybrid model can walk the tightrope between streamlined and sophisticated.  With advances in the marketing SaaS world, tools easier to snap together than ever with APIs and out-of-the-box connections.  By using a “configure over code” approach wherever possible you can enable a balance of flexibility and sophistication that minimizes tech debt.  Use custom code when the use case is high enough ROI and not well covered by existing features or tools.  As you become more sophisticated, establish a formal marketing operations function if not already in place or at least use professional services to act as the specialists to complement your on-staff generalists.

Final thought: Don’t get too hung up on having the most sophisticated tech, rather emphasize getting more out of your existing stack.  CMOs report 42% of the benefits of their current martech goes unrealized, so it’s a good starting point.

Programs: Scalable vs relevant

A constant tension exists between scale and relevance, and marketing leaders must ask at what point relevance must give way to scale.  While “good enough” programs rarely win awards, they may be sufficient to draw in prospects and keep them as customers, doing so at a much larger scale.

The Tradeoffs

A “relevant” program approach is highly customized content to reach an audience or geography based on their unique needs.  The most relevant programs maximize the impact of marketing and win the hearts of customers and prospects.  In this decentralized model, program strategists may start with a “blank canvas” where the creative limits are their imaginations rather than technology.  This allows maximum flexibility to build relevancy into programs and capture demand.  While such freedom is liberating, bespoke programs can be prohibitively expensive to produce at scale and must be deployed judiciously.

A “scalable” program approach is highly modular, relies on reusable templates and components, and employs more complex business rules to enable efficient delivery.  Differing from a blank canvas, this centralized approach enables flexibility within constraints, striking a balance between relevance and scalability.  It relies on martech capabilities to assemble and automate repeatable programs which (once programmed) require limited oversight during execution.  While robust, scalable programs can constrain the creativity of program strategists and lack relevance needed to capture some premium or niche markets.

Implications of moving from relevant to scalable

Your program approach to this point focused more on quickly getting content to market that resonates with your target audiences.  The trick now is retaining the relevance you know is important while scaling it effectively and economically.  “Scalable relevance” is achieved by moving toward a Lego mindset that emphasizes reusable templates, modules, and inter-changeable components that enable a “build once, use many” structure.  Differing from the blank canvas, “build once, use few” approach, a Lego mindset embraces modern martech to enable data triggers which power targeted, real-time content.  This method allows a custom collection of content components to come together in a digital experience targeting audience pain points.  While not perfectly relevant, “scalable relevance” can reach a greater number of customer and prospects with highly resonating content at a fraction of the expense.

For this more centralized approach to work, greater emphasis on martech and data capabilities are needed.  Aggregating a single view of an audience across your company’s data sources (e.g. finance, sales, support, marketing, product, etc.) creates a rich data environment from which powerful triggers can be programmed.  This requires skilled marketing operations specialists who can move beyond simple martech use-cases to source data, program triggers, and build scale. 

While it sounds overwhelming, most martech solutions have powerful capabilities to scale that don’t require fat stacks of cash.  If strapped for cash, hire professional services to enable a few key programs and let the results make your next business case.  While working at Expedia, we set up our first triggered program in 6 weeks with help from professional services at a modest cost.  The efficiency savings and revenue benefits gave us a good enough story to tell execs that allowed us to more fully fund our martech team and stack. 

Assess your Marketing Model

For creative marketing leaders, it’s hard to focus on the operational aspects of marketing, especially when you’re growing fast.  You know what brought you early success needs an upgrade to capture the next wave of growth.

Rather than learn your way through this critical transition, take this complimentary 10-min Marketing Model Assessment to pinpoint elements needing attention based on your growth needs, giving you a simple side-by-side view of your current and desired state. 

When considering changes, keep the firm’s goal to grow revenue faster than cost top of mind.  Optimize your model for scale to “future proof” your marketing organization and keep pace with growth.

With thoughtful changes, you’ll mature from those awkward corporate teenage years into early adulthood.  Heck, maybe you’ll even move out of your parent’s basement.  ????  The future is bright. 

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Spence centralized 4
Driving marketing at scale: Moving from a decentralized to centralized model https://martech.org/driving-marketing-at-scale-moving-from-a-decentralized-to-centralized-model/ Wed, 03 Nov 2021 14:48:19 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=341548 The classic conundrum of when to centralize or decentralize marketing functions continues to challenge marketing leaders, especially those in fast growth companies.

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The first part of a two-part article looks at reasons to move from a decentralized, rapid response marketing model to a more centralized model as a business matures.

Marketing organizations in fast growth companies are like that voice -cracking, pimple-speckled teenaged who’s just hit their growth spurt.  Your all-hands-on-deck/jack-of-all-trades marketing delivery approach which propelled early growth is now struggling to scale, resulting in too-tight shoes and highwater pants which cannot be coaxed to magically expand and stretch.

While a more decentralized approach enabled rapid response and amazing agility during hyper-growth, as your company matures you need efficiency, program sophistication, and tighter compliance that comes from specialization.  Done right, centralization can help your marketing org bridge from the awkward teens into adulthood while maintaining some of the magic that made you high growth in the first place.  But buying longer pants and larger shoes every 6 months only allows revenue to grow at the same rate as cost — as a savvy leader you seek to grow revenue faster than cost. 

That means selecting a marketing model that scales profitability over time.  While more centralization is likely, there are tradeoffs which need careful consideration to find the right balance, optimize delivery, and future-proof your marketing organization.

The elements of a marketing model

Marketing models are comprised of the people, processes, and platforms which bring your programs to life.  Different from marketing strategy, a model focuses on the operational aspects of marketing and how they harmonize to enable that strategy.

All images courtesy the author.

People perform the work.  These are strategists, content builders, copywriters, analytics and martech specialists (to name a few).

Processes govern work and ensure consistent outcomes via intake mechanisms, handoffs between teams, approval, and compliance rules.

Platforms are the technologies used to power and measure performance.  These are (but not limited to) marketing automation platforms, content management systems, event tools, marketing databases, and reporting platforms.

Programs are the marketing content and campaigns which bring strategy to life: demand generation, loyalty and retention, or product launches.  

Common marketing model challenges

Within each marketing model element, there are common operational challenges that can hamstring marketing strategy; for a high-growth company, the challenges hit faster and harder leaving you gasping for breath before the next growth wave hits.  These difficulties range from an inability to measure marketing impact, to weak privacy compliance, or difficulty getting the most out of martech investments.  Left unchecked, these obstacles rob brilliant strategies of their power and become a bottleneck to future growth. 

Marketing models

It’s not all doom and gloom as a thoughtful marketing model can overcome or neutralize these challenges.  Models fall into three categories:  centralized, decentralized, and hybrid.  When selecting the right model for your marketing team, there is no silver bullet to manage growth.  But, having a clear marketing strategy and understanding of your delivery needs, you can weigh the tradeoffs in model selection, find the right balance, and achieve success.

A centralized model concentrates delivery power within the organization.  This model is distinguished by specialists with deeper expertise, more efficient delivery, and improved control for consistent output and compliance.  Platforms are more sophisticated and interconnected while programs are built for large scale deployment.   Its downsides are more handoffs between teams and a tendency to be inflexible or overly complicated when not carefully designed.

A decentralized model distributes delivery power across and down into the organization.  This model is known for Jills and Jacks of all trades and SWAT teams of agile marketers that respond quickly to market conditions and create simple, bespoke programs.  Teams are empowered to quickly make governance choices and platforms are simpler and more streamlined with limited tech debt.  Its downside is that it can become unwieldy, wasteful, and non-compliant when more autonomy than accountability permeates the team.

A hybrid delivery entails a blend of both models with certain functions more centralized while others are distributed.  As to what is more centralized or decentralized depends on each marketing org.  Example: One marketing org generates all content centrally to drive efficiency and brand consistency but turns it over to individual marketers for customization and last-mile delivery.  Another org produces all content locally for maximum relevance, using central teams to educate on brand and content guidelines.          

As a high-growth company, your decentralized model has been the “go to” bringing you agile, responsive delivery that powered early growth.  At the same time, it’s been harder to enforce compliance, teams are less efficient, and it can be unnecessarily chaotic at times. 

You know it needs tweaking, but where to start?  Waving a wand to transition to a centralized model with its benefits sounds amazing, but you worry the increased bureaucracy, inflexibility, and slower response will kill rather than power growth. 

Can you do both?

This article continues tomorrow.

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