Why marketing leaders need to shift their focus towards longer term strategic initiatives
The marketing industry is under-going one of the most significant shifts of our time. Many brands are facing similar challenges including flat-lining growth, rapidly changing consumer expectations and heightened levels of competition. This is creating new demands on marketing leaders and their departments to drive growth and create new value for customers to remain relevant. But are marketers up for the challenge?
In June 2020, we polled 130 Australian marketing leaders to find out just what is challenging them during this significant period of change and we were left with a number of really interesting takes outs.
55% felt that their biggest challenge was that they were too focused on the short term and 40% felt they struggled to convince leaders to invest in brand and longer-term initiatives. And it would seem Australian marketing leaders aren’t the only ones facing the challenge. In late 2019, The Economist released its report on CMOs and found that 63% of global marketers felt they were too focused on the short term (1 – 2 years).
Lacking influence around the strategic agenda
Whilst it is marketing’s time to shine, many marketing leaders and departments are struggling to shift their gaze and focus onto the things that really matter. In their report, The Economist found that CMOs consider marketing more influential in setting the strategic priorities for the business than it actually is, which is hardly surprising given many marketers cite their lack of longer-term focus.
As marketing leaders and their teams work tirelessly to keep up with the day to day, longer term strategic initiatives are more often than not pushed to the side due to the short term pressures within the business Marketing teams are also ingrained and structured to deliver on campaign based initiatives, which hampers their ability to manage and lead more strategic organisational priorities. Historical contexts also play a role here – for many years marketing departments have focused on campaigns and the promotions P of the 4 Ps – and therefore marketing isn’t seen as the natural owner of strategic issues like the growth agenda, customer experience and more.
For marketers shifting their gaze to focus on the longer term, alongside of short-term priorities, the rewards are significant. When the efforts of longer-term strategic initiatives come to fruition and the evidence of change and value is visible, marketing leaders and teams build trust, gain credibility and are able to garner investment from the business.
So how can marketing leaders and teams better balance their focus on short & longer term?
Step back and define the strategic direction
Organisations with no long-term marketing strategy tend to focus on tactics and operate in a reactive fashion, where activities are rushed and poorly executed. Whilst it is an obvious one, we still see many marketing departments focus on doing rather than thinking. Having clarity over the longer-term strategic direction, enables you to re-orient your teams focus and effort around what matters.
Drive alignment and buy-in
As the lead of a particular department, it is easy to fall into the ‘tunnel vision’ trap, with too much focus on the team’s own goals without ensuring greater alignment with the organisation’s goals and needs. Having an aligned strategy however is just the tip of the iceberg – buy-in and alignment are critical if you are to be successful.
To drive buy-in and alignment, CMOs and senior marketers need to work tirelessly to bring leaders and their respective departments on the journey and reinforce the direction. It is also vital for marketers to have the hard conversations with other key stakeholders to ensure departments are focusing time and energy on initiatives that are relevant and aligned to core business and customer outcomes.
Measure what matters
In a time where many marketing departments are trying to re-position themselves to be seen as revenue drivers rather than cost centres, measurement of marketing’s value over the short and the long term has never been more important. Being able to demonstrate the impact marketing has had on key business metrics creates trust that the investment in marketing is worthwhile and sets a solid foundation to justify future budget increases.
Create space by stopping what doesn’t create value
Many marketing teams are spending valuable time and money on initiatives that simply aren’t working or create very little return. This is again where measurement becomes extremely valuable; if the input is exceeding the return, marketing teams should reconsider if the marketing activity is worth doing or if the efforts could be better spent elsewhere.
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