I recently interviewed Gary Katz, Founder and Chairman of Marketing Operation Partners, for research I’m conducting on the challenges and opportunities regarding the simultaneous growth of marketing tech and the Marketing Ops role. What resulted was a 52-minute conversation of great value. Here, I have provided a short, yet very insightful part of that conversation.
Gary Katz helps elevate marketing operations to a strategic role by embracing a systems approach for strong business results. Gary is a visionary and thought leader in the emerging Marketing Operations field. He has managed initiatives in marketing, communications, public relations, investor relations, and employee communications in the technology sector: Siemens, Sun Microsystems, ShoreTel, eTrigue, and other companies. Consulting clients include Anritsu, BitDefender, Health Strategies Group, IBM CastIron, LexisNexis, NetApp, and other firms. Twitter @garymkatz Website: www.mopartners.com.
Q: With regard to current marketing discussions, what do you feel are the most overlooked issues that should garner more attention? And more specifically, are there certain Marketing Ops needs, focuses or challenges that you believe neglected?
Gary: First of all, companies say they want to be more customer centric, yet their orientation is more “How do we get the customer to do this for us?” That isn’t customer centric by its very nature. Viewing interactions from the customer perspective and making it easier for the customer to engage with the company ought to be driven by Marketing Ops on behalf of the marketing organization and the greater corporation. That means understanding the customer experience from the time they’re first touched to when they begin engaging with the company to when they buy and obtain service from the company. Further, Marketing Ops should ask: Was that a good experience? Was it friendly? They must understand whether there were hassles that can be removed because they don’t serve the end goal, which is to make for a great customer experience, create loyalty and generate profits as a by-product. This change of mindset will be huge.
There’s still a lot of focus in Marketing Ops today on acquisition, and where there is focus on customer retention, it’s largely on rather basic levels of loyalty (points and things like that). Gamification is a quickly growing way for customers to have a richer experience with a company. But it’s not limited to customers; employees and channel partners can benefit too. I think there’s going to be a convergence of that type of technology and thinking into what we do in marketing as a whole, and it’s going to extend past the obvious of getting your sales team to compete better, which we see with gamification right now, or simply focusing on loyalty-type offers, to where that can all be in the fabric of the Marketing Ops super structure to make the experience of both the customer and internal company communication richer. While we try to bridge the gaps that are naturally created as we set up new functions in a company or as we increasingly become more global, I think marketing has an opportunity to play a big role in all of that from an internal brand experience all the way out to the experience that a customer and other external stakeholders have with a company.
There’s opportunities with regard to innovation as well. What I’m talking about is marrying customer lifecycle management (the lifetime of a customer experience) with marketing lifecycle management, which is how the company mobilizes to try to meet those customer needs. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity for Marketing Ops in that area, but it’s a concept that’s not yet well understood. I spoke with the VP of Marketing Ops at Intel, and it’s a concept they’re looking at, but there’s no standard understanding of it right now. There’s opportunity, however, because you have to have the inside working in alignment with the outside in order to perform optimally. Marketing Ops needs to think of customer profitability, one of “Six Centers of Excellence” that we at Marketing Ops Partners address, which involves everything you need to have a relationship that profits you and the customer. We still have a lot to learn in that area. For example, we’re still very early in the integration of predictive analytics — there’s a lot of talk about it, but right now it’s far more focused on things like lead conversion and pricing models, which aren’t metrics that focus directly on customer experience.
Furthermore, there must be greater investment in people to support the tech being adopted. Last B2B stats I heard from SiriusDecisions were about $1000 annually for marketing training and development company-wide. That’s troubling. We expect people to just provide the competency that we need, but we’re not investing in their development. So we get someone who has some skills, maybe using a tool like Marketo or a BI [business intelligence] tool or a social media platform, but are we developing marketers as better business people? We’re not fully capitalizing on our investments and capabilities. And that’s big goal of mine.
Q: So what you’re saying is that there’s a great deal of focus on new technology, but marketers are often ignoring the people and processes that the technology is there to support. How do you typically go about aligning new tech adoption with people and processes?
Gary: It’s a big problem, and most companies don’t know how to deal with it. They’re hiring people who have specific skills with particular types of tech, or a specific mindset. That creates issues. If you get people that are too similar, it creates a narrow focus that negatively affects customer experience. And if you get varied perspectives (for example creative right-brain people and logically minded left-brain marketers) without the appropriate communication, you’ll run into an entirely different set of problems.
We approach this issue by trying understand the company’s current state and what’s there. We have a very involved process. We usually start with what the company is trying to do as a business. Often they’re focused more on what they’re tactically trying to do. And so differentiating that and trying to focus on what the business is ultimately trying to achieve and what outcomes are expected is key. In terms of alignment between different groups, we usually try to understand what languages each group uses and where there’s commonality — usually there isn’t much commonality in an immature situation. So establishing that common language is critical. And also articulating the goals for each of those groups and trying to put those goals back in context of the organizational goals is really important. That’s where all the work is really done — in common language and the common goals, and making sure they’re understood by each group. We’re always striving to build a basic agreement, or at least a process by which we can come to an agreement.
We also look at rewards systems in terms of what motivations are for different groups. And in terms of tech adoption, a lot of times people fall in love with a specific solution because their friend gets to use that system, and that tends to cause the brand to drive the decision making process. And so turning that around to focus more on due diligence and what they’re trying to achieve can be difficult. A lot of times companies will fall in love with a technology just because of the power of the brand name, the fascination of the community, and the marketing involved; the problem is that believing that you’re going to be able to take that system and do what you envision has all kinds of gating factors, contingencies and “gotchas” that you can’t even imagine.
Another thing that is overlooked is that aspiring Chief Marketing Technologists often forget that they have only so much scale. And the likelihood that they’ll be at these companies for long periods of time and able to pass their knowledge to other people is often times not well thought through. There’s a tendency to believe that great performers are great teachers. There’s a lot of proof to the contrary. So basically they set themselves up to be these power users, but when they leave, so does the success. So there’s this whole thing about scale. So thinking about alignment, a lot of times the thoughtfulness around alignment is about what near-term thing we’re trying to do now, without much thought of the implication will be down the road. There’s an old Peter Senge saying from his classic book, The Fifth Discipline, which says cause and effect aren’t closely related in time and distance, meaning that we can’t see the implications of what we do down the road when we’re trying to serve just the near-term purpose. The key to align tech with people and processes is understanding where it’s supposed to go, asking yourself: How do we take this technology and align it toward both short- and long-term goals?