How to Use Your Marketing Function to Drive Business Growth

How to Use Your Marketing Function to Drive Business Growth

Many of us tend to think about modern marketing in the context of digital innovation. However, these are just tools that are currently in use. So what is modern marketing, and how can business leaders and Chief Marketing Officers harness it?

McKinsey arguably defined marketing better than anyone when in a recent report they wrote: 

“Modern marketing is the ability to harness the full capabilities of the business to provide the best experience for the customer and thereby drive growth.”

Crucially, this is how CEOs now see their marketing function, with a study showing that “83% of global CEOs said they look to marketing to be a major driver for most or all of a company’s growth agenda”. How that objective is delivered; however, changes, as options, platforms, expectations and technology evolve. This is the key point that marketers are recommended to focus on - not just what you do but also how it’s done.

The magic of ‘how’ in modern marketing

While modern marketing components are usually familiar to business leaders and Chief Marketing Officers, the context in which they’re placed can make a big difference in how we approach them. Importantly, it’s this how that is changing fast and in precise ways. 

Key capabilities are seen as:

  • Strategy and insights: using real-time information instead of historical insights
  • Creative and content: using analytics-driven data and AI tools instead of intuition driven campaigns
  • Media and active channels: used for their own merits as part of a complete customer journey
  • Customer experience: data-driven, personalised and personal instead of broad offerings for a large customer base
  • Measurement and ROI: the ability to measure the success of all marketing investments at a granular level instead of a general overview of marketing impact

However, it’s the how that makes a significant impact on the success of these key areas. The implementation as well as the ability to react to the changing market. McKinsey has found that key enablers for this include:

  • Organisation design and structure: designed around the customer instead of being designed around the business and the product; 
  • Agility: agile teams focused on ongoing test and learning processes instead of annual planning; 
  • Talent access and management: a strategic approach to attracting and upskilling the best talent and a willingness to connect with an ecosystem of agencies and contractors 
  • Data and technology: 360-degree customer data placed at the heart of the customer journey instead of select data with technology and marketing managed separately 

Even pricing is important as part of the overall strategy - especially when considering different markets. It is a topic that Fractional CMO, Ulka Athalye, has spoken about recently with regards to those seeking entry into new territories.

The questions you need to ask yourself and your Chief Marketing Officer

For all the specifics regarding modern marketing, it is an ever-evolving process with new and improved methods, tools and talent appearing all the time. Most companies will find that they are neither at the beginning nor the peak of this journey into contemporary best practice. However, there are questions that you and your Chief Marketing Officer can ask yourselves to get a sense of where you are now, and where you would like to be. McKinsey recommends these as:

  • What is your approach to brand strategy and customer insights?
  • How do you manage creative and content strategy? 
  • How are you delivering your messages to customers across paid-, owned-, and earned media channels? 
  • How are you delivering relevant and personalised experiences?
  • How are you measuring and optimising your marketing activities and budget?
  • How is your business culture evolving?
  • How have your marketing processes changed to allow for speed, experimentation and measurement of results?
  • Do you know which skills you want in-house versus outsourced and why? 
  • How are you integrating marketing with technology, and why?

What does it mean to be truly agile?

Agility in business and marketing has been something of a buzzword for a while. However, it has been a central characteristic of companies that have done well, and in particular, those who have handled the pandemic crisis of the last 12 months most successfully. 

This ability to change quickly in response to the market is key, and often involves a combined team of in-house and outsourced talent. It’s not just about having these resources in place but also about having the marketing strategy and management capabilities to use them to your best advantage. For example, McKinsey’s research found that providing clear KPIs ensured more precise measurement and evaluation, which allowed them to stop practices that weren’t delivering after set test periods. 

One of the areas that often gets overlooked is the ability to, and importance of, integrating different departments and ensuring that they work together. The links between technology and marketing, marketing and sales, for example, are essential. 

This is an ongoing internal communications process that in itself needs a strategy and management process to ensure it’s working successfully. This arguably means looking at recruitment processes and considering the in-house talent in the form of broader skillsets, whilst engaging with outsourced providers for specific technical needs. That might mean agencies, and/or it may mean individual contractors. Either way, the management of those functions is as vital as the work that they are doing.

Perhaps the most important part of being a truly agile business with a truly agile modern marketing function is the need to recognise that it must be open to evolution. The ongoing assessment and reassessment of both campaigns and processes, platforms, team composition and organisational design are not made to be put in place and then left to their own devices. Of course, you need to give things time to work. However, the essential element is to make the ‘how’ as important as the ‘what’ at all times and to reevaluate what that means constantly.

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