Prediction for 2013: “Operations” becomes a key word in marketer’s vocabulary
STANFORD - Underlying the progress around social media, advanced analytics, and mobile, marketers still are grappling with processes and management.
- December 2012
- By David Edelman, Marc Singer
At the recent Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Forum, we were struck by how every executive speaker made a strong reference to the significant changes they have had to make to their operations. The brand campaigns, social programs, mobile experiments, and changes to their websites were wonderful and inspiring to see. But underlying all of this progress was a non-stop drumbeat of mentions of “the incredibly heavy lifting it took to get our mobile activities off the ground,” or “the newsroom-like style in which we now manage our social media activities”, or “the integration between marketing and IT we had to force to release our next generation site.”
This is no accident. The changes to marketing are not only strategic, but deep in detail. Shifting one’s perspective from pushing out campaigns to helping customers throughout their decision journeys immediately raises the issue of cross-functional coordination across marketing, sales, and service — as well as how it all integrates into the brand’s core offering itself. Who designs the customer experience, how the IT and delivery requirements are funded and managed, and who is accountable for which metrics are merely the start of the transformational issues involved.
Digital interactions require significant analytic support to develop the algorithms that push the right content to the right interaction. Social media requires real-time decision-making based on unstructured data, often executed through people on the front lines of interaction. Mobile requires coordinating an astoundingly wide array of parties — telecom carriers, media providers, operating system owners — as well as personal, contextual, and location-based data to drive any kind of scaled engagement program. Generating the growing mountain of content to power all of these interactions requires supply-chain type discipline. Putting the right capabilities in place will not only help brands develop the right interaction strategies, it will give them a broader range of options that they can execute.
Many of the people we spoke to at the conference kept bringing up how they are reaching the snapping point of their current organization structures, processes, and technologies. They cited the need to add new roles, get much tighter about designing workflows for different types of customer engagement, set up coordinating mechanisms across functions and lines of business, and standardize on shared sets of technology tools. They are rethinking their agency mixes and what they choose to do internally — usually taking on more analytics and seeking more integrated design help outside.
This is far from a simple task for marketing organizations that have historically focused more on the content of what they did than the process behind it. Supply chain, manufacturing, and service operations executives have long focused on continuous tightening and adaptation of their processes. Hardly any business school courses, for example, focus on the intersection of marketing and operations. They are usually seen as two distinct realms.
The pressure for operational leadership now shifts to marketing and sales. Creativity is no longer delivered in simple advertisements — it requires multifaceted execution skill. Great brand stories come to life only when they can be delivered through everything the consumer experiences. The cost of all of this complexity can rise rapidly once it gets out of control. Perhaps the big ideas of 2013 are old ones — efficiency, scale, and execution.
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