This post is by Anton Buchner, a senior consultant with TrinityP3. Anton is one of Australia’s leaders in data-driven marketing. Helping navigate through the bells, whistles and hype to identify genuine marketing value when it comes to technology, digital activity, and the resulting data footprint.
Are you drowning in the myriad of marketing activity? Or are you living and breathing effective operationalisation?
It’s one of the greatest challenges for marketers today. In a fragmented media world, and due to complex business structures, marketing has become a complex beast to manage.
And to manage it effectively, the volume of documentation has skyrocketed. There’s a document for everything:
- enterprise plans
- transformation plans
- marketing plans
- job descriptions
- channel and communications plans
- budget allocations and management
- communications planning
- go to market activity calendars
- community management
- content creation and storytelling
- organisational structures
- team structures
- team ways of working
- project responsibility assignment
- campaign performance evaluation and optimisation
- martech stacks and digital ecosystems
- data flows and journey maps
- data management
- work in progress
The list goes on and on for most marketing teams, in particular when you start seeing digital variants for all of the above, plus third party supplier and agency reverse documentation.
It’s enough to give anyone a major headache.
At TrinityP3, we offer a bit of pain relief (sorry for the obvious pun there). We help marketers cut through the complexity, and help advise on how to put documented processes into effective practice. There are three angles to consider: logic, behaviour, and outcomes.
Firstly, is the documentation logical?
Sometimes we come across organisations that have all the documentation in the world for the sake of having documentation. But when we delve into it with the marketing teams, it quickly becomes evident that most of the documentation is being created simply to tick things off a list and show evidence of industry, rather than actually create a culture of alignment.
One of the key areas that we start looking for are clear business missions and visions, along with clear objectives and goals.
More often than not we uncover objectives that are actually strategies (ie: how to achieve something) rather than an actual objective (ie: what you are wanting to achieve).
Or worse still we typically uncover objectives that are simply motherhood statements rather than something that is quantifiable.
For example, wanting to be more ‘customer centric’ is a lovely idea and touted by almost every marketing team today. But putting it as an objective is lazy. It should be seen more as a vision. Deciding what level of customer centricity you realistically want to achieve and how this can be quantifiable is far more practical. You may decide that putting customer value equal to profitability is the objective (along with actual numbers). And then you can determine the relevant strategies of how to achieve this – as a result becoming more customer centric.
Logic must also be seen in the way that documents help marketing teams distill information, clarify a direction, and then allow people to handover to other people in the flow of marketing activity execution.
Silo team structures almost certainly put pressure on teams to align. It is one of the areas that we spend a huge amount of time on with marketing leaders to help them navigate towards more effective and efficient structures and process flows.
This involves the identification of the current level of resources and their capability and mix of expertise, as well as how responsibilities are actually assigned. And once this is all analysed, gaps can be identified and external suppliers, vendors and agencies can be assessed for their role and level of compatibility.
As an independent consultancy, we don’t beat around the bush. We cut to the core of what’s going on, and call it as we see it.
Whether we’re engaged for strategic consulting, process consulting, or cost consulting around scopes of work and remuneration, we typically find marketing teams that have become tangled. And the documentation actually confuses teams instead of encouraging and inspiring them to perform better.
So if I can leave you one take-away from this first area, it would be to put a blow torch on all the key documentation that you have for marketing and your agency suppliers. Imagine someone who doesn’t work within your business reading it and trying to decipher what you’re doing. Does it logically outline what you’re doing? And more importantly does it logically flow from one document to the other?
The second area around documentation is behaviour. The way people work to their role as well as interrelate with others by using documentation.
We use the word ‘behaviour’ specifically to identify poor behaviour versus inspirational behaviour.
There’s nothing worse in an organisation where all the documentation is logical, but one person, or a collective, is dismissing the detail based on self-interest. Poor behaviour and ways of going about business can kill culture and ultimately performance.
To use the Basque proverb “Haria meheenean eten ohi da”, “A thread usually breaks where it is thinnest”.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but we see it time and time again, where teams have allowed poor behaviour from certain individuals or specific silo marketing divisions to permeate through the marketing team.
On the flip side when behaviours are focussed on, and fostered, then a marketing team can have incredible results.
We worked with an organisation recently that displayed great behaviours. Not only was the marketing team highly innovative, but they were respectful and inspiring. This all laddered up to the organisational-wide purpose, values and culture. And ultimately showed in their results. Their challenge (or the opportunity where we assisted) was how to scale it all up.
However, they are one of the few exceptions that we’ve come across. We mostly work with organisations where behaviour is one of the key causes of underperformance. The best documents in the world are useless without people putting them into practice – living and breathing the words of logic by exhibiting positive behaviour.
One of the solutions is an engagement agreement. This can be a mode of working that maps the way teams and key stakeholders engage with each other from planning through to execution. As well as an agreement with external suppliers and agencies as they’re required within the process.
It can be workshopped through with cross-functional teams to set and align expectations, as well as involving systems for measuring and improving collaboration and engagement.
At the end of the day, the output documentation must assist in driving good, ethical behaviour. And the only way it can do that is by the people who create it and work together. You and your colleagues.
The third area we help marketers focus on with process documentation is clarifying the desired outcomes.
We always ask, “what are you actually trying to achieve?”
Which invariably leads to questions like: where are you now? what’s holding you back? where do you want to be? and how quickly can you realistically improve?
Outcomes need to be considered on two levels:
The functional outcome of what you want to achieve, and therefore, why you are utilising the document to communicate it. In other words clearly defining what you are aiming to do within the part of the process that you are in. Whilst this seems blindingly obvious, I can’t tell you (although I will) how much documentation we assess that is convoluted, confusing, long-winded and jam packed with buzzwords and gross generalisations.
The sole purpose of documentation is to ensure the right thinking has been applied, and that things can be actioned in a desired manner. Neuroscience studies also inform us that by writing things down, we’re not only storing information that can be reviewed at any time, but that we’re also encoding. Encoding means that we have a much better chance of remembering it. So the functional outcomes of documentation are clarity and memorability.
So, as an action, go through the list at the start of this post and apply the blowtorch again to see if all your documentation is clear and memorable for all relevant stakeholders.
The emotional outcome in terms of how easy it is to work with you. This is often neglected – or not even thought of. Whilst we are in a far more human to human business era, marketing documentation seems to have missed the bus. Many marketing team members think that by writing things down that others have not only agreed, but that they are happy with the result and process.
This is particularly true between levels of seniority where senior management believes they’ve nailed it, whereas mid and junior level teams consider the process a nightmare. I had a conversation with a client today asking them about the process of prioritising their business initiatives. The response was “well, we have a process, but we’re actually in the middle of evolving it because it’s not very clear.”
So, if you would like to be more efficient, and ultimately more effective, give serious consideration to the emotional outcomes as they relate to your functional outcomes.
To end, I’ll leave you with a little challenge to evolve from confusion to clarity. Today we have access to a tsunami of endless knowledge. And Sir Francis Bacon famously once said, “knowledge is power”. Meaning that the more knowledge you have, the more you are empowered to achieve great results. But keep in mind, that knowledge in itself is not necessarily enlightening in a marketing sense if it’s not consensual.
So it’s important to first identify where things are going wrong versus going right. Take the actions from above and see if the document that you are currently writing:
- Is logical – does it logically outline what you’re doing? And identify how it will logically flow to the next document that will need to be written.
- Drives the right behaviour – identify the behaviour that you want from writing the document, and take time to explain it to all the relevant stakeholders in the process.
- Delivers the right functional and emotional outcomes.
Our Engagement Agreements service is all about ensuring an agreed campaign development process is truly achievable and adhered to. Learn more here