Today, we marketers are going to talk about the S-word. Bandied around so often that we’ve become almost immune to its potential, it is nevertheless where every CMO must begin with if they are to maximize business impact and elevate their role. So yes, we’re going to talk about ‘strategy’ — the first and the most important hat a marketer must wear.
When a CMO wears the strategy hat, it’s like being in a director’s chair. You have to know the storyline, and you have to know the characters and their motivations (and your audience’s motivation to watch your magnum opus). But you also have to know the dialogues (more or less), what each set should look like, and also happens in each scene, and how it all culminates into that finale. In other words, the strategist in you needs to understand the big picture versus the nitty-gritty, and also the short term versus the long haul.
To get limbered up to play the strategist, we recommend looking at your marketing capabilities against a maturity model. Is your team, for instance, at the early stages of the path, looking at marketing opportunities in specific verticals, or is your marketing function at the late stage of maturity with the key capabilities deeply embedded in your organisation?
Once you’ve figured out where your marketing function stands, you dive into the key elements of capability planning.
People – The First & Most Important Strategic Pillar
Your marketing team needs to exhibit two key types of skill sets – Marketing Strategy and Marketing Operations. Marketing strategy involves activities like customer journey mapping, brand management, brand policing and more. On the other hand, Marketing Operations skill sets include copywriting, design, ad operations, social media, SEO and other channel skills. How much of each skill set do your need to get your marketing engine running? Do these professionals need to be part of your internal team or could they be freelancers or even from your partner agency? These questions need to be answered as the first step to capability planning.
Process – Driving towards Action
Now that you’ve got your people mix right, what’s next? Your powerhouse team won’t be in sync with each other unless everyone understands their role, other’s priorities and the expected outcomes. In larger organizations, these processes can fill up a full playbook. In smaller organisations, simple Excel sheets are sufficient to get this sync.
When our clients work on this part of their marketing strategy, we usually recommend they use the RACI chart, where each letter in the acronym stands for a role that each person plays. “R” represents the team-mate that is responsible for completing a task, “A” stands for the team member who is held accountable for delegating a task and reviewing it once completed. “C” denoted consulted members, who are usually experts who provide a second opinion and strengthen the quality of work done by the responsible ones and “I” stands for the ones who are kept informed about the project details. This project planning model helps marketers to collaborate and optimise their efforts by setting clear expectations about each person’s role.
Technology – Enable your people and processes
When used right, martech (cool-kid talk for Marketing Technology) is the layer that can optimise your efforts and give you the results you are looking for. A common misconception is that media and advertising tech is all you need to invest in, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
At the base of the integrated martech layer is your data stack, which can leverage first-party data and prepare you for the cookieless world that will be upon us in 2 years. Then, of course, there is your analytics tech, and visualisation and query tools.
All this, along with the more visible activation layer, are supported by the orchestration and integration systems, which act as a central nervous system to coordinate your data and run your experiments.
Pro tip: Make your consumer journey your touchstone. Marketers with a strong point of view about the customer journey can map their marketing activities against it to better optimise their budgets and measure returns
Budget – Fuel your customer’s journey
All too often, ad spends are the only item put under operating expenses, or opex, when budgeting for activities around the consumer journey. But the list doesn’t end there — your operating expenses include consulting fees and staff as well. Aside from that, most marketers also fail to distinguish between operating expenses, and capital expenses, or capex. For instance, setting marketing tools and processes in place comes under capital expenses, but these are often faultily tagged as operating expenses and inflate your opex.
Metrics – Drive behaviour and results
Whether it boils down to direct sales, leads, revenues or margins, the customer journey is also a great place to pinpoint where the results are coming from. There are three types of metrics to look at — cost metrics, result metrics and ROI metrics. While cost metrics are the same across the customer journey, Result metrics are tricky to pick. For instance, at the awareness stage, the result metric would be reach, while at the consideration or conversion stage it may be sales, and for loyalty it could be resales. As long as marketers highlight the right metric at each stage, they’ll be attributing marketing spends correctly.
Marketing strategy isn’t easy, but it’s always part of an organisation’s broader strategy. Your CEO can be your biggest ally here, and aligning your marketing functions with his or her business goals is key to a successful strategy. Share your ideas with your agency partners, consultants or even your CFO — they can act as a sounding board to make your strategy more robust for the next few hats you’d be wearing.