How Marketers Saw the Future

The majority of marketing specialists agree that any industry’s future is a combination of the current disruptions. This is a clear indication that marketers will have to change their approaches to various practices to support the business adequately.

Previous studies showed that this statement is true as four out of five specialists were sure that marketing organizations have to adjust their structure and design to meet their business needs in the short run.

Meanwhile, the minor part of experts thought there is no real need for any future changes. However, it is possible to speculate that they accepted a legacy role instead of keeping up with the ever-changing technology. Around half of marketers agreed that the change is necessary, but not in a drastic manner. One-third of marketers strongly believed that marketing practices should be amended to support business objectives.

Interestingly, the last category of professionals is usually seen as more than just cost centers and rather like revenue drivers responsible for customer experience and engagement, talent acquisition, and the leverage of data and technology.

What Did We Get

As a result, some influencers developed quite an innovative approach to marketing as a whole. Brian Harrington, CMO of the US-based car-sharing company Zipcar, founded the so-called philosophy of “small bets”. From the organizational perspective, the CMO created something quite akin to the modern agile approach!

After all, if we consider the idea of small marketing programs that are highly flexible when it comes to upscaling, tweaking, or shutting down, we get an approach similar to agile marketing and project management. Agile management is about rushes that can be easily adapted to environmental changes through constant meetings and effective communication.

As Harrington stated, each marketing program has its own success metric used to determine whether a project is worth investing in. This sort of organizational behavior is now typical for most large companies as they invest in multiple marketing projects — some of them shoot while others fail.

This leads to the modern realities of marketing — constant changes in both internal and external environments entail flexibility from the marketing department and CMO. So, we have an ideology similar to “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs”. Although this may sound rather ruthless, in fact, increasing competition and a constant inflow of disruptive technology require executives and managers to calculate risks and make rational decisions.

Marketing as a Revenue Driver

Traditionally, marketing practice was viewed as a cost center and rarely as a revenue driver. However, everything has changed in recent years. E-commerce has become a staple mark of many industries, thus radically changing the perception of marketing practice within a company in general.

What was seen as a cost center that provided only some research data is now considered as one of the main revenue drivers! The thing is — consumers have evolved alongside technologies. That is why marketing practice appears to be more and more imperative for businesses that want to be ahead of the competition.

John Dragoon, CMO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, stated that you would be viewed as a cost center if you don’t accept responsibility; however, you’re going to be regarded as a partner and adviser if you aggressively pursue the agenda of accountability and transparency. While this was true like 5 years ago or so, the situation is different now.

Until recently, the role of marketing was to bring consumers to the brand while the sales team managed the purchase decision. Nonetheless, notable changes can be evidenced. Technology has evolved, social media platforms play their role, and the general population has almost unlimited access to information.

Now, these are the factors that allow marketers to show how they are driving the business revenue. For example, many company executives, such as Mr. Gupta at Kimberly-Clark, admit that there’s no such thing as funnel anymore — the consumer is at the center of all processes. The CMO has to drive experience as there’s no funnel, which means that marketing practices should inspire customers despite any borders and at any stage of the purchasing journey.

Mr. Dragoon claimed that it’s important to remember that creating marketing teams, which are focused on highlighting their personal input in the result, can have a destructive effect on the company. That is why the role of CMO is so crucial — the ability to recognize the achievements of other departments while finding correlations with different events is the way to acknowledge people who contributed to success properly.

Experience Leading to Engagement

Only a couple of years ago, customer experience did not receive a proper oversight. However, most marketers now agree on the idea that they are responsible for the customer experience. This is a rather interesting tendency in its own right as traditionally, sales departments were considered the ultimate experience deliverers.

Today, the line between sales and marketing is becoming more and more blurred. The reason is quite simple — consumers hold power, and the role of sales is diminishing. As a result, the role of marketing appears to be even more important for the company as a whole.

Jamie Moldafsky, CMO at Wells Fargo, stated a need for a holistic approach due to a large number of channels and contact points. She also pointed out what’s currently happening in the world of marketing — integration of channels and businesses is a prerequisite for shaping a customer-centric strategy that is easy to understand by the end consumer.

Mr. Dragoon claimed that nowadays “customer experience is a matrix with marketing taking a central role, even if it’s not the lead role.” This statement implies that companies should be quite flexible regarding customer experience, especially marketing departments. Therefore, complex enterprises require effective cooperation and sometimes integration of different functions across departments.

Engagement as a New Norm

The goal to create a holistic system that is customer-centric is based on the idea of transforming customer experience into an engagement. Traditionally, engagement has been viewed as the combination of branding activities and the development of customer awareness. However, the times have changed and engagement is seen more as the key element to creating customer loyalty and advocacy!

Customer engagement is evident through such indicators as retention, repeat purchases, and renewals. Virgin America’s CMO Luanne Calvert asserted that “It’s hard to attribute revenue at the top of the funnel.” That is why retention, loyalty, and advocacy are the main factors used to determine a marketing strategy’s effectiveness. This, in turn, provides companies with an opportunity to link marketing to solid revenue numbers.

Modern Realities of Engagement

Today, customer engagement is seen as the major driver of revenue growth as the availability of social media and other communication channels has pushed companies to the “vulnerable” side of the market. Today, consumers have the power to boost sales or dramatically cripple entire businesses just through their social media presence. This is a reason why marketers pay meticulous attention to social media influencers.

Methods that may have been seen as unorthodox only a few years ago are becoming a new norm in the marketing industry. Social media influencers as the main advertising drivers are a common practice among top corporations around the world. The thing is — an influencer has a personality, reach, and image. That’s why they are the solution to “keeping up” with consumers for many brands.

However, it is important to understand that these realities also create potential threats for businesses. First of all, consumers have the power to considerably damage the public images of companies, which calls for active engagement build-up on the part of marketing departments. Secondly, an influencer’s failure can dramatically affect the sponsoring organization, which may have disastrous consequences for the latter’s reputation.

As it can be seen, modern marketing has become a double-edged sword. On the one side, marketers can effectively influence the target market through active engagement and influencers to reach the target audience with relative ease. On the other side, there are risks associated with uncontrollable factors such as ill-meaning consumers and irresponsible influencers.

The Skills Hunt

There is a difference between what marketers used to do and what they do now. At present, the battle between art and science is in favor of the latter. This is a clear indicator that marketers delegate the “art” part to influencers and other agents while focusing on data behind marketing campaigns. This state of affairs creates a new sort of status-quo.

Marketing specialists have to embrace the perspective of end consumers to develop effective solutions. This is why the marketing department and CMO’s role has transformed in the last few years from purely creative to analytical. Such a change is a sign of another tendency — marketing is becoming more capital-intensive than ever before.

In this way, a potential marketing specialist is expected to be competent in marketing automation infrastructure, data, and content. The demand has switched from artistic personalities to the minds who can run analytical functions while listening to different communication channels’ feedback.

Final Thoughts

It comes as no surprise that marketing practices have transformed significantly over the last several years. Before, it was okay to think of the marketing department as a cost center; however, the trends have changed, and now marketing specialists are perceived as revenue generators. CMOs of the leading companies agree that the role of marketing departments is expanding, but it is also essential to acknowledge others’ achievements.

Furthermore, marketing has shifted from creating customer experience to actual engagement. There are many factors behind this tendency, but the fact remains that the role of sales is diminishing while marketing is increasing. This blurring has led to the evolution of marketing practice that is now more data-focused. Now brands view customer data platforms as an opportunity to facilitate their business growth, especially in challenging economic conditions. Companies must evolve their marketing strategies to get closer to their consumers, better understand their needs, and deliver personalized messaging across different channels.

Overall, the evolution of marketing from a cost center to a revenue generator was an entertaining path that clearly highlighted the advancement of technology and communication in the world. Social media and end consumers are dictating the rules, and marketers have to properly interpret the available data to keep up with the competition. Whether you are a startup with a brilliant idea that you want to execute or an already well-established company that aims at reviving its brand with innovations, marketing should be as important as your invention itself. It will keep you competitive in the market and allow you to explore the whole new world of expertise and, therefore, success.

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