When Implementing People-Based Marketing, Getting The Technology Right Isn’t the Hardest Part

margiechiuData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Margie Chiu, senior vice president, customer strategy group, at Merkle.

This truly is an incredible time to be a marketer. The reality of what media and channel technology can do today is finally catching up to the promise of customer-driven, one-to-one marketing.

In recent years, the number of companies that are exploring broad-scale, customer-centric transformation has skyrocketed, yet many complex, large-scale change initiatives never achieve their intended goals. There’s a lot of information out there about the tactics and technologies, but not much discussion about how to ensure success.

With most marketing transformation initiatives, the majority of investment and planning effort is focused on finding and securing the technology required to execute. However, another equally important success factor – and a frequent reason for a project’s failure – is a lack of organizational adoption.

The technology is simply a means to an end. What really brings the end vision to life is the support system that institutionalizes the change, which includes the people, skill sets and processes involved. Without it, even the most brilliant solution will sit dormant and unused.

I see three key components required to implement a customer-centric business model: organizational structure, operating model and roles and responsibilities.

Organizational Structure

All too often, it’s assumed that a transformation initiative will require a major reorganization, but the current structure may not need to change at all or may only need minor tweaks. Given the level of disruption and the complexities associated with a reorganization, it is probably the last thing you’d want to consider.

Before going to that extreme, it’s important to consider a couple of questions. Does the current organization structure allow marketers to easily collaborate and coordinate across product and business unit silos to deliver a customer-centric (vs. product-centric) program? If not, is there a way to accomplish that without a huge restructuring effort?

Chances are there are ways to get an organization closer to a customer-centric marketing vision without dramatic organizational changes.

Operating Model

This is really the make-or-break element of whether transformation can be sustained. First, it is critical to map the current-state process and highlight gaps that will hinder the organization’s ability to execute customer-driven programs. This can be done through a combination of individual and group interviews, as well as a review of any existing documentation.

The next step is to define what the future-state flow should be. As illustrated in Figure 1, it’s the process of creating a campaign playbook. And for each process, it’s important to double-check the details needed to execute this step, including the input, output, key players and skill set. 

Figure 1: Developing Campaign Objectives


Roles And Responsibilities

Following through with this campaign playbook example, the next step is to define the desired future-state process and then identify the required people for each step.

Roles can be defined with a higher-level RACI – responsible, accountable, consulted, informed – assignment matrix, as shown in Figure 2, but very quickly it becomes critical to get into the details, including position descriptions, as well as coming to terms with how the current team maps against the future state.

More often than not, minor changes will need to be made to the existing team – whether that’s rebalancing the current skill set or resizing the team to deliver on the vision.

Figure 2 – RACI


Despite the complications we face with continuously evolving technology, it’s important to realize that technology isn’t the most challenging part of customer-centric transformation. For marketers who focus their efforts on people-based, one-to-one marketing, the importance of the people-related requirements needed within the organization to succeed cannot be underestimated.

Follow Merkle (@merkleCRM) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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