MARKETING IS A SYSTEM*

I’ve written before in this space about how, for so many organizations, marketing has become an overwhelming series of tactics, projects, initiatives, and deliverables. But great marketing is more than initiatives. It is more than tactics. It is way more than “hacking”. Marketing is a ‘system’.

A system is defined as “a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network”. When marketing is working as a system, it adds enormous value to an organization. It feeds its overall objectives, its disparate parts and initiatives work in synch with each other, and the momentum builds on itself. But why is this so hard to achieve?

There are a number of reasons. One is, as mentioned above, marketers are so strapped in the “doing” they aren’t doing the requisite systemic and holistic thinking and planning. It’s no wonder that half of SMB leaders say they don’t have a marketing strategy, and they’re so pressed and overwhelmed that they don’t have the time or plans to even create one, according to a recent CallRail study.

But that’s just one of the issues. The other is a focus on tactics over strategy. Marketers choose to begin efforts for performance marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, etc. – without both setting proper strategic objectives and goals for them, and without initiating them with the proper rigor and attention. They assign SME’s to lead them who are singularly focused on tactical delivery, are incentivized to deliver on tactical KPI’s that aren’t connected to “system-wide” goals, and often report into tactical leads. And often these tactical functions don’t report into an overall marketing leader with the responsibility for holistic marketing ownership and oversight.

Tactics and approaches need to be selected and driven by the actual needs and objectives of the organization and how well they will fulfill them. They need to be developed with attention to detail around who, what, how, and why they’ll be delivering on those strategic objectives. And, most importantly, consideration needs to be given as to how they will interact with each other and feed off each other. In other words, specific tactics need to be built to deliver not only on short-term tactical objectives, but must at least lead the organization towards its overarching, holistic goals.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a content marketing approach that has gone off the rails and no longer focuses on overall strategic pillars. Or performance-based marketing efforts that conflict with longer-term audience development strategies. And social media teams that create messaging not only unaware of other efforts, but sometimes in opposition with them.

So how can you help make your Marketing a system?

  • First, begin by developing your overarching marketing strategy, with clear objectives and goals – and share with the full marketing team and organization. These should be revisited when beginning any initiative, to ensure it helping to achieve organizational goals. Short-term results are of course necessary – but only as long as they are at least on the road towards your ultimate goals.

  • In addition, enough rigor needs to be placed in executional delivery to ensure a focus on overall strategic goals and must-win’s. Developing briefs and tactical strategies and maps are helpful.

  • Always take a customer- or consumer-focused approach to activation. Consider how they will engage with each initiative, recognizing they will also interact with others. Ensure they don’t experience and see a broken system.

  • I recommend that all marketing reports into a singular leader in charge of the activation of the holistic strategy. This will help ensure everyone is working in concert and driving the right results.

  • Have a regular cadence of cross-functional update meetings to ensure those in charge of the specific tactics understand all that is going on outside of their specific domain. You’d be surprised how often you will find members on your team unaware of the efforts of other team members – and, thus, unable to build off them.

In today’s marketing world, teams are scrambling endlessly to accomplish the myriad of initiatives and tactics of your organization’s marketing. Shouldn’t you seek the “system effect” to make sure they add up to something bigger?

*originally published on 5/16/22 in MediaPost’s Marketing Daily

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