Mind the Gaps – Align Marketing Skills, Resources and Actions to Drive the Business

Mind the marketing gapsA tough (but great) boss at SAP once said to me:  “I know that when I invest in Sales guys today I get more sales tomorrow … why’s marketing always got to be so different?” Well, there’re a lot of good reasons why this might be. But the challenge he puts to all of us couldn’t be more clear: What can we do today that has a direct focus on business health – revenue — ASAP? So while I continue to see a lot of really, really cool innovations happening in the Martech area, I’m still seeing some huge gaps that if Marketing would focus on them, could help the business more (and that helps us).

Where are there gaps and what can we do about them?

Gap 1 — Show me the Money

All the credit to Joe Pulizzi and the Content Marketing Institute among others.  They’ve really gotten a lot right about how to attract audiences and engage them.  Likewise, hats off to Hubspot  for how they built their InBound audience by serving the information needs of a whole under-served community of marketers.  And yet, if I had to stand up to my old boss, trying once again to convince him to give me more money, for content or for inbound or whatever, I think I know what he’d say.  He’d say:  “Show me the money”.

Find the biggest leaks in your end-to-end funnel. Re-focus the skills you have on getting those fixed.

Gap 2 — So Along Comes Predictive and Intent. Problem solved?

Many marketers are excited about the Predictive and Intent data space. And with good reason – it’s certainly the best thing since the data-based marketing I grew up on. On the other hand, something’s still missing. Without a doubt, good data can make you smarter than anyone else on the team. And yet, brains won’t fill the pipeline. Actions speak louder than spreadsheets.

Before you buy more stuff, make sure you have a working process in place that new power will make even better.

Gap 3 — Is Software Eating Marketing?

If you follow me on Twitter you know that I’m a big fan of marketing operations.  I’ve driven incredible productivity gains with automation (and more importantly, people who know how to use it!). Does this mean we’ve made our marketing “better”? Well what about our business topline? It’s not always clear. So is it the software or maybe what we do with it?  Maybe. Kinda sorta. We can leverage the software for what it does.  The problem is, a lot of gaps are not about what a system can do.  They’re about what we’re not doing. Too often we buy software to make something we’re good at even better. In reality, a lot of companies still experience chronic issues that can only be addressed by smart people willing to bridge silos and work together to finally tackle them.

Don’t shy away from the people-to-people work necessary to address root causes of continuous problems.

Gap 4 — The Computer is a Moron

Without a doubt, software is making certain actions much more scalable and certain new capabilities realistically possible. Especially in high volume environments, whether it’s big data we need to understand or “programmatic” “campaigns” we need to execute. I’m a real believer in the promises of all this stuff because it makes work easier. It’s just that, in the immortal words of Peter Drucker:  “the computer is [still] a moron”. While it can show you the numbers, do what you ask it to really well, maybe even suggest a strategy based on your inputs, it’s not going to look for the problems that are getting in your way.

Choose and train your teams to be solution providers where their skills and actions can help everyone succeed.

It’s a Virtuous Circle. Get Focused on the Gaps that Matter.

You’ve seen all the diagrams. You’ve probably presented them yourselves. They show a circle of steps or capabilities required to get better and better results. Maybe you present it as chevrons. Maybe as a funnel. Whatever. If you’re just showing marketing, you might need to break out of your silo. If you’re showing product, marketing and sales, then good on you.

marketing gaps diagrams

Now take a look at where most of your energies are being expended and ask yourself:  “Is this where help is needed most? Is this where my team’s skills will deliver the most value to the business, fast?”

However you approach it, if you’re being honest, you’ll identify critical gaps that hurt the success of your end-to-end business system. And it’s my contention, that given the skills present in marketing today, you will be able to find areas where your help could really impact the business. My guess is that, historically, these projects have not appeared on your typical marketing plan. Build the cross-functional teams and projects needed and get them in there.

In subsequent posts, I’ll be drilling deeper into the various problems we’re working to address. These are gaps for which software might exist, but fundamentally, I’m talking about culture and process barriers that need to be overcome before a tech-based solution should be considered.

Though marketing has never been more enabled to help the business, at the end of the day, it’s not the stuff your team is doing well that is getting in your company’s way. Where success is dependent on strengthening performance in an end-to-end system, your ability to understand and solve problems is what will lead to the outcomes everyone will applaud. And that’s what will deliver the momentum you need to continue to innovate.

To succeed with this approach, you’ll need to have the self-awareness and courage to make sure you’re doing your utmost to align your skills, resources and actions to where they’ll help the business most and fastest. As a marketing leader, make sure that if you have significant process gaps that could lead quickly to revenue, consider applying your innovative energies there first.

John Steinert is the CMO of TechTarget where unique purchase intent data solutions are powering the marketing approaches of 100s of technology vendors to the audiences they serve.

B2B Marketing best practices, marketing skills, marketing strategy gaps

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