Taking Marketing to New Heights
By focusing on driving business results, CMO Jill Kouri has elevated the marketing organization at JLL
By Anne Field
In the two years since joining JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.), a professional services and investment management firm that specializes in real estate, CMO Jill Kouri has had a laser focus on closely aligning marketing with business strategy. She established a content marketing team, reshaped the way the 300-person marketing organization thinks about and leverages digital, and is moving her organization to focus more squarely on lead generation, among other achievements.
Kouri, who oversees all aspects of marketing and communications for the Chicago-based firm’s Americas region (North and South America), including business development, branding, public relations, and internal communications, draws on 25 years of corporate and agency B-to-B marketing experience. We talked to Kouri, a member of the BMA Board of Advisors, about her role at JLL and some of the strides she has made.
Q: What strengths do you bring to the table to help move the company forward?
A: I like to encourage new perspectives and foster a diversity of ideas. “We’ve always done it this way” does not cut it with me. We need to always be looking forward to how we can maintain our competitive advantage and more deeply engage our people, prospects, and clients. I’m also highly collaborative. Marketing is a social field, especially in B-to-B professional services, where you are essentially selling the value of your people and their ideas. You have to collaborate to bring the best ideas to the forefront. I think I’ve helped bring vision and planning to a marketing organization that was ready for change. I am applying my background in building impactful cultures to create a successful team.
Q: How did you structure the marketing organization for business growth?
A: While we are decentralized at JLL in the Americas, everyone operates as one marketing organization. And I think everybody feels marketing is their prime responsibility, although they also matrix to people in other parts of the business. I’ve tried to establish more role clarity in local marketing roles and greater consistency across all our marketing programming. But the basic structure fits our purposes. The alternative, of course, is a top-down structure with a marketing team that is much more command and control. That isn’t how we operate here. In the case of JLL, it’s extremely important for team members to understand and embrace our master brand strategy, with the ability to customize when it’s relevant to a local market or need while also working closely with their leaders.
Q: How have you elevated the role of marketing in the organization?
A: Soon after I joined JLL, I created a vision for the organization that was all about our desire to be a results-driven business partner, not a support function, that can convey our overarching story in simple but unexpected ways. Many executives and internal stakeholders were looking for marketing to step up and play a more strategic role as we moved the company forward. We have big aspirations for growth, and some of that will be driven from our marketers engaging in a different way than in years past.
Broadly speaking, we’re trying to elevate the positions of all our marketers across the board. For example, they’re now in the room with brokers or sales teams when they’re putting together a pitch, working through the message development and sales strategy. Our executives are realizing that, generally, they’re missing something if they don’t have a marketer involved at the front end, instead of at the end of a process, as a core part of whatever is being developed.
Q: Does this call for your marketers to have different skill sets?
A: Yes. What I’m really looking for are true multichannel marketers. What I’ve seen is that a lot of individuals coming out of college are very tightly focused on one area and don’t have a broad enough perspective. When I coach people, I tell them to go broad. You’ve got to be able to play across the marketing and communications life cycle and a variety of channels. But also it’s important for people to have a baseline understanding of how to integrate digital into their broader programming. We also need people who have a focus on the “science” versus the “art” of marketing. Those who understand data, analytics, and business intelligence have an edge.
Q: You created a head of marketing technology role to bridge the gap that had existed between marketing and IT. Can you tell us more about your digital team?
A: We have a three-person team that liaises with IT. This was the result of looking across the organization and figuring out where we had people with inherent skills and a passion for the intersection of marketing and IT. In some cases, these people were in roles that didn’t allow them to focus on their passion, so we did some reorganizing. It meant finding the right like-minded professionals to operate in a structure where they’re all empowered but feel like they’re one team.
Q: What marketing challenges have you faced?
A: Most important was challenging the perception that marketing is a support function. I’m proud that we are now considered partners and advisors aligned with the broader business. As part of this strategic alignment, we also broadened the definition of marketing and expanded the skills and expertise of our marketing organization.
Q: How are you responding to one of the industry’s biggest challenges: attracting and retaining diverse talent?
A: We are committed to maintaining a culture that unleashes the full potential of all employees. We recognize that diversity is a core component of our business and the right thing to do for our workforce and communities. Therefore, we actively recruit from a wide variety of sources so we can attract a diverse pool of talent.
At JLL, there are employee resource groups for our African-American, Latino, female, veteran, and LGBT employees. We also support our clients’ supplier diversity initiatives by creating strong partnerships with women- and minority-owned businesses. Additionally, JLL Americas’ senior leadership compensation is tied to individual performance against diversity goals. Our results are excellent. We have been recognized for our diverse board representation — our board of directors is comprised of 44 percent women, including its chair, Sheila Penrose.
Q: What would you point to as your most important accomplishments so far at JLL?
A: One success is in marketing operations. While not that sexy, it’s imperative to have the right foundation. We’ve brought in a number of enterprise-wide tools and technologies that the entire organization is using to drive greater productivity, like tools for work-flow management and digital asset management. We are also in the middle of a multi-year initiative to implement a marketing automation platform across the global marketing organization. It’s a huge effort. But it will be a massive productivity enhancement across the organization. This couldn’t have happened without a strong head of digital. And our marketing organization has a fantastic relationship with our IT organization. We work in partnership across all of these initiatives.
Another success is being much more purposeful about the development of a true content strategy that is designed to play across the marketing life cycle, to have content oriented to attracting prospects and introducing new products, a strategy that looks across the continuum of content. Combined with our new marketing automation tool, the marketing organization will be in a position to become more of a lead generation engine.
A huge change management effort comes with all this, and we’re embarking on a massive set of training and change management initiatives. It will encompass re-education of many of our internal stakeholders, as well as other staff outside of marketing. I do think it’s pretty amazing we’re doing most of this without help from external contractors. We’ve been able to free up people’s time to focus on these efforts.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of B-to-B Marketer magazine.
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