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The product owner is the facilitator every marketing department needs

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They say that few manager positions will change as much as the CMO-role in the coming years. It’s also said that future marketing managers will spend more money on technology than the CTO will. What the future holds remains to be seen. But that the CMO role is changing and has been for many years, is something that most companies will agree with even today.

Digitisation has not only led to more marketing channels to keep track of but also different ways of buying media, with underlying advanced technology. The technology requires expert knowledge and IT skills, and also requires customer data that is expected to be incredibly much more sophisticated than the go-to data of yesterday: demography.

“Add the company’s own channels such as sites, apps, physical and digital stores on top of this, and the CMO has an omnichannel agenda on its table that adds further complexity.”

The increased understanding of how marketing can drive growth has not only moved the CMO closer to the IT department but also closer to sales. And with that, the demands on analysis have also increased. Not only from a consumer perspective but also when it comes to cost efficiency, customer lifetime value, customer acquisition cost and more. Add the company’s own channels such as sites, apps, physical and digital stores on top of this, and the CMO has an omnichannel agenda on its table that adds further complexity. Even if the CMO is not responsible for all channels, managing the customer interface in one way or another is normally what is expected of the CMO role.

So how do you as a CMO build a competitive marketing department going forward?

The key is not adding more boxes to the organization chart under “Marketing” but building dashed lines towards other departments. Many companies today have already strengthened their organizations or partners with extremely useful expertise in analysis, conversion optimization, keyword optimization, performance marketing and more. Many have also invested in best-in-class tools within marketing technology (MarTech). They have done everything right, but still feel that they don’t get the sought-for effect. What they are missing are two things: processes and capabilities for driving change and development initiatives.

“The key is not adding more boxes to the organization chart under ‘Marketing’, but building dashed lines towards other departments.”

Let us take the utilisation of customer data for communication with existing customers on several channels as an example. Usually, you want to stitch together the customer profile between site, media and CRM. For the sake of simplicity (but it is rarely simple), let’s say that a tool decides what content is to be shown to which customer on each distribution platform (site, media, email) and that an expert is behind the levers. There is a lot of customer data hidden somewhere in the basement of the company, but considering that the expert spends 100% of their time optimizing, they have no choice but to use the tool-specific data. In many companies, the solution to this is to add a new system to the equation – for example, a customer data platform – that will stitch the data together. But the fact is that you can do a lot with what you already have, i.e. to maximize the effect of the expertise and tools. This as long as someone pursues the issue internally.

“But the fact is that you can do a lot with what you already have, i.e. to maximize the effect of the expertise and tools.”

The person driving the issue should have strong project and stakeholder management skills, but also have an understanding of customer segmentation, marketing, measurement and MarTech. This type of generalist will be able to set requirements towards IT, in order to obtain the data you want to use. They will be able to identify which customers you want to have a dialogue with and will also be able to help the experts with the implementation of the customer segments. Furthermore, they will ensure a continuous exchange of knowledge and a common vision between the experts. With knowledge of agile methodologies and backlog management as well as effective marketing, they will work as the “interpreter” in the gap between IT and the marketing department.

“They will be able to identify which customers you want to have a dialogue with and will also be able to help the experts with the implementation of the customer segments.”

The future is not necessarily in adding additional expertise or tools, nor in adding more middle managers. It’s rather in what was the core of yesterday’s marketing departments: project-leading generalists. The orb shows, for example, “product owners” in data activation, data analysis, automation and creative optimization that will serve as the facilitator for maximizing the effect of current capabilities, data and technology.

It is difficult to drive change from within the line organisation. Be sure to drive change in project form or add product owners in the borderland between tech and marketing and you will soon realize that your marketing department is already competitive. It just needs a little push.

 

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By Johan Persson
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