Marketing Increasingly Under the Microscope

NEW YORK – If your organization has not yet started looking at marketing as a manageable business process, chances are it will begin to do so soon.

A panel of marketers and business process experts speaking at the Ad:Tech conference on Tuesday discussed what it means when upper management decides to hold marketing to the same accountability standards that other departments have had to meet for years.

“Marketing organizations are under a lot of pressure for greater accountability, for proving long-term ROI,” said Naras Eechambadi, CEO of business process consultancy Quaero. “Better processes are an important way to improve performance without increasing spending.”

Other parts of large organizations have incorporated quality management processes for more than 20 years. Marketing had often been left exempt because of the ethereal quality of success metrics. As marketing processes have become more mature, and are taking up more of a company’s budget, more companies have looked to add controls. The rise of Internet marketing, with its infinite accountability, has accelerated the change at some organizations.

“The pressure usually comes from finance — they say the budget will get cut if marketing can’t show where the money’s going, and what they’re getting for it,” Eechambadi said.

At consumer packaged goods giant Kimberly Clark, marketing came under the microscope a few years ago, said Brad Santeler, director of media services at Kimberly Clark. The company undertook a company-wide evaluation, under direction of senior management, and found five process areas to address, including marketing.

“Everything is a process — whether you know it or not. We wanted to make sure our processes followed best practices,” Santeler said. “When we were looking at other processes, it kept coming back that marketing was not being held accountable. We wanted to challenge senior management to think of marketing as an investment, and not an expense.”

The Kimberly Clark evaluation looked at every marketing process — from data to insights to action and return — examining each step to weed out things like gaps or redundancies in the processes, or knowledge silos. Everyone in the organization was involved, and encouraged to share their ideas of making the processes better.

“Any change initially has to come from the senior level, but it also has to include all the stakeholders in the process,” Santeler said.

According to Eechambadi, a business process review should look at where information and projects are handed off, where data comes from and how it is handled. It should also examine whether every step in the current process is necessary or if it could be eliminated, done more quickly, or done in parallel with other tasks

“In most organizations, there is no process worked out beyond ‘this is the way it has always been done,'” Eechambadi said.

Often, when an organization sees a problem, they try to solve it by throwing people or technology at it — but that’s only a temporary solution, according to Santeler. “The Band-Aids you put on your workflow are only as good as the underlying processes,” he said.

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