What Marketing Org Charts Tell You About The Business

August 10, 2014

Organizational charts are an interesting thing. Every company has an official one and also a few “unofficial” charts. Look at how people are structured and what the reporting structure looks like and it will tell how the company is run, what is important to them, and how they think about their product and services and the market in general.

Although it seems that for certain departments the org chart doesn’t vary much (take finance, sales, even engineering), for Marketing departments the org chart can be all over the place. Marketing is probably an area that changes more frequently based on the stage the company is in than any other, at least from what I have seen. A small startup will have a head marketing person with a few helpers below, but as it grows more people are added to handle the other facets of promoting the business. 

A marketing org chart can give you clues about how a company goes to market. How quickly they can react and if they are product-centric or sales-oriented. 

Organizational Chart

Sending a Message Through the Marketing Org Chart

Some companies change the marketing organization or rename functions as a way to signal the market and employees of a new strategic direction. Take for example P&G who recently announced that marketing directors and associate marketing directors are now called brand directors and associate brand directors. This is supposedly to emphasize the role of creativity and to inspire bolder, better ideas into their marketing.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review magazine argues that the marketing function hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years and makes the case for marketing reorganization.

“In the past decade, what marketers do to engage customers has changed almost beyond recognition …. Yet in most companies the organization structure of the marketing function hasn’t changed since the practice of brand management emerged, more than 40 years ago.” – HBR

It makes sense as brands evolve, technology now permeates every aspect of marketing, and consumers have taken control of the buying process. At least that’s the excuse for Electrolux to have restructured its marketing team and have moved marketers from the corporate HQ into consumer teams focused on fully understanding the consumer experience and sharing the knowledge among various groups so that the whole organization is aligned to better serve the consumer.

Sometimes the reasons are related to inefficient and costly marketing structures that have grown so big that they become an impediment to successfully conducting business and start damaging the brand. Behemoths such as HP changed from a decentralized marketing to a centralized marketing organization in order to save money and respond faster to market demands.

“Ensuring we have the right organizational structure in place is a critical first step in driving improved execution, and increasing effectiveness and efficiency” – Meg Whitman, HP.

A while ago Microsoft went through a big marketing reorganization as well because, as then-CEO Steve Ballmer said, the company wasn’t getting enough ROM (return on marketing spend). 

The Right Marketing Structure

The question of how to best structure your marketing department shouldn’t be the thing that keeps you up at night. The needs of a company change depending on where it is in its life cycle, how much money it has to allocate to marketing, and how critical the marketing role is seen for the success of the company.

According to a Forbes article titled “The Central Question for CMOs“, the debate of centralized vs decentralized is mute. 

But let’s say you do want to put in place a marketing org chart that makes sense and resists the test of time, even if it’s just for 12 months. Well, there isn’t a better starting place than the SlideShare presentation put together by HubSpot on this very subject. The CMO’s Guide to Marketing Org Structures shows how seven different companies have structure their marketing departments and why they have chosen to do it this way, at least for now.

So while there isn’t such thing as the “right marketing org structure” or the “best way to organize the marketing department”, the presentation is a good starting point to have a discussion at your company about the role of marketing and what the department should look like 12 months or 2 years ahead.

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Marketers Need to Get Their Stories Straight

April 9, 2014

As marketing professionals we all know the importance of storytelling, and with the current hyper-focus on all things content marketing, being able to tell stories is not just a requirement for modern marketers,  but is magnified by the different ways in which your stories can be disseminated.

The interesting thing is that according to a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute (B2B Content Marketing – 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America), although 93% of B2B marketers report using content marketing as part of their marketing strategy, only 42% of B2B marketers say they are effective at content marketing.

When you look at the challenges marketers face when creating content, the same survey shows the top three as being:

  • Lack of time
  • Producing enough content
  • Producing the kind of content that engages

Content Ahoy!

The way I see it, most marketers are pressed for creating more content then ever before and they struggle to create content that resonates with their buyers. Unfortunately, this is not surprising. Just take a look at the myriad of emails you get from different vendors, all with bland messaging and tons of weak content.

Infographics, to cite an example, got traction around 2010/11 as a great marketing tool and quickly became overused. Everything got dumped into a vertically-oriented PDF or JPG that had tons of data with no clear message. It doesn’t matter, as marketers report increasing the use of infographics (51% over 38% last year) as a key tactic, showing that getting your infographic noticed has become more difficult.

But back to the point. The problem marketers face also has to do with a key missing ingredient: storytelling.

Get the Story Straight

I was glad to see I’m not the only one feeling this lack of storytelling is plaguing many marketers, as Ardath Albee explains in her post, the product is not the hero of the story.

How many times have you read a new ebook or whitepaper and thought, “meh”? The story that focuses on the product is the wrong kind. I know, we are all tempted to showcase our product as the savior, the great dragon-slaying knight that came right on time to save the customer and for a small fee you too can take advantage of this awesome new version that now comes with flaming sword and shield.

Why do we do it? Because it’s easy. We just name the features, benefits, and churn a few whitepapers and webinars, throw an infographic there and it’s all set. Then, when is time to review the results we are pressured for more content, with less budget and not enough time.

My own attempts at storytelling falls into this trap now and then, as the pressures for more content faster mount. But as I read Ardath’s post and have been rethinking how to tell stories in a way that will resonate with our buyers, I am trying to get better. If you are reading this, so should you! Block two hours (at least!) tomorrow to stop everything you are doing and refocus your storytelling efforts. It will be well worth it.


Content Marketing is the New PR

April 4, 2013

That is the title of a recent Aberdeen Group report, Publish or Perish: Content Marketing is the New PR, which you can download for free (registration required) here.

Content Marketing Leaders and Followers

According to Aberdeen’s report, the companies it considers leaders in PR and Brand Management achieve greater performance metrics than followers, such as:

  • 23% of their marketing-generated leads are sourced through inbound or content marketing (vs 10% for followers)
  • 12% growth in year-over-year company revenue (vs 3.5% for followers)
  • 20% year-over-year increase in media mentions (v 2.7% for followers)
  • 15% year-over-year increase in social media mentions (vs 2% for followers)

The Changing Role of PR

One of the key insights from the research has to do with how PR has changed in the past few years. While the key mission for Public Relations in most B2B companies is still related to brand recognition and market credibility, the increasing role of content marketing in assisting PR with such efforts is now being seen as critical at most leading companies. The research points to 63% of respondents indicating that content marketing is being used as part of an overall PR strategy at their companies.

Companies considered “leaders” are the first ones to understand the importance of integrating content marketing into a broader PR effort, as their report points to 94% of leading companies stating that their PR function is now a component of their integrated marketing communications efforts and showing also that leaders are 50% more likely than followers to indicate that PR has evolved into a content marketing role.

Recommended Actions

Aberdeen recommends the following actions as you develop or reconsider the role of PR and your PR strategy:

  1. Align PR and Marketing: this involves a shared editorial calendar and unified web strategy
  2. Content Rules: you have to change how external PR firms and agencies are hired and evaluated, and also pay special consideration for SEO
  3. Search Engine Optimization: having PR work closely with the SEO team to navigate the new waters of content marketing, like correlating inbound website traffic with PR activity
  4. Measure what Matters: new measures for PR (inbound site traffic, web analytics, etc.) should be carefully considered in combination with more traditional ones (media mentions, advertising equivalents, etc.)

If you have been adopting content marketing strategies at your own company, the research results are probably not surprising but rather reinforce the notion that content marketing is here to stay. If your company has a traditional PR department or agency, now is a good time to start re-thinking your public relations strategy and how you approach it with content marketing.

To access the report click the image below.

Aberdeen Group Content Marketing Is the New PR


Product Marketer as a Story Teller

March 12, 2013

Those in product marketing roles are used to being the product experts and the ones who people turn to when they need creation of sales support materials, thought leadership pieces, and other content needs. The demands on product marketers are great, as the content needs of enterprises only grow to encompass not only the traditional whitepapers and product spec sheets but videos, eBooks, infographics, and more.Once Upon a Time, by UNE Photos via Flickr

If you are a product marketer, your challenge is getting everything done while at the same time keeping the big picture in mind. That is, the story you are telling. Product marketers work on product messaging and positioning, which requires a great deal of story telling. What is the product, what problem does it solve, and the typical checklist-style questions you see everywhere are just scratching the surface. A good product marketer gets deep into the customer’s mind, understands the marketplace, and can tell a compelling story not about the product, but about the customer need.

That’s the key difference. When I look at work from different companies and different product marketing teams, I see which ones are simply following the “corporate policy” or “product marketing as we have always done it” and those who try to take a step back to ask the question of “why is this relevant?”.

It is more than saying “we are the leaders in [fill in the blank]”. It is about communicating to the customer that you not only understand their pain, their needs, but that you also care about solving them. In sum, it requires people that are willing to ask the right questions and to challenge everthing without the fear of doing something different.

So, if you are a product marketer, keep in mind that above all, you are the company’s Chief Story Teller.


Content Quantity Versus Quality

December 28, 2012

How much content is too much content? Take a look at the picture. This is from a local bookstore here where I live in Mountain View. How many Hobbit books can there be? I was reminded of this again as I read Michael Brenner’s post about the “content echo chamber” hitting spot on something that is happening in the ‘content marketing world’. Good content vs boring content.

 

Hobbit books by Daniel Kuperman

The tower of Hobbit books

Keeping Your Content Fresh

When talking with other companies about content marketing, the discussion is often steered to how much content to create. All the ideas start flowing and the great topics that will make prospects notice the new product being launched. Only to dawn on everybody that with a staff this small there is no way we can pull it off. Then I like to raise my hand and ask them to rethink their content approach. Is more content the same as good content? How about instead of trying to write blog posts every day, host webinars every week, and create new whitepapers every month we just stop to think about the following elements:

  • What is the message?
  • Who do we want to reach with our message?
  • Why is this message important for this group of people?
  • What is the most effective way to reach them?

I also like to ask something like “if you only had resources (budget, staff) to do one content piece, what would it be?”. The idea is not to do less content, but to do better content.


How to Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page

June 26, 2012

© frenta - Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Brad Shorr.

Internal struggles between sales and marketing are commonplace in organizations of all sizes. Having worked on both sides, I’ve come to appreciate how difficult it can be to remedy the situation, and also how rewarding it is to get both departments singing the same tune. Sales and marketing can make beautiful music together in the form of more leads and sales! Here are a few thoughts on how to make it happen.

Problem 1: Political Infighting

Might as well start with the toughest and touchiest problem. Tensions abound when sales and marketing leadership are locked in a battle of wills. Everything each department says or does is seen by the other in the worst possible light, cooperation is virtually nonexistent, and the entire situation becomes a long and depressing tailspin into mediocrity.

One possible fix is to create a VP of Sales and Marketing role. The potential for infighting is high when two departments are battling for favored treatment from a neutral shared boss, such as a CEO or branch manager. Bringing the departments together may not obliterate turf battles, but at least they will be contained within a single department, and resolved there.

Another way to short circuit political issues is for executive leadership to clearly articulate the roles and priorities of sales and marketing. Some firms are sales-driven; others are marketing-driven. If a department doesn’t know where it stands, it will naturally push as hard as it can for as much as it can.

Articulating roles and priorities is not a one-time exercise, either. Priorities can change rapidly, depending on what’s going on internally and industry-wide. For example, consider a sales-driven company ready to introduce a new line of products into a new market segment. Marketing will now take precedence, but marketing will be tentative and sales will be frustrated if the new priorities aren’t understood.

Problem 2: Unfamiliarity Breeds Contempt

You often hear sales types complain that marketing doesn’t understand sales. And just as often, you hear marketers complain that sales doesn’t understand marketing. Unfortunately, these statements usually contain more than a grain of truth, and nothing fosters ill will and ineffectiveness so much as ignorance.

Fortunately, the fix for this problem is simple: cross-training.

When marketers understand sales, their work becomes more relevant to customers, and more persuasive. When sales people understand marketing, they become more systematic and efficient. I don’t think it’s an accident that many successful marketers have had freelance experience, where they were forced to be sales people by necessity. And, throughout my career I have seen many sales reps become tremendously successful by incorporating solid marketing techniques into their work.

Cross-training also alleviates political infighting and internal communication issues. Having a better sense of where a person is coming from, and having some idea of the method behind his apparent madness makes for constructive dialog.

Problem 3: Poor Processes and Shaky Structures

 Sometimes, firms just don’t know what they’re missing by allowing sales and marketing teams to plow ahead without having an organized system behind them. When internal systems are ill-defined and chaotic, sales and marketing tend to clash not only on issues that matter, but also on ones that shouldn’t.

For instance, every marketing department should have a clear process for producing a sales brochure, a process that defines responsibilities and timelines. But for many firms, creating a brochure turns into a fire drill, and it’s never done the same way twice. As a result, steps get skipped, input is overlooked, reviews are haphazard, expectations run the gamut, and everyone generally walks away underwhelmed.

Even worse than poor processes is the problem of shaky structures. Many of us have seen the firm that delegates marketing to a customer service rep who took a few creative writing classes and uses Facebook a lot. And perhaps we’ve also run into the sales manager who checks in with his reps once a month and spends the rest of his time playing customer golf.

If a firm doesn’t appreciate the complexity and difficulty of sales and marketing, it is really setting its staff up for failure. Political infighting is at least organized fighting; when staffers are at each other’s throats because there’s no other way to get things done, you’ve now set the stage for a gang war.

These issues arise frequently in entrepreneurial firms that have enjoyed rapid growth; adding a little management talent is often all it takes to completely transform the situation.

Work On It

For executive leadership, I suppose all of these three sales-marketing problems come back to that same issue of working on the business instead of in the business. Sales and marketing are completely different disciplines with completely different mindsets. And just because both groups have the same goal of increasing sales, it’s by no means a given that they will get along. It’s a tough problem to be sure, but that’s why execs get the big bucks.

Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, an agency that does web marketing in Chicago. They specialize in B2B with clients in industrial niches from credit card mobile processing to machine knit fingerless gloves.



Why Seeding Your Content is Key to Making it Viral

April 26, 2012

First Seeds Planted by Pictoscribe - Home again @FlickrIs great to see scientific research being done on social media, viral videos, and marketing in general (see previous post on the New Science of Viral Ads). Problem is, many research papers contradict each other. A recent study published on Marketing Journal titled “Seeding Strategies for Viral Marketing: An Empirical Comparison” (requires registration), by Oliver Hinz, Bernd Skiera, Christian Barrot, & Jan U. Becker, tries to get some of the contradictions resolved when it comes to what makes something “go viral“.

4 Critical Factors for Viral Success

According to the authors, there are four critical factors for viral marketing success:

1: Content, or the attractiveness of a message makes it memorable

2: The structure of the social network 

3: The behavioral characteristics of the recipients and their incentives for sharing the message

4: The seeding strategy, which determines the initial set of targeted consumers chosen by the initiator of the viral marketing campaign

The authors attribute the fourth component, Seeding Strategy, the higher weight. It’s all about who you are sending your video to, they say.

“Seeding the “right” consumers yields up to eight times more referrals than seeding the “wrong” ones” – Hinz, Skiera, Barrot, Becker

So how do you go about “seeding” it right? Here’s where many researchers disagree. There are typically three types of people you can target:

  • Hubs:  well-connected people with a high number of connections to others
  • Fringes: poorly connected people
  • Bridges: those who can connect two otherwise unconnected parts of the network

Network

Hubs tend to be better informed because of their social links and they can also influence their networks (hey, if I got this from Bob it must be good!). However, Hubs may not be optimal channels because if the person that acts as a hub doesn’t like or doesn’t agree with the content, they will not pass it on to their network. As big targets for new content, hubs are constantly bombarded with information and therefore may ignore or not see your new content which will prevent it from being spread.

Adoption of a new idea can then start at the “fringes” and make its way through the network. It has also been argued that fringes are more easily influenced than hubs and therefore may be good targets for spreading content. Bridges, for their ability to connect different areas of a network have also been targets because they can influence a portion of the network otherwise immune to the ‘viral’ content you have created.

The Optimal Seeding Strategy

In their research, the authors encountered four studies that recommend seeding hubs, three recommend fringes, and one recommends bridges. No wonder there is so much confusion when it comes to social media and viral videos! They then conducted experiments to prove those theories to the test to see which one would emerge as the winning seeding strategy.

The result was that “Marketers can achieve the highest number of referrals, across various settings, if they seed the message to hubs or bridges“. They also go on to say that “companies should use social network information about mutual relationships to determine their viral marketing strategy”.

Check out a summary of the study and results published by the authors on SlideShare (link below):

The Social Network

Understanding the social structure of potential networks is an important part when planning your social strategy. It pays off then for companies to mine the data they already have about their customers in order to determine the best people to seed your campaign. If high-connected people are picked to seed the campaign, the probability that it will spread is greatly increased.

Finally, it remains to be seen whether Facebook and other social networks will start playing a very active role in providing companies with detailed network information in order to help with their seeding efforts. Companies already have access to demographics, is just a matter of expanding the data set and, of course, avoiding potential privacy concerns.


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