Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Marketing Operations Function - Can we Maintain the Momentum?

I first studied the rise of the marketing operations (MO) function early in 2005; and MO professionals and teams have made significant progress since then. However, much work still remains; and the momentum of marketing operations leaders' strategic impact is at risk of being lost at many organizations. Here are some key findings/insight from my 3rd annual study of the MO function to help ensure the continued success of this important role in the marketing organization:

1. Make the case for an MO function that reports to the CMO if you haven't already, and leverage IDC research to justify staffing levels for this function. Based upon IDC's Marketing Performance Matrix, 90% of companies in the Marketing Leadership quadrant have one; and your position and your marketing organization's success depends upon the strategic planning and process discipline that this role brings to the table. IDC's overall guidance or "rule of thumb" for staff allocation to the MO function is 2–4% of total marketing staff and one MO staff person for every $10 million to $15 million of marketing budget.

2. Know your CMO's priorities. To ensure that the marketing operations team remains highly relevant and successful at a strategic as well as a tactical level, its objectives and priorities must be in alignment with the needs of the CMO. The more advanced MO teams will help to identify these priorities for the CMO.

3. Maintain Your Team's Focus on your Top Priorities. More and more MO teams are becoming overwhelmed with the quantity of projects that they're involved with, resulting in a loss of focus; which is impacting their efficiency and effectiveness. Be realistic about your goals, and focus on the areas where you can make the greatest impact in your organization in the short-term while laying the foundation for longer term efforts.

4. Drive the MO team towards continuous improvement and innovation. This may include improving existing processes or acting as the catalyst for development and execution of new, innovative ideas.

Want more information on this role? Feel free to send me an email at and I'll be glad to share some of the results of this study with you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Top Ten Attributes of a World Class Tech Mktg. Org.

The archetype of the world class tech marketing organization, Top Ten characteristics:

1) The senior-most marketing leader is viewed as a being a business-person by the CEO or COO or equivalent.

2) The senior-most marketer is perceived by the other peer-level direct reports to have equal weight and reporting status in the politics and influence of overall management.

3) If it is primarily a B2B tech vendor, the senior-most marketer has an especially productive and collaborative relationship with the senior-most Sales exec.

4) The marketing organization has a good grasp of its "marketing business model"; that is, what are the ingrained programs, practices, etc. that represent the foundation to the company's marketing platform. There is an annual "rhythm" to this marketing business model so that there is a good sense, across the marketing team, of a solid operating pattern. In other words, the team does not feel as if the marketing strategy changes frequently and is the "flavor of the month".

5) In addition to the foundation of this marketing business model, there is also the room, the operating space, to try new marketing initiatives. These should be one or two (at the most) major initiatives that are tested and tried during the year, lead by the CMO.

6) There is a good balance to the art plus the science of marketing. The foundational elements of the marketing business model should be ingrained enough so that there is a steady and relevant stream of performance metrics that can be driven out of the activity. To the extent that the CMO is able to produce and manage towards these metrics for the core activities, he/she will be allowed more latitude for creating and testing new activities - which by definition will be hard to apply the science to at the beginning.

7) There is good attention to the marketing operations aspects. The marketing organization is right-sized; it is balanced appropriately for the resources and activities that are at corporate vs. elsewhere. There is good attention to budgets(marketing's managerial accounting process); a strong marketing performance measurement process; marketing's short-term and long-term technology needs; and there is enough awareness and circumspection about the marketing budget and the overall company income statement that the CMO, if requested, can with-stand a budget reduction while still being able to keep the core elements of the marketing business model in place and productive.

8) There is a strong marketing staff and constant attention to improving staff caliber and building skill sets.

9) The CMO and staff have a good grasp of the marketplace wants/needs; key industry trends that impact the work; and key competitors and trends. All this is indicative of good "outside-in" marketing and will help the marketing team to be perceived as business people that can credibly represent the voice of the customer within the organization. (for marketing, sales and product development/innovation)

10) The marketing function is perceived within the organization as a good place to work; a function where careers can be built; a function that has a high bar for job entry.

I could go on, but those are the top ten.

How long could it take? Depends on what you are starting with. If rock-bottom is the basis, it could take 2-3 years.

By Rich Vancil, VP Executive Advisory Group, IDC

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Channel Marketing Investment - How much did we spend and why?

Do you know how much of your marketing investment is dedicated to your channels? Not just co-op and market development funds(MDF), but also the investment in other marketing activities that are intended to either directly or indirectly support the channels. This may include "ground cover" as some people would put it. If your answer is no, then you're not alone. Few companies have a more holistic understanding of their investment in the channels, let alone their return on that investment. In addition, most channel-centric companies are afraid to modify their investment in the channels since they don't quite know what will happen; taking a stance of "if it's not broken, don't fix it".

With cost pressures on marketing only increasing, this strategy will need to change, and quickly. The challenge is even greater for those companies just beginning a channel marketing program. . . trying to decide how much to invest in the channels and how to manage and track return of that investment.

Here are some key findings from recent IDC research:

-IT vendors must increase their investment in marketing to support an expansion in indirect sales. IDC has modeled the change in marketing budget ratio (MBR), or marketing investment as a percentage of revenue, based upon shifts in revenue from indirect sales. This shift will vary depending upon the size of the company, segment-specific variables, and business mix or other factors, but the trend is clear that support of indirect versus direct sales requires additional marketing investment. (feel free to contact me at to receive a report which summarizes this relationship for software companies)
-In addition to the level of overall marketing investment, the marketing mix also changes as collaboration with reseller channels increases. For example, IDC research indicates that events and direct marketing program spend allocation as a function of total program spend decrease with increasing investment in the channels. The key take-away here should be that you need to review your marketing mix carefully as your channel strategy and investment shift.
- Initiate a channel marketing performance measurement program if you haven't done do already. This strategy should include development and tracking of operational metrics (e.g., channel marketing investment as a % of revenue, investment throughput) as well as execution-focused metrics (e.g., lead generation metrics). Collaborate with your marketing operations team to advance this agenda if you haven't done so already. (what's "marketing operations"?. . . . glad to send you a copy of my recent study in this area if you're interested

Also, check out a recent article in B-to-B for additional information on channel marketing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

2008 Essential Guidance for CMOs

Marketing investment across the IT vendor community will increase by 6.1% for 2007. This increase in marketing investment will lag behind the growth rate of global vendor revenue, which is forecasted by IDC to be 6.7% in 2007. Tech marketers should watch this trend closely, and monitor their marketing budget ratio (MBR) and marketing investment change (MIC) data versus the industry. My research within IDC on marketing ROI has consistently shown that tech marketing leaders tend to expand their budgets at a rate equal to or greater than their revenue growth rate. Short-term budget reductions may improve short-term operating margins while sacrificing longer-term growth. This holds especially true for disinvestment in the brand and awareness-building elements of the marketing mix, which tend to return the best results when managed with a smooth and steady investment strategy. Here are some key guidelines for tech marketing executives and their operational counterparts for 2008:

- Think more about tech marketing from the "outside-in" versus the "inside-out." Tech marketers traditionally "go to market" in a one-way trumpeting of product and feature messages. As buyers get smarter and savvier, these product-centric and very expensive techniques will be less well received, and the return on traditional marketing investments will decline.
- Embrace interactive marketing. The new online and interactive marketing mix represents an excellent launching point for better "outside-in" practices and the potential for greater returns on investment. However, many vendors are off to some operational false starts in this area. IDC suggests beginning with an investment and operational review of all Web 2.0 marketing techniques.
- Start a channel marketing measurement initiative. The return on the channel marketing dollar is one of the murkier areas of the marketing investment portfolio. Now is the time to invest in establishing a set of improved processes and ongoing measures for channel marketing operations.Improve the overall "end-to-end" marketing in your company. Reduce your sales and marketing integration challenges by creating a single view of the customer from end to end; rationalize the number of customer databases if necessary. Better leverage customer and prospect data to improve the entire customer-creation process, from initial awareness through advocacy.

Source: Marketing Investment Planner 2008: Benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators, IDC #208489, September 2007

Tech Sales and Marketing Execs: Avoid Negative Attention from Your CEO!

By Richard Vancil, Vice President, IDC's Executive Advisory Group

A long-standing rift exists between sales and marketing in the IT vendor community. We all recognize the tired observations: sales is more tactical and marketing is more strategic; sales is all about the short term and marketing is about the long term; sales brings in the money and marketing just spends it. And we all know that the finger-pointing from the "two sides" gets sharper from there!

Just as these misalignments and strained relationships have been long-standing, so has the tolerance of this by the C-Suite executives. The prevailing mindset: as long as the business results have been very good, a little organizational tension never hurt anyone – and some of it is actually helpful! It's a good sign that complacency hasn't set in.

IDC is now observing that C-level tolerance is reaching its limits. More CEOs and COOs are scrutinizing their total cost of creating a customer: the sales plus marketing cost envelope. They are seeing those costs continue to rise relative to the return and are suspecting that the organizational friction and lack of alignment between sales and marketing is a culprit. And they are right!

The costs are just too big a target for senior management to ignore. A typical large tech vendor might spend 3% to 12% of revenue on marketing and an additional 10% to 20% of revenue on sales. For illustration purposes, let's call it 20% in total. Some of those costs are for pure and isolatable marketing activities and some are for pure and isolatable sales activities.
But a good proportion, as much as one-third, or 7% of revenue, are costs that lie at the intersection of sales and marketing. Activities represented in those costs include customer database management (often redundant and disconnected between departments); the lead management process; and the broad category of marketing's support and enablement of field sales. Where this intersection is tangled with miscommunications and broken processes, it is then reasonable to assume that some large part of that 7% might be wasted money.

As a result, more CEOs are now actively inserting themselves in the sales and marketing process to streamline operations and to reduce costs. At many companies, we are seeing a merging of the sales and marketing operations functions. At several companies we are seeing finance teams (and their hired consultants) spending more time examining and rationalizing sales and marketing costs (by order of the CEO). And finally, at a handful of companies, we are observing tech vendor CEOs looking actively at the organizational option of a single sales and marketing executive reporting to the CEO. We expect to see more of this in 2008 and beyond.

Our guidance for the senior sales and marketing executives is this: Start addressing some of these problems on your own or your CEO will start addressing them for you!

If the coming negative attention from the CEO is not enough motivation, it might be helpful to also look at some external catalysts. New IDC research finds buyers increasingly frustrated by the approach and tactics made by the vendor's marketing and sales efforts. They are getting turned-off by messages, material, timing, and sales representation that is out-of-sync with their buying process. Much of this may have roots in the misaligned sales and marketing execution on the part of the vendor.

Sales and marketing executives need to get on the same page. Put yourself in the shoes of your CEO the next time you are preparing for a sales and marketing planning or budget review. He or she is looking for new ways to lower the overall cost to create a customer. Offer a unified solution – not a fractured problem!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Product, Solution and Industry Marketing. . . the Next Evolution

Product marketing needs to undergo a significant evolution in the technology industry. It must no longer be marginalized as a content creation role or simply included as part of product management. Companies have an opportunity to lead this evolution by leveraging product, solution, and industry marketers to drive innovation in the organization and better meet the needs of their customers. Here are some key insights and guidance for tech marketers:
  • Companies should conduct a comprehensive audit of their product, solution, and industry marketing practices and apply a consistent definition of roles and responsibilities across the organization. This should include rules of engagement for these teams to interact within marketing, with other functions (e.g., product management and sales), and across business units where applicable. (contact me to receive a free copy of our 2007 Technology Marketing and Sales Taxonomy doc which includes definitions of these roles -
  • Innovation will be mandatory for next-generation tech leaders, from a product and solution perspective as well as a marketing and sales execution perspective — and product, solution, and industry marketers are in the best position to drive innovation across these areas. These teams must better incorporate the voice of the customer into the fabric of the organization, within product management for product and solution development and within sales and marketing for the customer creation process.
  • A key theme for the next 12-18 months is to get "ahead of the curve" on sales and marketing alignment and integration. In a recent study conducted by IDC, tech sales executives gave marketing a grade of 62 out of 100 for meeting sales' support needs. Product, solution, and industry marketers are in the ideal position to leverage their technology and vertical knowledge, coupled with marketing skill sets to improve sales efficiency and effectiveness.

Source: CMO Advisory Best Practices Series: Product, Solution and Industry Marketing, IDC #206551, April 2007.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Field Mktg. . .The Missing Link for M&S Alignment

CMOs and their organizations continue to fall short in optimizing alignment with their sales organization, and the field marketing function offers significant opportunity to improve the linkage with sales. Based on the results of a study I completed as part of IDC's CMO Advisory Practice of the field marketing function and related processes, I'd like to offer the following key insights and guidance:

  • Conduct a comprehensive audit of your field marketing practices, and apply a consistent definition of roles and responsibilities across the organization. This should include rules of engagement for these teams to interact within marketing and with sales. Best practice leaders achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness through global consistency: common language, sales communication and enablement, and more rapid sharing of best practices.
  • Achieve a greater balance of centralization versus decentralization from a staffing as well as a program investment perspective. Regional marketing execution must leverage corporate strategy and global best practices, yet still maintain the autonomy to meet local needs and respond to business opportunities and competitive threats. IDC recommends that 60–70% of field marketing's execution and assets should originate from corporate, with the remainder driven regionally or locally by field marketing.
  • Leverage field marketing to improve marketing's performance as well as the perception of marketing's contribution to the organization. More specifically, field marketing needs to act as the "center of gravity" for development and execution of the local sales and marketing strategy in collaboration with sales. This includes field marketing helping to drive local sales strategies. (e.g., market sizing, identifying and helping to prioritize targets) As once participant put it, “I don’t think I ever want them totally aligned. . . I want to create tension in a positive way."

Source: CMO Advisory Best Practice Series: Field Marketing. . the Last Mile to the Customer, IDC #207984, August 2007.