All Aboard! It’s Time to Engineer the Marketing Process

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January 6, 2011

Throughout the past year, I have attended or presented at a variety of conferences such as the Marketing Profs B2B Marketing Conference, the Integrated Marketing Summit, the DMA’s National Center for Database Marketing conference, and various industry-specific events.  I can say that I am continually impressed by the content and quality of these events.  There is just nothing like taking the time to focus on improving your personal skills and techniques, sharing ideas with your peers, and learning from others.

There was one topic noticeably lacking at all of these events.  With the economy still on a flat trend, marketers are still not talking about how to improve the operational aspects of direct marketing.  I know, that coming up with the next big idea is how marketers are wired, and typically how they are incentivized and rewarded.  But, this is the perfect time to help your company (and get kudos to boot!) by focusing on marketing process efficiency.

Improving Marketing Efficiency with Time Savings

Decreasing the length of time it takes to accomplish something saves time.  We only get 24 hours in a day and can’t make more.  So when marketers figure out how to cut an hour out of a routine marketing execution, what do you do with the time?  Hmmm… maybe come up with the next big idea.  The problem is that many creative marketing folks have difficulty thinking in straight lines.  By their very nature, they think differently from everyone else in the organization.  So no one in your department is good with streamlining processes?  It’s probably time to get some help either within your organization or with the help of a business process consultant.

Saving Money While Making Marketing Process Improvements

Yes, marketers, it is possible to love purchasing, supply chain and sourcing personnel.  And if you can’t quite get to love, maybe you can get to respect.  Often, these individuals have some of the best general business sense you’ll find.  Although they are focused on reducing cost and finding the best price available, it is short-sighted to think that they are not focused on value.  My experience is that they will listen and participate in helping you find a solution that saves both time and money, and delivers the quality you need to fulfill the image of your brand.

Think Like a Process Engineer

If you are not good at developing a process, bringing in a partner or business process consultant is certainly a valid option.  But, I am a firm believer that just like all self-improvement programs, you should first start by taking a hard look at yourself.  The first step in the engineering design process is to identify where marketing operations can be improved.  Challenge yourself with these questions and make a list of areas for improvement:

  • What do you do that is a waste of your time and skill set?
  • If you could change the way you buy ads, deploy emailmanage printed materialstrigger direct mail, hire talent, create copy, or plan your next move, what would that look like?
  • How could you streamline your workday?
  • What marketing processes have failed in the past?
  • Do you ever cross your fingers, hope, and pray that nothing goes wrong when deploying a campaign?  If the answer is yes, it goes on the list.
  • Would it improve your results if marketing campaigns could be deployed faster?  If so, what does an ideal timeframe look like?
  • Is the workflow in your department planned, or hap-hazard?  How about between departments?
  • What have you done more than twice this week?
  • If you could wave your magic wand and have technology, do part of your job, what part would that be?
  • What else could you do if you were not doing the same repetitive tasks?
  • What new things should you be doing, but seem never to have the time?

By completing a self-assessment, you’ll identify your marketing process hiccups and what you could be doing if those hiccups were streamlined or eliminated. From there you can decide if you can tackle the improvements yourself, call in strategic sourcing or consult with a partner outside of the company.

50% of marketers surveyed by the CMO Council say that eliminating waste and obsolescence in their supply chain operation is not a key priority to the overall marketing operational function.

Source: Mapping + Tracking: The Optimized Marketing Supply Chain, CMO Council

I do see more people with titles that include the terms marketing and operations, but more often than not, marketers look outside of their department to operations or strategic sourcing to handle improvements in efficiency.  Isn’t it better if it starts with the marketers themselves?

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