Structure must follow strategy when it comes to how marketing teams are formed, not the other way around. That’s the view of National Australia Bank chief marketing officer Andrew Knott, who addressed the B2B Marketing Leaders forum in Sydney recently, sponsored by Simple.
Hearing Knott speak was informative, partly for his views on how the marketing team structure is supporting the business transformation underway at NAB, but also because of his commitment to fixing organisational dysfunction — something that destroys the ability of teams to operate in a high-performing way.
It’s a change management story that starts with choosing the right change to manage.
As we know, the first thing most chief marketing officers do when they start a new role is fire the agency, relaunch the brand, and change the team.
Knott retained the agency (Clemenger BBDO), refreshed the brand — and created a new structure that aligned to NAB’s strategy, deliberately seeking out and recruiting the right talent in emerging specialties such as digital marketing, customer data and analytics.
World-class talent is critical, said Knott, who is a former McDonald’s marketer who took the top job at NAB in 2015.
“As a senior marketer, I can’t actually do the business of marketing,” Knott told the audience of B2B marketers. “I’m there to directionally lead marketing and then put in place the best possible people I can to deliver exceptional marketing.”
NAB’s journey to greater customer-centricity
Essentially, NAB is on a quest for customer-centricity in marketing.
“We’re on a journey… from mass marketing to mass personalisation,” Knott said.
He sees marketing’s role as being about communicating “from the customer, inward” to the organisation, rather than simply pushing messages out from the company to the customer.
NAB’s marketing team is structured with the aim of achieving “more and deeper customer relationships” and prioritises customer lifecycle management and customer insight, as well as sales and brand.
“Structure follows strategy, not the other way around,” Knott said.
The rapid pace of change
Like most other marketing teams, NAB is struggling with the pace of change in marketing. And as the marketing function changes, the team structure needs to keep up.
“Marketing is continuously changing and evolving,” Knott said. “What I’m constantly looking at is:
- Are we effectively structured?
- Do we have the right level of capabilities?
- Do we have the focus to deliver to our customers as their worlds evolve?”
But while it’s easy for brands to say they put the customer at the centre of everything, Knott’s view is most brands are playing catch-up.
“Very few organisations are ahead of where their customers are,” he said. “To me it’s really just about minimising that gap.”
When it comes to marketing process, the marketing team at NAB is implementing agile (Knott says his personal mantra is: “80% right and moving’ is better than ‘100% right and still thinking about it”).
The impact of transformation on teams
The organisation also encourages “cross-functional influence” between teams — defined as when each team has a good understanding of the role and aim of their fellow teams.
And on the topic of teams, it was also interesting to hear Knott talk about how NAB is addressing The Five Dysfunctions of Teams and the impact of disruptive transformation, based on the book by Patrick Lencioni:
- Absence of trust: Without trust there can be no conflict
- Fear of conflict: Without conflict there can be no commitment
- Lack of commitment: Without commitment there can be no accountability
- Avoidance of accountability: Without accountability there are no results
- Inattention to results.
Ultimately, NAB wants to be Australia’s most respected bank. It’s a tough ask, in the current climate when the reputation of all banks is being tarnished by the stories coming out of the Royal Commission into banking. But Knott makes a good case for how the marketing team is approaching that goal, improving its net promoter scores along the way.
“It’s absolutely crucial that marketing is very clear on what value it brings to your organisation,” he said. “Marketing is there to understand the customers’ needs and to meet those needs as best we can through delivering a compelling reason to engage.”
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