Bridging the Gap Between Marketing Strategy and the Customer Experience

By Mirko Holzer

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Faced with black swan events and enormous pressure on companies to achieve their revenue goals, today's marketers must be able to quickly respond to market changes and deliver value to the business. This need for greater agility puts marketing operations at the forefront because it is the key to speed, collaboration, and customer focus.

There is no doubt that marketing operations — the layer between marketing strategy and customer experience — is making an impact today. However, marketing ops is ripe for exponential improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness through next-generation technology. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by BrandMaker of 130 enterprise marketing executives found that 99 percent of these leaders want to see their marketing operations continue to improve.

Marketing ops already holds the biggest untapped potential for business improvement. By expertly bridging the gap between marketing strategy and customer experience, organizations can better align on strategy, work more efficiently, and reach new levels of marketing performance and accountability.


Three Trends that Are Forcing Market Change

Embracing opportunity means embracing change. And an essential element of successful change is having a clear view of the future. Today, three important trends are forcing marketing organizations to change.

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The first is a growing pressure to accurately measure marketing performance. The BrandMaker survey found that 65 percent of CMOs at global companies struggle to simplify operational data into meaningful insights about performance. The inescapable truth is that it is simply not possible to make continuous and meaningful improvements to marketing execution without comprehensive, timely, and reliable performance measurements.

The next trend is a greater focus on marketing budgets. Moving forward, marketing must have the agility to respond to changing conditions and new opportunities, as well as the rigor to satisfy management's need for financial accountability. Enterprise management increasingly sees marketing as its key growth engine. But management also wants to understand, in financial terms, the return on investing in marketing. Marketplace opportunities can appear in an instant and disappear just as quickly. That means marketing teams need real-time visibility into performance and the ability to adjust marketing budgets on the fly to seize opportunities and cut losses.

The third trend is the shift to remote work. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office is no longer the primary hub of cooperative effort, with enterprise marketing ops teams now disbursed over every continent and time zone. (Those who thought marketing ops couldn't get more intricate should think again.) Marketing ops must embrace and champion this change by leading instead of following. The right technologies can provide efficient, scalable tools to enable efficient collaboration in this new work environment.

Indeed, technology solutions can address all three of these trends. Interestingly, when asked to name the key barriers to effectively respond to changing marketing environments, 94 percent of CMOs surveyed by BrandMaker identified inadequate marketing technology. What's needed is a more efficient system that can execute marketing campaigns in a timelier and more accurate manner. That's the key to competitive differentiation.


The Door Is Open to Disruptive Brands

At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is the customer experience. That's what will ultimately drive sales and growth. Successful marketing is based on its ability to create and deliver an experience that is value-rich and competitively differentiating. The process begins with a strategy and then depends on how efficiently and effectively marketing operations can implement that strategy.

Last year, Accenture issued a research report on marketing operations that was notable for this sobering statistic: 80 percent of brands claim to deliver great experiences, while only 8 percent of customers agree. This illuminates two realities. First, comprehensive, reliable, real-time performance measurement is necessary if marketing is to optimize operations and the customer experience. Second, the door is wide open for disruptive brands who prioritize execution.


Mapping the Future State of Marketing

The future is a journey rather than a destination. Strategy must be effectively mapped to each functional area and then translated into execution. But the journey doesn't stop there; it must be revisited often to ensure alignment with changing market trends.

Here is a close look at how six marketing functions are being conducted today — and how, with the use of the right marketing operations technology, those functions should be performed in the future to make the most of every opportunity.

Performance optimization.

Currently, performance measurement is difficult, complex, and reported by disparate, unintegrated marketing automation solutions. In the future, winning organizations will have real-time visibility into their performance by market and medium, enabling them to continuously improve their marketing campaigns.

Campaign planning.

Currently, decentralized planning and disorganized communications hamper collaboration. In the future, the best organizations will be able to collaborate globally and review activities while getting real-time reports on campaign performance based on systemwide, uniform data.

Budget management.

Currently, inflexible budgetary procedures based on late and unreliable data hampers optimization of management and results. In the future, organizations will be able to plan, allocate, measure, and report on top-level global budgets while aligning on major strategic objectives.

Workflow management.

Currently, implementation is hampered by the misalignment of workflows, misallocation of resources, and mind-numbing, repetitive tasks. In the future, organizations can plan and organize projects, work, and resources to align with strategy while automating repetitive tasks.

Digital asset management (DAM).

Currently, teams rely on expensive agencies to recreate assets that already exist. In the future, they will be able to organize and centrally provide role-based access to all appropriate and compliant digital assets globally — including from external DAMs.

Global brand management.

Currently, local implementations are often far from strategy and global brand guidelines, compromising brand integrity and the customer experience. In the future, local teams will be equipped with the most current brand assets, rule-based templates, and global guidelines, thus enabling content optimization and eliminating the misuse of brand materials.


The Road Ahead

Now that there is a sense of what is possible for marketing ops, the next step is to embark on that journey. Once companies take the first step, they'll find that their marketing ROI will rise dramatically thanks to increased efficiency from digitization, improved process integration, and greater productivity from their marketing teams.

Mirko Holzer is the CEO of BrandMaker, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program. You can email Mirko at



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comments (1)

Allan Steinmetz

December 15, 2021 2:28pm ET

This was a very thoughtful and well written piece. However, I would add seventh and eighth element to your list for serious implementation and consideration. Companies and their marketing organizations must understand the importance of employee brand alignment and engagement. Nothing will change inside the marketing organization unless employees and associates change their behavior to reinforce the marketing and branding objectives. That starts by having a clear purpose and understanding of the corporate "why" and how their individual roles/responsibilities make a difference in improving customer experiences.