CMOs: May the Force (Multiplier) Be with You

CMOsIn the military, a force multiplier is a capability that significantly increases the potential of a combat force, enhancing the probability of a successful mission. Many CEOs are looking to marketing to assume the role of force multiplier across their organizations, using customer insights to influence business strategy.

It’s an uphill battle. Most large organizations are designed around any number of silos – by geography, product, or function. Outside of the C-suite, the reality is that very few groups think about the overall success of their company.

Marketing should be the exception. By integrating messages and insights across business units, geographies, and functional groups, marketing can become more of a strategic partner internally by connecting disparate parts of an organization to deliver a consistent, cross-channel experience.

CMOs have made some strides in this regard. A 2012 report from Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles concluded that marketing is “moving from the outskirts to the core of the enterprise” in helping leadership teams develop and implement customer-focused strategies. The ability to divine customer insights – and make them relevant to business people – is one of five key responsibilities CMOs must embrace to successfully transform marketing. Here are three ways to become a force multiplier:

Serve as a bonding agent: At LinkedIn, marketing and product development teams are highly integrated: product marketing managers are matched with product managers, who in turn work closely with the engineering teams. They share customer experience insights to determine what to build, how to deliver it, and how to communicate the brand value. Marketing has an equally strong partnership with the sales organization, collaborating not just on taking products to market but on strategy.

“[Marketing] is the connective tissue between our sales team and our product teams, with the voice of the customer at the center,” said Nick Besbeas, LinkedIn’s vice president of marketing.

The insights seem to be paying off. LinkedIn now has more than 200 million members – doubling its base since 2010 – and is growing at the rate of about two members per second. Revenues in 2012 increased by 86%, to $972.3 million.

Combine c-suite roles: Technology services firm Cognizant took an increasingly common approach to ensuring that marketing lines up with business strategy: It put both functions under Executive VP Malcolm Frank, who serves as both chief strategy officer and chief marketing officer.

Overseeing strategy and marketing makes it easier for Frank to enlist all of Cognizant’s employees as brand advocates. “Our marketing department can’t just be the people in marketing, which is less than 1 percent of our employee population,” he said. “I view marketing as being all 155,000 of our associates, who can provide a multiplying effect for our brand.”

The integrated approach also enables close collaboration between marketing teams and business leaders across Cognizant’s industry practices and geographies. That ensures not only a consistent brand position, it also keeps marketing grounded in the realities of the business.

“We don’t want marketing in an ivory tower at corporate, staring at each other and convincing themselves through an agency that something sounds good,” Frank said. “That can be not only expensive, but incredibly dangerous.”

Break down your own walls. I’m not a fan of adjectives in front of marketing. Designations like “North America marketing” or “Web marketing” or “solution marketing” simply drives us further into our own internal silos. One small step we’ve taken internally is by using our social collaboration software, SAP Jam, to discuss marketing ideas, settle on best practices, and vote on the things that work best. We are also implementing cross-functional marketing metrics that focus on business outcomes instead of activities.

These efforts are all part of marketing’s mandate to think more holistically about the value we bring to customers. SAP has more than 3,000 items on its price list. Our job as marketers is to emphasize and articulate SAP’s overall value proposition, not just the benefits of individual products.

This approach doesn’t necessarily require a wholesale reorganization of marketing. I’m a big believer that org charts don’t matter. But do mindsets in marketing need to change? Absolutely. Breaking down silos is more about psychology and cultural transformation than it is about organizational structure. This shift requires fundamental changes such as embracing next-generation skills (both creative and quantitative) and measuring what matters (not just what makes you look good).

How is marketing connecting the dots across different functions in your company? I look forward to your comments.

Read more: Marketing’s New Mandate: 5 Core Principles for Driving Business Value

Originally posted on LinkedIn Today on September 30, 2013.

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One Response to CMOs: May the Force (Multiplier) Be with You

  1. Mohit November 15, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Thanks for this post- it shares specific hands on tools to break down silos and drive alignment with company level goals. I would add that internal communication, as one of the tools for “soft change” must also be aligned around these top level goals around “customer intimacy, operational excellence, and product leadership” (yes, your previous post was also on target, though I picked this one to comment on).

    Would be great to get your thoughts on this, in line with your blog:

    Thanks again!

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