Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Will a Robot Make Your Marketing Job Obsolete?

Cars with no drivers.  Airport ticket counters with only touch-screens. Surgery with no doctors. Automation has taken over human jobs since the industrial revolution. But this trend may be accelerating with the "Great Restructuring". Which marketing jobs will automation make obsolete?

Time magazine recently published an article titled The Robot Economy which highlights the types of jobs that will flourish (and which won't) as automation expands. Time says,
"If your job involves learning a set of logical rules or a statistical model that you apply task after task – whether you are grilling a hamburger or issuing a boarding pass or completing a tax return – you are ripe for replacement by a robot."
Marketing automation is one of the fastest growing sectors of the technology industry, growing at 11.8% in 2012 according to the IDC 2012 Worldwide Marketing Automation Vendor Share Report. Most marketers would agree that marketing automation drives gains for their companies - improved customer engagement, greater marketing accountability, better pipeline management, etc. But is it good for marketing people? The jury is out on whether automation is reducing marketing headcount.  On the precipice of the 2008 downturn, the IDC Tech Marketing Benchmark showed a decline in marketing headcount as a percentage of total employees to approximately 1.5% and the number has sat roughly at that level for the last few years.

Winners and Losers in Marketing Jobs? Nate Silver's book, The Signal and the Noise, is about making better decisions using analytics. In a chapter about chess, Silver summarizes a 1950 paper by MIT's Claude Shannon on the benefits of a computer in making decisions versus the benefits of a human.  Claude Shannon said that computers are better at decision-making because:
  • They are very fast at making calculations
  • They won't make errors, unless the errors are encoded in the program
  • They won't get lazy and fail to fully analyze a position or all possible moves
  • They won't play emotionally and become overconfident in an apparent winning position that might be squandered or grow despondent in a difficult one that might be salvage
 Claude Shannon said that humans are better at decision-making because:
  • Our minds are flexible, able to shift gears to solve a problem rather than follow a set of code
  • We have the capacity for imagination
  • We have the ability to reason
  • We have the ability to learn
 Silver concludes that the reason why a computer like IBM's Deep Blue could beat a chessmaster is that chess is a deterministic game, that is, there is no luck involved. In deterministic situations, where there is perfect information and perfect knowledge of the rules, computers do a better job.  However, wherever there is uncertainty, a better decision will be made if humans help out.

Future proof your career. To ensure you head your career in a confident direction, gain competency in the following types of marketing skills:
  • Solve problems that have never been solved before:  Work that is genuinely non-routine, creative, or paradoxical – such as people or customer management, strategy development, and design.  However, be warned that being creative does not let you off the hook for learning to use data to inform the creative process.
  • Analyze for insight:  While analytic tools will do most of the heavy lifting for us, humans will give meaning to the data patterns as well as to create models, frameworks, and stories for using the analysis.
  • Make unstructured decisions: Unstructured decisions are those where no explicit process for deciding can be put in place – such as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). Almost every category of marketing has jobs like this. Put yourself in the line of fire, where there are tough trade-offs, and information is ambiguous. 
  • Persuade: Automation can take over lead nurturing by listening to online data, analyzing it for behavior patterns, and responding with the most relevant selection from a content catalog.  However, blending a human with automation may get you better results.  A leading tech company found that although they can go straight through to purchase using automation, that adding an inside sales person to the conversation increased deal size by 3x.
What ideas have you seen marketers implement to help future proof their departments?
 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013 Tech Marketing Budget Trends: 3rd Platform Companies and Products Lead the Growth

Yesterday, IDC's CMO Advisory Service had our annual Tech Marketing Benchmark Webinar. This study goes out to close to 100 senior lever marketing executives and represents the largest B2B Tech companies in the world (this year the average company revenue was $9.1B.) The webinar was packed with great information and was a great success. However the overlying question each year is where will marketing budgets sit at the end of the year and what direction are they moving. The results are some good news mixed with trends that point to hard work that marketers need to do around their budgets. 

Good News: More Organizations are Increasing their Marketing Spend Than Decreasing

As seen in the graph below, across the entire tech industry a net of 15% of companies are increasing marketing spend versus those decreasing. While it may not always feel like it, there are marketing budget increases out there to be had!


Challenge for Marketers in 2014: Finding the Right Areas that Should Receive More Marketing Budget

Despite the fact more companies across the tech industry are increasing marketing budgets than decreasing, budgets at the aggregate levels are flat to slightly negative. IDC expects Marketing budgets to decrease 0.5% year-over-year from 2012 to 2013. So that leaves us with an interesting juxtaposition, more companies are increasing budgets than decreasing, but at the aggregate weighted level the data shows a slight decrease in overall budgets. Three reasons we are seeing this:

  1. The largest companies within the Tech Industry are seeing flat to declining marketing budgets due to continued transformation within the industry. This brings the weighted levels down. 
  2. Hardware companies (as seen in the above graph) are the only sector where more companies are decreasing marketing budgets than increasing. Companies within this sector are typically larger and the Hardware industry is feeling more affects from the industry's transformation. 
  3. 3rd Platform companies and other high growth product lines and business units are driving much of the revenue growth and in turn are receiving much of the increases within marketing budgets. These companies are smaller, so they add the "n" value of companies increasing, but do not affect the weighted average as heavily. 
Illustrating the final point (#3) you can see in the graph below that Cloud Software Vendor's (who are right smack in the middle of IDC's 3rd Platform) Revenue Growth, Marketing Investment Growth, and Marketing Budget Ratio (total marketing budget / total revenue) are all at least 3X  that of their on-premise peers. Some of this can be attributed the size of the Cloud Vendors (typically smaller), but the growth being seen in the 3rd Platform areas is undeniable.

Note: If you would like to discuss cloud vendors marketing benchmarks further please email me at smelnick (at) idc (dot) com!

In closing the 3 budget takeaways we are giving for budgets in 2013 - 2014 are:
  1. More companies are increasing (vs. decreasing) marketing spend. (This is good news!)
  2. There is not enough "Peanut Butter" to go around... (so an even spread will not work this year)
  3. Marketing Investment will inevitably find growth areas: products; markets;  segments; or geos. (So, work hard to find those areas and invest wisely)
Sam Melnick is a Research Analyst at IDC's CMO Advisory Service and manages the entire benchmark survey and study. You can follow him on twitter at @SamMelnick

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sales process - the missing ingredient for marketing ROI

Most marketers in B2B enterprises have never been trained on sales process. If I were running your marketing or sales organization this would be the first thing on my agenda. Why? Because without understanding sales process, marketing is essentially set up to fail. How can anyone improve or contribute effectively to something if they don't know how it works. It's like setting up your manufacturing to produce blue widgets but not telling your suppliers what parts you need for your particular widgets. So they ship you tons of blue stuff and hope that somehow it all works out. That's the position, to one degree or another that most enterprise marketing organizations are in even at some of the most advanced process-centric companies in the world. Largely because they have chopped up the customer creation process into a collection of departmentally independent activities. 

In a large enterprise with many products lines, business units and segments, there are likely to be a number of different sales processes. Marketing and sales resources should be aligned against these processes horizontally. This is the key to making the shift from a siloed command and control organization to a responsive, integrated customer focused one. Not only is it important to design around sales process, which should be designed around the buyer's journey, but it is important to design for change. Markets are dynamic and sales processes change.

Marketing automation systems, especially those that are integrated with the sales force automation or customer relationship management system, have begun to provide marketing with some clues to sales process. At least they can see what happens or does not happen when they deliver something to sales. But the data does not always explain why, and that's the critical part. Marketing needs to understand very specifically how Sales operates in order to optimize around customer outcomes. The alternative is for marketing to optimize around departmentally focused KPIs like the number of MQLs (ugh), or SALs, or worse vanity metrics like hits, sentiment, likes, etc. These metrics are useful indicators for some marketing activities, but not as business drivers for marketing investment.

Aligning marketing and sales around sales process is the first step to formulating an enterprise customer creation process that extends across all customer touch points, including: billing, fulfillment, service and support. At each stage of maturity, marketing, as well as all the other customer facing departments, gain much greater visibility and accountability to the whole process and its connection to corporate objectives for growth, market share, and margin. This is all necessary for a true picture of marketing ROI.

Your action items:
  • Marketers: lobby your top executives to make regular sales process training for marketing a priority. 
  • Sales executives: demand that marketing know how the different parts of your sales force work so they can more effectively develop prospects and serve customers. 
  • CEOs: get smart about your customer supply chain by applying the same level of due diligence and process discipline to it that you have to your product and services units. As a result, you will make much more effective use of marketing investment and be able to hold your whole customer facing team accountable for its contribution to your strategic objectives.