Over the past twenty years my experience points to a common reason for marketing underperformance, the marketing team itself. These operating challenges can hinder digital media performance among other areas.
While internal operating challenges take many forms, two root causes of underperformance are paramount:
- Communications holes – They keep important insights from being shared, whether about customer needs and behaviors, changes in business goals, or other findings that would help a business grow. These information bottlenecks happen across three lines of communication:
- Across channel teams
- Hierarchically among managers, directors and VP’s
- Between marketing and other teams (product groups, R&D, sales, etc).
- Poor decision clarity – Incomplete decisions stem from a few sources:
- Data issues, be it too much, too little or inconsistent data.
- Leadership issues, when leaders are unsure what to do, the lack of conviction ripples through the team, and people don’t act when they should.
The return on the $220 billion1 of media purchased in 2018 is at the tail end of these log jams in communication and decision making.
Agencies and internal teams are often left unaware of customer insights research, competitive findings, market trends and other resources that would save time and money in driving conversion events and revenue to grow your business.
Within the marketing team, inefficiencies may be compounded when decision makers are unaware the insights exist. This occurs when customer research is not distributed among teams, perhaps because of a product based organizational structure, or simply a low communication culture from siloed, channel-driven groups.
This lack of shared knowledge can lead senior decision makers across teams to make inconsistent or even conflicting decisions. Sometimes even when shared, customer or competitor insights may be interpreted differently, causing conflicting decisions. This is one reason of many demonstrating how valuable communication processes can be – both within your teams AND with your media partners.
In this way, the operational effectiveness challenges within Marketing teams may lead us to test things that aren’t the most important, target segments imprecisely, or even to miss search terms that new (unshared) research shows buyers are using.
To achieve the improved performance that’s on the table from operational effectiveness challenges like this, the following approach can make a big difference.
Getting started is easy. Here’s how.
- Spell out what teams are doing what type of research:
- External – customer insights surveying, competitor insights, market trend research, journey analysis, etc.
- Internal – analytics based insights: site usage patterns and behaviors, device level research, segment information, etc.
- At what level – Segment, region, device, whole journey, or specific journey stage, product specific, etc.
- Categorize the customer experiences it impacts – are they moments of truth? Or hygiene issues (necessary, but less important)
- Make clear who (or what roles) needs to use the research, and be part of the decision making, so people agree on what it means and what to do about it. This includes both internal and partner based roles, such as your media agency.
- Set up regular monthly meetings to share insights across the impacted teams, and to decide what to do about it.
This sounds simple, and, in many cases, it is.
Where some companies have trouble is when roles or decision-making authority are duplicated or unclear. This is when balls are dropped and information asymmetry costs climb.
For needs like this, here are some simple guidelines. Fill in charts like the ones below.
P.S. – Start with one decision. Get small, fast wins.
Marcy Axelrod is an independent management consultant.