It's safe to say that the last eighteen months have forced many companies to take a long hard look at how they do business. And while no area of the company has been immune to the changes the pandemic has sped up, marketing has had a particularly challenging time.
A new study by Integrate and Heinz Marketing - The State of Marketing Maturity: The Future of Marketing - sheds some light on where CMOs are struggling and what they need to do to succeed in a buyer-driven world.
Very few have reached full marketing maturity
Marketers are feeling the challenges of working with increasingly digital-savvy consumers and trying to build a marketing operation that creates better customer experiences through collaboration and communication across the organization.
The Integrate report identifies three key pillars of marketing maturity:
- Organization Structure - the structure of marketing teams, roles and responsibilities, goals, communications, and alignment.
- Martech - what technology is used, how the stack is integrated, how effective it is, and the impact of technology functions.
- Strategy - what type of strategy is deployed (marketing-driven, sales-driven, buyer-driven), the effectiveness of those strategies.
Together, these three pillars help you map the level of marketing maturity:
- Ad hoc - siloed teams, little to no tech, and a reactive strategy.
- Defined and Co-ordinated - defined teams with transparent goals across functions, standard martech with manual integration, and defined strategy with some sales-driven and coordinated programs.
- Managed and Intentional - synced cross-functionally with goals aligned to the business, managed tech that supports reporting and ROI attribution, and a multi-channel strategy that includes a combination of direct and indirect channels.
- Buyer-driven and Omni-channel - teams optimized with other functions, aligned around the buyer, a fully integrated MarTech stack to support an omni-channel strategy, and an optimized omni-channel approach.
The study asked respondents a series of questions across the three pillars that mapped their stage of maturity. Some marketers may look at the results and breathe a small sigh of relief, but not everyone has this figured out. In fact, of the 223 senior marketers who took the survey, only 23% fell into the highest level of maturity; the rest were almost evenly spread amongst the three other stages (Ad hoc - 24%, Defined and Co-ordinated - 31%, Managed and Intentional - 22%).
Deb Wolf, CMO of Integrate, shared her thoughts with me on some of the key findings in the study. She told me that she was excited to do this research because she wanted to understand where marketing teams were in their ability to support the changing demands of buyers. Knowing the landscape today, Wolf was surprised the maturity levels were so evenly dispersed across all four stages.
She said even some of the Integrate customers they would consider at the high end of marketing maturity had behavior that looked more ad hoc, especially as in-person events went away and teams started wondering where they would get leads to give to sales.
I think there's this recognition that the world has changed, but there isn't necessarily behavior that's mapped to it.
Account-based marketing and revenue marketing need work
The other thing that we both agreed was interesting was that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and Revenue Marketing indicated low confidence in achieving their goals.
In the study, 56% of respondents were not confident their strategy, tech, and organizational structure could effectively support their goals. That number is even worse for ABM and revenue marketing teams: 87% of ABM teams and 73% of revenue marketing teams said their current strategy doesn't meet their goals.
With all the hype around ABM (and now Account-Based Experiences - ABX) over the last couple of years, you would have expected these teams to be doing well. However, the truth is, many still struggle with activating programs to reach buying groups, Wolf said.
One challenge may be that the account lists are coming from Sales, and marketing doesn't know if they are the right accounts. Another challenge is that many ABM teams use cold emails to do outreach, and it's just not working. Wolf said marketing needs to think beyond a single channel and instead think across the whole omni-channel journey.
There's another consideration here. B2B purchases are made by group decision. ABM strategies don't always take the entire target account contacts into their programs, instead focusing on key decision-makers. It's not that they can't build programs to support the entire buying team, but it's a lot of work to define all the personas, what the purchase journey looks like for each, create the content and programs, and deliver to each one successfully. Wolf suggested:
That's why when we talk about precision demand, we like to talk about all the channels. How are you going to use all your channels, activate all of the potential buyers across that decision-making unit? I don't know if people are really thinking about it that way yet.
Silos are an ongoing issue
We like to talk about bridging silos across the organization - sales, marketing, operations, customer service, and support - but we forget that there's still the challenge of silos within the marketing team itself, said Wolf:
To achieve this highest buyer-driven omni-channel level of precision for a CMO, it's about a change of mind for their marketing team. Some consulting firms, like Deloitte or someone, should get a hold of this and think about how they can really go in and strategically re-engineer and restructure these marketing teams so that the social person and the event person and the demand person are sitting in a room together, thinking about the buyer, not just thinking about their individual silo challenge.
Much work needs to happen for a marketing team to move from an ad hoc maturity stage riddled with silos to buyer-driven and omni-channel. Even teams falling in between that spectrum will have their work cut out for them. So I asked Wolf where she would start? Many would say to start with strategy, but she had a different idea.
As a CMO, Wolf thinks about change from a people and roles perspective first. She said you have to break down those silos or your tech and strategy will be siloed too. That means you have to think about structure first, define your strategy, and then apply technology to that strategy.
Based on the study, this makes sense. The top two maturity stages focus on effective communications across the organization, ensuring goals are aligned, there's synergy, and better data quality and management.
The report offers some guidelines to improve marketing maturity, including:
- Break down silos within marketing and across the organization, offering more transparency and collaboration. Connect your customer channels one by one and tie marketing goals to business goals.
- Place the buyer at the center of your strategy. It's essential to connect with buyers at relevant points, offering personalized and targeted experiences where you can (and it makes sense). This includes all buyers in the buying unit.
I found the results of this study to be refreshing in some ways. Many companies are struggling to adjust to this new world where B2B buyers aren't attending conferences, are doing even more research online, are ignoring email and content that isn't relevant to their current needs, and are trying to do more with less.
A shift needs to happen across all three pillars to get to that optimal stage where everything is buyer-driven. But I also think you can reach maturity at one pillar before you reach it at the others. So, for example, you can get your organization in place and then work on your strategy. You could even have your MarTech stack started and properly integrated before your team is ready to work cross-functionally.