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January 2, 2020

Building a Modern Marketing Organization

By Joshua Neckes, Simon Data

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How an integrated marketing team can drive transformation

The idea of a “modern marketer” is always a moving target. New channels and new technologies fuel an ever-changing set of customer expectations. What’s clear is that in a world where no consumer is untouched by data-driven giants like Google and Amazon, the modern marketer needs a modern marketing team – one organized around producing holistic, data-driven, customer-centric experiences – to compete. But whether you’re a digital-native challenger or an iconic legacy brand, building the type of team that can deliver these types of experiences presents a challenge. At Simon Data, we focus on supporting great customer experiences everywhere. Along the way we’ve learned what it takes to build a team that can deliver.

Let go of legacy structures

At Simon, we’ve worked with numerous emerging and legacy brands. While it’s clear that they come at the challenge of building a modern marketing team from different places, they nevertheless encounter similar challenges. For established brands with legacies that extend to the pre-digital era or even simply to the pre-web 2.0 era, the marketing function likely didn’t spring into existence in a fully integrated form. Instead, as new channels emerged, marketing teams added new roles and functions to accommodate them, creating silos. For example, a team responsible for email communication may have no communication with the team creating advertising content. Even if those digital functions sit under the same umbrella, it’s possible that they have no meaningful contact with the group responsible for creating in-store experiences at a physical location and no way to share insights gathered from their respective efforts.

However, while much has been made of progressive brands’ talent for adapting to new channels, many of today’s digital-native challengers still struggle to integrate new channels and functions as they grow. In some cases this might mean learning to buy more traditional forms of media, or linking a digital experience to a newly launched physical retail space the siloing of new functions and new data channels is still common. In many cases the pace of progress means it’s hard enough to plug in a new capability let alone find a way to fully integrate it into a team.

Overcoming this history can be difficult since it requires taking on institutional inertia to rethink the marketing team org chart. But changes to team structure can often spur new ideas, facilitate better communication, and enable the kind of cross-functional data sharing required to execute a multi-channel campaign. Technology solutions can also play a role, using a customer data platform to unite and make actionable all of your customer data from new and legacy channels.

Build a team around experiences, not channels

Once we break down the silos between marketing functions, we’re still left with an open question: namely, how should the resulting team be structured to best take advantage of its newfound openness and cross-functional accessibility. The answer, for many of the most progressive brands that we’ve partnered with, is building their new marketing team around customer experiences and using stages of the customer lifecycle, rather than broad messaging channels, as their key organizing structure.

Instead of channel-based teams, these progressive brands create cross-functional pods set up around moments in the customer journey. For instance, a marketing organization might feature a pod solely focused on the experience of new customers. This group, encompassing advertising teams, performance marketers, brand strategists, creatives, data scientists, engineers, and in-store experience experts, would be responsible for all aspects of the new customer experience ensuring that all aspects of the onboarding process are consistent and oriented toward the way consumers are interacting with the business at that stage. Data collected from these similar interactions can be used to optimize for retention, upselling or moving customers into the next phase of their relationship.

Orient yourself toward behavior, not demographics

In the past it was useful to view customers demographically, as men or women, as 18–34, as urban or rural. Those descriptors spoke to customer behavior in a meaningful way, and marketing teams were built to think of customers as demographic segments. But modern consumers don’t fit so neatly into boxes. The rise of personalized experiences, from Netflix queues to Amazon recommendations, has changed the way consumers experience commerce and reset their expectations. Regardless of age, gender or location, customers are increasingly expecting experiences to be tailored to their individual needs and preferences.

Many businesses are finding it more advantageous to orient themselves toward a psychographic view of their customers. Looking to the way individuals interact with content rather than trying to form wide customer buckets based on external characteristics. It’s often more advantageous to think of customers as browsers with an interest in skincare products than as women aged 18–34. However, understanding all of these interactions requires a holistic view of your customers and a team that’s able to understand and apply data across all your channels and touchpoints.

Prioritize communication

Successful modern brands are more communicative on a one-to-one basis than ever before. They ask you, “What’s important to you? What information or experience is most valuable to you?” Asking these questions early and often, especially of new customers, takes some of the guesswork out of marketing communications. This questioning could take the form of explicit customer surveys and requests for feedback, as well as through testing and experimentation to determine which types of information and offers customers respond to. Regardless of the collection method, an agile modern marketing team can communicate with customers across channels, collect the right information, and use it to inform how and what each customer is served.

This type of responsive, real time communication with the brand is now possible at scale. You don’t need to call customers individually or survey them in the store. Everyone has access to websites and apps in their pocket that enable use to keep human customers in the loop and collect real-time feedback. And if you can’t get your customers the information they need, a real human contact can be a single touch away. The brands that are able to offer and clearly articulate this blend of automation and human interaction will be the most successful and creating fully integrated experiences.

Transformation is continuous

Finally, it’s important to remember that transformation is an active process, not a single end goal. Building a centralized plan isn’t enough to ensure that you continue to see the benefits of transformation. Modern marketing teams should be designed to test, experiment, pilot new programs, and iterate on an ongoing basis. For a modern marketing team, the ideal state isn’t one of endlessly future-proofing by adding new channels tools, channels, and skills, but rather on of consistent reinvention which delivers consistent results.

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