“We’ll know where we are when we get where we’re going” has long been the operating philosophy of marketing departments. So it’s no wonder that in a process and metrics driven environment, CMOs are routinely fired after just 23 months on the job. Many take their severance packages and still have no idea what they spent precious budgets on and how it impacted (or didn’t) the businesses they were marketing.
If you compare activity in marketing with tasks in other departments you’ll see several critical differences. In marketing there are very few one-person tasks. Things are thought up, written, designed or plotted. Everyone has creative input. Then they are reviewed, edited, rewritten, rethought and regurgitated. The process goes round and round involving a daisy chain of players often long after spelling, grammar, product details, sales policies, legal concerns and brand voice are judged to be correct. Watching from outside you might guess that either everyone is paranoid, incompetent or both.
There are few standard operating procedures for doing anything. Marketing is an Alzheimer’s ward where everything starts anew with a fresh approach each time it’s done. There isn’t much sharing of information, not much meta-data exists and only a few marketing teams use naming and file protocols or put all like documents in the same place to facilitate collaboration. Compare this orientation with the obsessively standardized processes in accounting, finance, travel or human resources where things are done consistently and maddeningly the same in the same sequence, using the same forms or templates, called the same thing day in and day out no matter what.
Not much is measured. No one can tell you how many people or how long it takes to create an ad, to write a one sheet, to draft a PowerPoint presentation or hack out a press release. And no one ever thinks about, much less counts, how much it costs do any of these things.(Maybe because a lot of them are farmed out to vendor agencies.) In fact the cycle times and the costs of these items can vary as much as fifty percent based on the workflow and process steps taken to create them. And yet each year, marketing asks for more people, bigger budgets and newer technology to accomplish the tasks it doesn’t measure.
You can begin to see why CEOs and CFOs are gunning for marketing especially in bigger enterprises where critical functions like manufacturing, supply chain and distribution have been benchmarked and streamlined and back office functions have been outsourced. It’s only logical to suppose that companies ought to know what it costs to get a customer, what it costs to keep a customer and how much of fixed and variable investments it must make in brand awareness and lead generation to meet its growth objectives.
So how do marketers break this evil cycle and get the credit they so richly deserve?
By mapping and benchmarking their work.
Only by looking carefully at what they do and how do they do it on a granular level will marketers come to realize that many of their basic tasks are done in stages using methods that are the legacy of tradition, inertia or long lost assumptions. Think about it, except for the digital media, ads are created today exactly the same way they were 100 years ago. And the percentage of ads that get noticed or resonate with target audiences is probably less. Also consider the fact that most marketing communications doesn’t require big, bold breakthrough ideas, but instead require the creation and transmission of clear, standard messages and specifications to customers, employees, channel partners, vendors and discrete communities.
It’s not a pretty picture. And the notion of analyzing our work will not appeal in any way to the personalities usually attracted to marketing as a profession. To anyone who picked marketing because it was fun, paid well and had some pizzazz, this tactic seems like bean counting. And guess what? It is. But it will become an inevitable requirement of corporate life, unless you can countenance the idea of outsourcing the marketing function entirely to the likes of multi-dimensional holding companies like WPP or Omnicom.
The first step is to understand what you are doing, how you do it and why. Understanding how long it takes how many people to accomplish each task and at what costs are the minimum table stakes for being taken seriously in the C suite and for grasping the means of production. It’s the only way marketing can defend itself from the persistent concern that “50% of my ads are wasted.” And it’s the only way marketing can assure that it will drive its own future destiny.
Step two is to use this information to do what you are doing better by setting priorities, identifying bottlenecks, working around dependencies and eliminating duplication. This will give CMOS are better handle on using and deploying existing resources and a fact-based rationale for making the case for more people and more cash.
Step three is to use the information about timing and process flows to get better productivity from vendors and to negotiate service level agreements (SLAs). Rather than complain about agency processes, delays and fees, having this data will give you facts to argue about minimum productivity standards, value for money and to help redefine tasks, sequences and deliverables.
The big guys have tamed all the other departments. It’s marketing’s turn. Embrace benchmarking and it will set you free. And do it before the boss sets you free … out the door.