SiriusDecisions BMA ChicagoModern marketing. What does that mean?

Part vision, part reality, part insult (as in “Of course I’m modern…what are you insinuating?”), the life of the modern marketer was discussed and dissected at the November BMA Chicago luncheon by Jay Gaines, VP and group director of marketing executive services at SiriusDecisions.

Jay has had his finger on the pulse of marketing’s transformation ever since he stirred the pot as a sales team lead, telling his company that their marketing was pretty much useless. He was given the opportunity to fix it, and he has never looked back. Today, he is the lead executive at SiriusDecisions, providing consultations to B2B CMOs worldwide. SiriusDecisions is the leading B2B marketing advisory and consulting firm, providing insight and learning platforms to help companies effectively make the transformation to modern marketing.

There’s that phrase again…let’s dive in.

Jay began by sharing the key driver for change in today’s marketing function — and it isn’t technology or social or predictive analytics. It is the dawn of the empowered customer. Thanks to the underlying enablers of technology and mobility, today’s consumer is in control. The sales process has been replaced by the buyer’s journey. Marketers who understand this fundamental catalyst for change are the ones who successfully navigate the transformation.

This is where “modern” comes in to describe the shift. Marketers who employ all the latest tools, fully integrate their channels and leverage the resulting data to make better decisions are taking advantage of the very latest to be the very best. Modern marketing is more than a state of mind. We all have the desire, and in that sense we’re all modern in our minds. But “modern marketing” is a verb, not a noun. It’s a state of being.

Jay’s talk was especially useful in this area. He shared the characteristics of the high-performing modern marketer.

Characteristics of High-Performance Marketing

Modern Marketers:

1. Begin by ensuring buyers and customers are at the center of it all. Modern marketing, above all, is customer- and audience-centric. This seems obvious, but it’s true: Marketing’s mission must be to serve as a true customer voice within the organization, and to drive all activity to the buyer’s journey.

2. Demand that everything is measurable. Sure, we measure things now. But a modern marketer ensures more than activity (how many emails are sent) gets measured. Output is a useful start — measuring the number of proposals produced, for example. But measuring marketing’s impact on revenue is critical. To ensure a consistent contribution from Marketing, the team must be ready to perform. To achieve this, marketing must speak the language of business, not “marketing-speak.”

3. Always look for insights. Make Marketing the center of knowledge about your customer base. This begins by creating personas to learn how your customers buy, and evolves into engaging B2B prospects more holistically as an account. The concept of segmenting markets is nothing new. However, modern marketers know how to leverage today’s technology and access to data to strategically filter and target the most valuable segments, and to keep those segments engaged through the pipeline. To make sure your organization has a common understanding of your buyers, begin by building an “audience framework.” One tip from Jay: Keep your buyer personas brief. If they are too long, they won’t be of much use — and your hard work will just gather dust.

4. Demand that processes are put in place. Marketers don’t like to be hampered by too many processes, but to take advantage of today’s marketing automation technology, it’s critical to have a structured approach to prospect engagement throughout the funnel. This begins with laddering up most activity to a campaign theme, which may last a year or more. Then, all programs can be categorized into brand, demand, sales enablement or market intelligence–gathering activities in support of that campaign theme. This is a great way to align Marketing’s work with Sales to attract, engage and convert.

5. Always make it strategic. Great modern marketing thinks strategically about growth. Jay suggested that all core activities, investments and measurement should be tied to these five growth pillars:

  1. Entering new markets
  2. Targeting new buyers
  3. Launching new offerings
  4. Acquiring new companies or business units
  5. Maximizing organizational productivity

6. Integrate everything. Of course, the term “integrated marketing” has been thrown around for years. What’s modern about that? But Jay discussed a new requirement: integrating in a functional way to meet growth objectives. Specifically, this means integrating the efforts of marketing, product and sales teams to ensure that strategy, execution and growth drivers are aligned and realized in the market.

7. Stay focused. Integrating marketing’s efforts is still important. According to Jay, integrating communications, operations and demand management is essential. To make it happen, unifying under a campaign theme is a great place to start. Then, take an “ecosystem” approach to defining workflows, including campaign planning and execution.

Jay ended by sharing some of the biggest mistakes marketing executives make when modernizing their operations. They are pretty simple, really. First, when marketers don’t create a focus for their organization, it’s difficult to prioritize what’s going to make the most difference. This means marketers should actually say “no” to working on non-strategic, ad hoc projects.

The second biggest mistake Jay observed was that marketing executives tend to get overexcited by all the new approaches and technology out there today. Change takes time, and Jay suggested that instead of setting unrealistic expectations, marketers should make their changes gradually with a series of pilots, iterating the modernization process.

Even the modern marketer in us still loves a pretty picture, so check out this month’s presentation distilled into art at the top of this post. Print it out and keep it handy as you take modern marketing from dream to reality.