Is it time to tame complexity in the marketing industry?
One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has forced businesses to pause and reflect. After talking to a cross-section of executives, reading the latest articles and attending numerous virtual conferences, I have come to the conclusion that complexity is a real problem for today’s marketer.
The marketing industry has been running hard and fast for the last five years. Digital has heightened expectations and given birth to over 14 digital vehicles that marketers choose from. There is an industry paradox that while marketers know the value of data, it is often spread in silos and not connected. Blissfully reports that the average mid-sized company has 185 marketing technology applications. Stats show that the C-Suite is not always tech conversant. And, on the frontlines, there is widespread confusion with regard to the difference between data warehouses, data marts and CRM/CDP technologies. In the midst of this technological and platform complexity, most marketers still spend too much on customer acquisition and not enough on customer nurturing and retention. Have marketers prioritized urgent over important? Why is the state of marketing so complex?
While I was watching Scott Brinker’s keynote at MarTech West, I was reminded of his 2016 book called “Hacking Marketing”. It’s a good fundamental read of how to apply agile methodologies to the “new” marketing. Scott highlights the key capabilities called the “5 Digital Dynamics of Digital” (speed, adaptability, adjacency, precision, scale) and he also outlines the “7 Pace Layers of Modern Marketing”. These are logical approaches. But my big “aha moment” occurred when I re-read the chapter on “Taming Essential & Accidental Complexity in Marketing”. The fact is that technology is changing at a much faster rate than management can adapt. Technology is creating a gap and this needs to be proactively managed by systems thinkers. Brinker’s solution is simplicity.
In my opinion, the fundamentals of marketing have not changed. Marketing is about brands delivering value through a positive customer experience. Marketing departments spend a lot of time on execution, but they are also accountable to measure and demonstrate their impact on the business. Know your customers and focus on the core activities that deliver the most value to them (and to your organization).
In our new business environment, simplifying your plan and focusing is a prudent step. Future budgets will be tight, so now is the right time to re-examine your entire marketing ecosystem and make sure the core parts of your marketing house are in order.