The marketing organisation of the future will be very different from the current structure and culture. The classic model, in which a marketer entrusts a single advertising agency with all communications, seems outdated. Consumers will become more demanding in the future. Within a few short years, the technical possibilities will be within every consumer’s reach. This will heighten expectations toward companies and consumer tolerance for bad products and service will become all but non-existent. Also, the initiative to come into contact with a brand will reside entirely with the consumer since technology will make it increasingly easy for consumers to shield themselves from commercial messages.
On social media, too, consumers only wish to be linked with a limited number of brands. As a result, companies will have to invest heavily in three dimensions in the years to come:
- Extreme customer-centricity: customers will no longer be satisfied with an average treatment. Those companies with a policy of extreme customer-centricity will be the most successful.
- Technology: marketing and technology will be two sides of the same coin. IT budgets will continue to shift toward marketing. For marketing departments all over the world, data and technological know-how will be prerequisites to success.
- Selling without selling: convince customers through expertise instead of commercial messages. Win them over by bringing added value to their lives.
These three dimensions are described in my new presentation ‘Marketing 2020’. You can watch it here.
The marketing organisation of the future
However, making this new philosophy a success requires a new marketing organisation. Without this organization it is impossible to score in each of these three dimensions. The new organisation consists of three elements:
- Conversational leadership: this aspect requires a leader with a perfect understanding of the new context; ideally someone actively involved in the conversational world. The management of the ‘why’ will be even more crucial.
- Agile: flexibility is key to success. The efficiency of a marketing organisation can no longer be determined by its own talent or limitations. The need for flexibility will downsize marketing departments and boost the marketing service industry.
- Discipline: discipline is more than ever indispensable, both to keep supplying content and to consolidate the company’s long-term vision.
The need for conversational leadership First of all, there is a need for a new brand of leadership. The new leader’s main objective is managing the ‘why’. Primarily, he manages the company’s reason for being as well as its long-term vision. In addition, there are three aspects that characterise the conversational leader:
- Empathy: the new leader is a good listener. He is available both for staff and customers. His job is to provide support and counsel wherever possible.
- Connecting: the conversational leader is a bridge builder; he connects people. He believes in the power of networks and helping other people, even when there’s no short-term gain involved.
- Decisive: the conversational leader is capable of making decisions and executing his vision. It’s not just about listening; in the end it’s also about taking action.
Agile in action and thought Agile is an ‘in’ word that has several definitions. Still, our internal organisation must show a certain degree of flexibility if we are to achieve our external goals. This implies a new structure for marketing organizations. Until recently, everything was organised in-house. While this creates stability, it also results in rigidity. At a certain point, your people’s competencies are no longer in line with the company’s needs. The marketing organisation of the future will make increasing use of flexible experts. The core strategy and a limited number of projects are managed from inside the company. Everything else involves specialized skills hired in accordance with the company’s immediate needs. Partners are selected based on concrete ambitions.
In addition, we must also start to question budget mechanisms. Most companies still use annual budgets but in reality a lot can change in 12 months’ time. My first book, ‘The Conversation Manager’, makes a case for a flexible budget of 20%. I am now convinced this is not enough: companies must strive to make their entire budget flexible. The fixed expenses are integrated in the annual expenses. All extras are allotted through a project-based approach. The required budget is only earmarked for projects that appear profitable or relevant. Apart from keeping you sharp, this approach also gives a company the flexibility required to tap into current trends.
In closing, we need a new philosophy: fire bullets before you fire grenades. Try new ideas on a small scale. If they catch on you can always increase your investment. If they don’t, you simply end your investment. Once a new approach has proven its potential you can go full steam ahead. A samurai’s discipline The successful 2020 company maintains a samurai’s discipline. When a samurai commits to a project, he puts his little finger on the line. If he breaks his promise, the top of his little finger is chopped off. That is the samurai’s promise. Modern marketing also requires this kind of iron discipline. To succeed in your mission, you must follow your plans to the letter and keep to the agreed rhythm. People like Gary Vaynerchuk owe their success to iron discipline. Gary built a name for himself by putting live content online for years on end. Whereas most people would have given up for lack of results, Gary’s perseverance is the reason for his current status. Marketing 2020 Preparing for Marketing 2020 will be no laughing matter. On the one hand we need a new marketing philosophy, while on the other hand we also require a new marketing organisation. Both steps are crucial if we are to succeed.
What are your views on marketing organization in 2020? Which aspects are key to success? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject.
Steven Van Belleghem is Professor at Vlerick Business School and runs his own inspiration and coaching company, B-Conversational. Steven is also an award-winning author of “The Conversation Manager” and “The Conversation Company”.