Accelerating Marketing & Sales Transformation - Event Recap

by Samantha Campbell

With around 300 business, marketing and sales leaders in attendance, Blackdot kicked off its first executive breakfast of 2017 in Sydney and Melbourne. The session explored the significant challenges of transforming marketing and sales and shared four common pathways that organisations can use for accelerating progress. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of the main presentation and highlight the key takeaways. 

The session opened with the burning question of the moment – yes we’re all transforming, but are we evolving at a rate that is at least as fast as our buyers? 
 
Customers are evolving at an incredible rate, and have moved from being reliant on physical channels to experimenting with digital channels and finally empowered by digital, have become sophisticated, highly-informed and expectant of the omni-channel experience. The sad truth is that most enterprises are not keeping up with the pace. This and a myriad of new channels have forced organisations to rapidly transform their marketing and sales engine in order to keep up and win – but this is far easier said than done. Faced with lengthy, complex challenges, businesses are at risk of their customers surpassing them and opening themselves up to opportunities for competitors to move in.

What’s slowing organisations down?
 
The presentation then addressed the main obstacles that typically slow organisations down including time constraints, complexity, organisational change and having to completely invert the way they think about marketing and sales. There is no ‘normal’ when it comes to transformation - it’s different for everyone, depending on industry, technology infrastructure, business appetite for change, regulatory overlay, competitor threats and data quality etc. With marketing, the struggle is around figuring out how to gain buy-in for digital initiatives, how to negotiate legacy tech platforms that are no longer fit for purpose, how to deliver personalisation at scale and how to increase relevance across all touchpoints. While with salespeople, the battle is focused on gaining ‘bottom-up’ buy-in as they move away from being the CEO of the customer relationship and are forced to gain new insights and acumen to engage with today’s buyer.
 
As marketing and sales mature, the challenges that accompany integrating these divisions become more prominent. To achieve a singular view of the customer, the buying funnel must become interconnected, channels and campaigns must be shared, and processes and rhythms joined. Only once this stage has been reached can acceleration truly begin. 

How do you accelerate transformation?

We then moved on to explore four common pathways that we’ve identified for accelerating change, depending on the current state of the business:

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Pathway 1: Disciplined Start

Organisations that identify with Pathway 1 are typically in the early stages of transformation with a low business imperative and low operational maturity. To gain traction for their transformation initiatives, they often use pilot programs to test and learn new ways of working in order to realise benefits that will help build imperative as maturity grows.

The common practice here is to focus on being agile and failing fast – testing, learning and starting over again. The business case usually has clear intentions and objectives and some channel experimentation will be taking place, as the organisation attempts to build frontline engagement and address cynicism.

Our view point is different, we believe in a faster approach to success – a more disciplined and carefully planned method with the focus on winning fast. By pursuing a more tangible business outcome when setting up a pilot program, you are able to prove the value of the integrated engine and actively involve the frontline and encourage them to take ownership and thus stimulate buy-in.

Pathway 2: Rapid Operational Reinvention

Businesses that identify with Pathway 2 have a high business imperative but a low operational maturity. This is often caused by internal shock or a sudden change that has caused them to collectively recognise the imperative. For example – this could be a tangible change in how the customer base is buying or a disruptive new competitor poaching customers because they align better with their needs. This is actually quite a luxurious position for a business to find themselves in as they already have the energy and the buy-in and interest from the frontline. The challenge here is around how to deliver significant change very quickly.

The common practice is to execute a big top-down transformation program, with a strong vision on new platforms to advance maturity i.e. the ‘silver-bullet’ solution. Leaders will generally be focused on an overall big-bang, multi-year complex transformation project.

At Blackdot, we believe that a better practice would be to develop a detailed blueprint with defined sequencing and dependencies, which will help the frontline to continually realise value as the transformation program rolls out. This is far less painful than waiting the usual three years to finally realise value. By gradually releasing these ‘packages’ of new DNA across people, process and technology, you enable an incremental staged approach, which is far friendlier and more realistic to work with.

Pathway 3: Organisational Reset

In Pathway 3, operational maturity is generally high but the business imperative has dropped for some reason. A common situation is when a business has embarked on a new tech implementation, which has not gone well. This could be a new tool badly implemented or embedding that has been unsuccessful, resulting in a frontline that have lost belief in the platform and declining utilisation of the tool. The challenge here is to win back frontline trust and belief.

The common practice is to drive solution adoption by focusing on change management, communication to align the organisation and building new capabilities to leverage new technologies.

We find that it is far more effective to focus on how to solve frontline problems in a highly responsive way by making it faster, better and easier. By drilling down into the employee experience and finding pockets of excellence to share with the greater whole, the frontline will appreciate that their problems are being addressed and they will start to realise value from the platform. By improving the employee experience, you can unlock a better customer experience.

Pathway 4: Data-driven ‘double-down’

Organisations identifying with Pathway 4 are already in a good place. They have a high business imperative and high operational maturity and have probably successfully executed a transformation program and realised benefits from it. The challenge here lies in harnessing existing energy and continually optimising customer and business outcomes.

The common practice at this stage is to consolidate these processes into business-as-usual while allowing the transformation benefits to bed down.

Our best practice is focused around the concept of restless excellence. We believe that once you’ve got a new marketing and sales execution engine revving, with data and insights that can now be accessed – you should double-down and make greater efforts to grow and optimise customer outcomes. By embracing business momentum and creating an environment where the customer experience is everyone’s responsibility you can rev the engine even harder.

If you missed this executive breakfast, you can register for the webinar version, which is running on 16 May 2017.

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