Marketing is Changing. Is Your Marketing Department Ready?

Marketing has always been an evolving industry. Technological advances have made it easier than ever to track, plan, and execute campaigns across multiple channels. This while the number of channels has grown substantially in the last decade.

Planning requires considering trends in the micro and macroeconomic spaces. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the American economy to an unprecedented extent, and social issues like Black Lives Matter and climate change have put new pressures on companies and brands to take a stand.

This combination of forces has wholly transformed the roles and responsibilities of marketing departments, requiring that they become more agile, more interdependent, and more accountable for their parent companies’ successes and failures.

Harvard Business Review interviewed 125 marketing leaders across several industries to come up with six broad areas of value, divided into 72 marketing capabilities required to create that value. We highly recommend that you read their article in full, but we’ve summarized the broader points below.

Define Your Value

Many marketers have struggled with transforming their departments into agents of change within their companies for a simple reason: defining the value of marketing. If transformation efforts are perceived as merely an attempt to retool technology, a transition from one state to another, or a series of uncoordinated changes across teams and functions, the ability of the marketing department to drive real growth and create new value will be undermined.

The framework outlined by HBR divides the six kinds of value into two main categories: value for customers and value for the company. Once marketing leaders understand the hierarchy of these categories, they can use them to spell out the value of their department and align marketing’s activities with the broader strategy of the company.

Create Customer Value

Customer value is an effort to attract, acquire, and retain customers in the short and long term. Customer loyalty is one of the most valuable assets to any company, but you still need a flow of new customers to sustain your company and expand your reach. Your marketing team can create value in three major ways:

  • Exchange value: the ability of your department to precisely match your product to specific customer needs. Customers have become more and more accustomed to personalized offerings, and many companies are using complex predictive algorithms and data collection methods to target hundreds of unique customer categories.
  • Experience value: a focus on reducing friction between the customer and the process of getting the most use and satisfaction out of your product. This might include educational materials, onboarding, or the addition of new mobile integration or delivery infrastructures to help your customers along the customer journey.
  • Engagement value: an effort to enhance the meaning of a product or service beyond simply transactional value. Companies use dynamic storytelling, public relations techniques, and a sense of common purpose to make their customers feel that they belong to a community that goes beyond merely making a purchase.

Create Company Value

In contrast to customer value, company value emphasizes the ability of the marketing department to drive growth and internal efficiencies in other departments within the company.

When the marketing department can share data and align goals with sales, customer success, customer service, product development, and other departments, every company goal will become easier to achieve.

Company value falls into three categories:

  • Strategic value: the ability of marketing teams to spot opportunities for growth and leverage assets. Red Bull isn’t just a beverage company anymore — they’ve expanded into athlete sponsorships, sports and racing teams, and the Red Bull Media House, a global sports and lifestyle platform. That expansion was fueled by marketing. Marketers created action-packed video content to emphasize Red Bull’s alignment with adrenaline seekers all over the world, and in the process, they discovered that the media itself could exist independent of the drink it was ostensibly promoting.
  • Operational value: the role of marketing in enhancing the effectiveness of a company’s day-to-day operations. The biggest obstacle to an integrated strategy is alignment — as one executive interviewed in the HBR piece put it, “If one team is measuring success one way and another team is measuring success another way, good luck making it work.” Where marketers can create the greatest contribution is by aligning the other teams in an organization around unified goals and increasing collaboration between departments.
  • Knowledge value: the enormous insight into customer attitudes, sentiments, and needs that marketers offer. By analyzing how customers respond to various marketing campaigns, branding efforts, product changes, and more, marketers can bring a unique perspective into the shifting preferences of a company’s customer base and the direction the company should take in the future.

Determining Your Marketing Value

To determine which values to focus on, marketing executives should weigh the importance of each to the company goals. For companies launching a new product to a new consumer base, customer value should be a focus. For companies looking to tighten their budget and increase efficiency, company value should be a top priority.

Marketers have long recognized the need for change within their organization, but many have lacked the means or the direction to effect such change in a convincing manner to the c-suite. By outlining the differences between the types of value that marketers can create, you can bring clarity to the process and earn marketing a seat at the table when it comes to planning the future of your company.

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It can be a challenge to get inside the minds of your customers. But developing a successful marketing strategy requires non-stop effort to understand how your customers make decisions, what they prioritize, and what factors lead them to purchase. A crucial part of that process is understanding the buyer’s journey — the series of steps that your customers take between first becoming aware of your product and making the final decision to purchase.
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