Building A High-Performance Marketing Team Is More Critical Now Than Ever For B2B CMOs

Let’s face it. The uncertain economic conditions we are in will put a great deal of pressure on CMOs and their teams to deliver results under less-than-ideal situations. To do that, CMOs must create and lead a high-performing organization. While this is not a new challenge, the urgency is increasing at many companies. Fortunately, new research from Forrester may help marketing leaders take steps that could improve the contributions of their function.

According to the study’s author Jennifer Ross, senior research director for Forrester’s CMO Strategies, “In high-performing B2B marketing organizations, the marketing ecosystem revolves around a uniform organizational understanding of the company’s target audiences. In the age of the customer, Forrester believes that B2B organizations will outperform competitors only when the customer is at the center of the company’s entire operating model and all functions consistently deliver superior customer experiences. Companies that are customer-centric tend to have four identifying characteristics: customer-led, insights-driven, fast, and connected. These characteristics are evident at all levels of the organization — from the C-suite down to the individual. Every process design, technology built or bought, interaction, and employee contributes to a marketing organization’s ability to deliver exceptional experiences for its customers.

Once the customer-focused strategy is place, attention can turn to the marketing organization design that will support the strategy. To do that, Ross advised, “Leaders must start with defining the capabilities needed to achieve the desired outcomes.” That list isn’t short – augment customer insights, enhance brand relevance, generate demand, drive leads, improve conversions, create better customer experiences, launch new products, energize channel partners, enable sellers, optimize media spend, engage employees, open new markets and host successful events, all by developing stimulating content and leveraging the martech stack. By defining the competencies, Ross said, “You can more easily think about a natural grouping of those competencies that start to form what might look like teams in your organization structure.”

She continued, “You can’t stop there. To truly optimize performance, you must then think about orchestration, which is both the processes that enable the work to get done and the operating models that facilitate the right kind of interlock.” Siloes, fiefdoms and territorialism can be killers of organizational performance that results from disconnected activities and incoherent customer experiences.

Ross elaborated, “It doesn’t matter how good you think your structure is. If you don’t have the right infrastructure. If you aren’t facilitating or fostering the right kind of culture, and you don’t have governance and accountability around all of the things that you’ve set-up, you are going to disrupt your ecosystem.”

Dell Technologies’ CMO Allison Dew echoed the importance of customer centricity. She said, “The tough part is in the ‘how’. How exactly do you make customer centricity work and how do you get beyond the platitudes?” What has Dell done to address the ‘how’? Dew shared, “The most important thing we have done is focus on our own customer data, driving our own programs and building a thoughtful, integrated approach to our martech stack. I see too many companies locking themselves into one vendor’s approach. This integrated approach allows us to continue to build on the vision of privacy-informed personalization.” She added that the company was able to put this philosophy to good use at the beginning of the pandemic. “Our original plan for that spring was to celebrate the success of small businesses. As the world changed so dramatically, that message would have been tone deaf at best and potentially offensive. Yet there was demand in unexpected places and our ability to see that in our data and refocus on the urgent work from home needs helped us respond more effectively to our customers.”

Managing cross-functional orchestration and individual accountability is a challenge for many B2B marketing leaders. Qualcomm’s CMO Don McGuire has take steps in the past year to address this challenge. He elaborated, “Creating an environment where my team feels a sense of personal passion and team successes is an important part of my role as a leader. We have redesigned our office and created a collaborative, open work space where people have greater interaction within their teams and across functions. We have regular company-wide performance reviews where individuals are rated on their personal performance and progress and encouraged to set goals for professional development. In addition to this, I host bi-weekly leadership forums, extended staff meetings, quarterly business reviews, bi-annual offsite team development events, bi-annual planning sessions and a regular “One Marketing” sharing of project and campaign progress. And to keep us progressing, a dedicated role has been created to continuously look at new ways of doing things to insure that innovation within marketing never stops and opportunities for individuals and our team continue to evolve.”

Cisco’s CMO Carrie Palin endorsed Forrester’s view on the importance of culture. She shared, “Culture is such a critically important aspect of building a high-performance organization. A year into my role at Cisco, I can honestly say that our corporate culture is one of the best that I have experienced in my career. From the top down, we live and breathe a culture of transparency, inclusivity, accountability, innovation, and compassion – all connected to our purpose of powering an inclusive future for ALL. They’re not just words on the wall—we actually walk the talk. This is a huge differentiator for helping Cisco attract and retain talent as well as customers and partners.”

Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO of Coupa, reiterated the importance of accountability and culture in building a high-performance marketing team. He elaborated, “Accountability is best achieved through a culture of psychological safety. We all make mistakes. I make mistakes. CEOs make mistakes. Everyone at every level of any company makes mistakes. What’s important is that we learn from our mistakes. Here at Coupa, we work hard to foster a collaborative work environment where professionalism, integrity, and passion collide to ensure this foundation.” Pattabhiram continued, “More tactically, goals must be explicitly clear. Teams need granular goals so they know what they are being measured on and accountable for. Without a destination, there is no road. At Coupa, every initiative has a measurable outcome. We work backwards to identify and align on the milestones we need to get there. We decide on the activities to execute on. And we chart status along the way. We also believe in rewarding success. We recognize and reward outstanding team members on a regular basis. This helps increase collaboration and engagement, and empower team members to take action and drive change.”

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