Marketing Standardization: The Must Have for Marketers

blank_puzzle_piecesOver the last 90 days, I’ve heard “standardization” at least 50 times in sessions with CMOs and marketing leaders as we discuss 2015 planning and budgeting. Standardization – how boring! This is marketing; aren’t we supposed to be creative? And charged with differentiating our brand, products and services?

Yes, we are. However, standardizing data, systems, processes, measurements and expectations frees up the time and resources needed for more creative initiatives. Think of it this way: How much time would you waste if you haphazardly switched between measuring your house in feet, yards and meters in your effort to determine how many gallons of paint you needed? A lot. Because you didn’t select a standard type of measurement or process for measuring. If you had, you probably could’ve automated calculations by inputting a standard data type into a paint volume calculator.

Standardization enables you to automate key marketing functions and better evaluate marketing efforts and investments. Without it, marketers are faced with many additional tasks that hinder their full potential – such as normalizing numerous lead spreadsheets before importing prospect data into marketing automation systems. This is especially true as more marketing efforts focus on a consistent path to discover, engage, nurture and acquire happy customers. 

Standardizing for efficiency and scale has been the norm for manufacturing, operations, finance, sales and even HR departments for several years. The message is clear: Marketing, it’s your turn to step up.

Let’s identify key areas where standardization can be deployed to impact your 2015 marketing operations, plans and results.  

Standardize processes.

This is the largest area of focus today for successful marketing organizations. This standardization effort eliminates the one-off processes wrought with multiple handoffs between your staff and providers. CMOs and Marketing Ops are asking what tasks can be automated (or eliminated) by using technology. And marketers are deploying marketing and ad technologies for digital advertising (programmatic), email and now demand gen. Previously, every campaign required a unique process for working with each media provider to initiate, execute and assemble outcomes from marketing program. And this in turn leads to unstandardized data…

Standardize data.

Marketing data is collected across every channel used to reach and engage customers, and often in different formats from each media partner. This translates to unique data sets (i.e., individual spreadsheets) used to track each marketing tactic (targeting, channel, creative, etc.) in each campaign that makes up every program. This means the data from each effort has to be rolled up into yet another spreadsheet or dashboard to gather any actionable insights. Using standard formats, collection processes and visualization techniques enables marketers to organize, analyze and act more quickly and precisely on customer and campaign data required to make an impact. Perhaps more importantly, the data standardization also facilitates the flow of information between systems, enabling tech integration and thus the further automation of processes.

Standardize key technology systems.

With standardized data comes the ability to connect marketing systems that automate standardized processes, freeing time and resources for creative and strategic initiatives. Marketers in 2015 will need to build upon scalable, open marketing platforms in order to plug in needed apps and other marketing tech that allow them to adapt as business and customer expectations evolve. This doesn’t require you to buy from one vendor (that would be too limiting). Simply pick a few core providers and build around them. For example, working with Oracle and its Marketing Cloud approach, Salesforce with its powerful army of thousands of AppExchange partners or Infusionsoft with its platform that offers many core marketing functions on one platform for small business.

Standardize metrics and benchmarks.

This is arguably the most important area of standards as it provides direction and a scorecard for marketers and other business stakeholders on what to measure and how to measure it. Standard marketing metrics can be identified using outside sources like the Sirius Decisions model for Marketing Ops or comScore to identify and measure media effectiveness. Metrics should be standardized to ensure successful measurement across various sources, channels, assets, etc. Without standardized marketing metrics, you can’t properly evaluate results to identify successes and failures. Furthermore, standardized metrics starts with agreed-upon definitions (i.e., benchmarks); for example, the characteristics of an inquiry, lead, opportunity or sales qualified lead (SQL) should all be outlined in advance.

Standardize team expectations. 

Consistency in this area is often the hardest, and most easily neglected, effort in the march towards the automation of marketing. There are high expectations for marketers to master all aspects of their job, from front-office customer experiences to back-office analytics and efficiency optimization. What’s most important? What should be rewarded? And how’s your team evaluated and compensated? These are all critical areas to set standards for and communicate so all marketers understand what’s expected and where to focus.

Who knew standardization could be so important?  While it’s seldom written about in articles, blogs or books today, successful marketing organizations are paying attention to standardizing key organizational processes, data, technologies, metrics and their teams for better results. 2015 is almost upon us, it’s time to get your standardization hat on.

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