A blessing and a curse.
Most marketers will agree that the modern era has brought with it complexity – there is now a myriad of variables for the modern marketing team to manage. Technology has been a double-edged sword: On the one hand, it has reduced barriers to entry along with increasing transparency and competition in nearly all markets. At the same time, better data has led to greater targeting abilities and, as a result, a vastly increased number of specialised products have been developed to more closely meet consumers’ needs.
This continually growing mix of variables has bought with it fragmented communication channels and, overall, just far more ‘stuff’ for marketing to manage. There are more products, more audiences, more messages…not to mention the expectation of real-time responsiveness.
Of course, technology can also help to resolve this issue. If applied as part of a solid strategy, digital utilities enhance sales & marketing operations by making processes more efficient, thus allowing teams to manage ‘the more’ better. Ultimately, the supporting technology should be leveraged to give marketers more control over their interactions with customers – control which has ebbed away in recent times but, is vital if they are to manage in a commercial landscape where the variables to success continue to multiply at an ever increasing rate.
A silver bullet?
Most companies acknowledge that their data needs to be harnessed to develop better, more responsive relationships with customers. In order to reap these benefits, however, it is most often not acknowledged just how important it is for data to be shared seamlessly between internal teams. The data needs to be leveraged as part of a wider programme of activity which seeks to address and break down the silos which commonly exist amongst management, marketers, sales people, and the customers.
Only by doing this can an organisation realise the potential of its data, in the benefits of its execution. Harnessing data as part of grand strategy without specifically addressing how that strategy will be executed by the company is where frustration and failure take root.
There is clearly a need for investment in effective data management systems and technology. This is widely recognised and is increasingly being addressed. However, some businesses would benefit from considering the fundamentals first; processes which are designed purposefully and specifically to support execution of their strategy, along with organisational design which empowers their teams to be naturally collaborative. By breaking down these barriers, commercial teams can better manage more variables – delivering more high-quality interactions with more customer segments, more quickly – and being able to do so as part of a calmer, more considered way of working.
It takes time but, the initial pain is worth it. Silos within a business cause interaction with the customer to become disjointed, delayed and inconsistent despite excellent technology and data. As a result, the customer loses trust, gets frustrated, and they choose to buy elsewhere. This is not to mention the attrition to internal morale which manifests when execution is set-up for failure.
In essence, it is important to note that technology is not a silver bullet; it is a tool for efficiency. It is only as good as the processes it helps to facilitate and the people managing them. If the processes are broken, or the wrong people are executing them, or if silos exist which fight against the transparency and accountability which digital offers, then success will always be limited.
Back to basics.
It doesn’t have to be complex. At its core, it requires a simple approach: First, defining what ‘good’ processes are – ones which are designed specifically to support the strategy you seek to realise. Once this has been decided, we must ensure we place appropriately skilled and trained people in the correct positions to execute these processes.
When you have the best people to carry out the right processes, it is then time to consider digital capabilities and implement technology which helps to automate and make things more efficient.
It is necessary to approach the exercise as one whole; addressing sales, marketing, people, process, and technology as the interconnected symbiotic parts of the same solution that they are.
Closer integration, facilitated by the right processes, people, and technology allows companies to tame their data and manage more variables as a result. This, in turn, means they are better able to execute – pleasing their customers, prospective customers and internal stakeholders alike.