“The power of visibility can never be underestimated.” Comedian Margaret Cho may have been talking about bigger life issues when she said those words, but the same holds true when it comes to marketing visibility and the corporate world.
When you can see something, you know it happened. You can assess it. You can measure it. You can manage it. And ultimately, you can improve it. But for many companies, marketing visibility is not easy to achieve.
Marketers and their suppliers and agencies form a complex ecosystem: an enterprise team of 30 people might have 20 agencies supplying it with public relations activity, to social media, content marketing, data management, strategy, brand advertising, media buying, and more.
Ask a chief marketing officer how they get visibility over what their team is working on, what progress has been made, what’s coming down the pipeline, and how it will contribute to the overall brand or customer experience and they’ll often be hard-pressed to tell you.
Ask them how they give their CFO a view of the impact of marketing activity, and many will struggle.
But you can dramatically increase the visibility and the effectiveness of your marketing team in a few simple steps:
1. Alignment to strategic objectives
As the senior marketer in the team, you may know your strategic objectives like the back of your hand: deliver more marketing-qualified leads; influence more sales-qualified leads; boost sales; improve your net promoter score; increase brand recognition; improve the customer experience.
But most organisations are poor at communicating these objectives. The further away from the lead team you go, the less likely are those objectives to be known.
So make sure you communicate your strategic objectives — not just once, when new budgets are allocated or a new strategy is enacted, but continually. And ensure your team is able to convert those goals into marketing objectives.
Make sure your team can write an effective brief — and ensure they do so. A few lines in an email may get a job started quickly, but valuable time and resources will be lost if those instructions aren’t precise, or the insights your creative team craves aren’t supplied.
And if the brief is not aligned to your strategic objectives, forgeddaboudit. Ideally, your marketing process should require all briefs to explain how the requested work ladders up to a strategic objective. If you can’t explain it, you shouldn’t be doing it.
2. Visibility over marketing work
For most companies, marketing operates in a rapidly changing landscape. Your marketing team may be tasked with re-allocating a certain amount of resources from one geographic division to another, reflecting its increasing importance to the business.
Or maybe the executive team wants more spend allocated to sponsorships and less to television advertising.
How can marketers show they’re on track to achieving those objectives, day in and day out? Requesting custom reports from research, finance or your external media agency can take days or weeks.
If your marketing team can track all your marketing work according to the key attributes that are important to your business — by geographic location, by type of marketing activity, by product division, by segment or by marketing channel — you’ll be able to see in real time how you’re allocating spend and activity, and provide an up-to-date view to the business in minutes, not weeks.
3. Visibility of people and progress
When you can’t see the progress that has been made on a particular marketing project, it becomes that much harder to manage your marketing resources effectively, particularly when it comes to people.
Marketing leaders need to be able to see who’s working on which projects, and view the work that has been submitted. They also need to be able to understand what it needs to achieve, assess if meets the brief, provide feedback and quickly approve or request further changes.
But not in a clunky, old-fashioned, marketing resource management-way of running marketing: today’s marketing teams need marketing operations and workflow management tools that can support new, more agile ways of working.
External stakeholders need intuitive ways of requesting work from marketing and understanding how those projects are progressing through the marketing pipeline.
And other stakeholders — such as legal and compliance — also need to be able to approve or reject work in the system, so marketing can see if any changes are required.
On top of that, access to data on briefing iterations, the number of times work is rejected and re-submitted, approval times and speed to market will help you manage your marketing resources more effectively, reduce time lost due to inefficient processes, and get better work in market, faster.
4. Marketing calendars: Visibility over the plan
Spreadsheets have got to be the least creative, most mind-numbing tools for planning when it comes to a creative discipline like marketing – but they are still used by many marketing teams.
That’s despite the fact that even maintaining a spreadsheet marketing calendar can be a full-time job — albeit a necessary one if the chief marketing officer wants a single view of all marketing work.
They’re never up-to-date anyway: someone’s always being booted out when a colleague wants to make changes; work gets lost; and they’re just plain hard to read.
But custom-made marketing calendars have come a long way, and can offer more intuitive, at-a-glance views of marketing activity and planned work that go much further than showing you ticks in boxes.
Get your marketing plan into a marketing calendar and you won’t look back.
5. Seeing the customer experience
So many marketing campaigns have similar names that even when you can see a central view of all your marketing activity, it’s hard to know at a glance what that work looks like.
Having access to all your marketing materials in a centralised digital asset management system, or DAM, is a good first step, but much more can be done to provide visibility over what’s actually going to market.
Make sure your team can view the marketing work you have in-market at each stage of the customer journey and you’ll ensure you have visibility over the end-to-end brand experience.
That means greater consistency and improved effectiveness for your marketing activity. It also puts your marketing team another step closer to building your ideal customer experience.