New Marketing Landscape, Same Old Marketing Conversation?

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

If you’re involved in marketing, it’s no secret that change is everywhere. Technology has had a profound impact on all aspects of human behavior personally and professionally. The media we consume, how we consume it, and how we interact with brands – not to mention each other – has changed. The emergence of digital has altered everything, and marketing’s role today is not the marcom of yesterday. It’s a new game, with new rules, and an overwhelming number of new media, channels, and tools.

If you’re currently in a marketing leadership role and you find change scary and uncomfortable, now would be a good time to consider a career change. Conversely, if your personality is one that thrives on uncertainty, exploration, and opportunity, know this: Success will be elusive, but you will probably enjoy the ride. This is the reality of marketing today.

The need for transformation

There is endless analysis and conversation today about business transformation and innovation. It is a dominant theme among analysts, technology media, and executive management. Marketing is no exception.

Many of today’s B2B marketing conversations are data-rich, wrapped around annual surveys of marketers and buyers summarizing sentiment, budgets, and priorities. When done well, they capture the preferences and pain points of a profession in transition and have legitimate benchmark value. They clearly document changing trends and challenges, and the best of them deliver true insight. Yet at the same time it feels like something is missing.

The trend of “more” – content, measurement, and beyond

“More” is a recurring theme in recent years for marketing. More media choices, channels, and formats are complemented by the need for more leads and measurement. And, of course, more content. Seventy percent of marketers surveyed in 2015 by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) plan to create more content, but only 8% of B2B marketers rate their content efforts as “very effective.” That’s not a great return on investment. Given the continued challenge over measurement and attribution, one has to wonder about the 8%. Is it tightly measured? Or is it based on circumstantial evidence, or worse, is it assumptive?

This is one of the troubling trends that CMOs are being pressured to correct. Only 5% of marketers surveyed by CMI rate their organization’s efforts to track ROI as “very successful,” and a 2016 DemandWave survey says a full 35% of marketers don’t even have an attribution model, let alone one that is working well.

Content Science reports a couple of equally disturbing success metrics that seem to have survived the analog age of marcom – 27% gauge success by the creation rate of content, and 71% gauge success by “meeting deadlines.” Though no one will dispute the need to hit delivery dates, these metrics do not reflect the performance of content. In fact, they suggest a highly quantitative checklist approach at a time when quality and scalability matter more than ever.

This is all part of the ongoing conversations marketing is having among themselves. But as relevant as these conversations are, they are beginning to feel a bit like redundant noise. That may sound harsh, but most are rich in describing how digital customers have changed buying behaviors, the urgency of digital transformation, and the latest assessment of marketing tactics. Yet, when considered in aggregate, something is missing.

Changing the conversation inside and outside of marketing

Are the conversations around content, marketing, and advertising too narrow? Are they focused on the right things?

This recent Advertising Age article titled “The Big Agenda” is encouraging. It highlights the need to replace short-term thinking for the longer view and reflects a focus on “making marketing work better.” From readers surveyed, these are the top three priority issues in 2016:

1. Making marketing more efficient (55%)
2. Improving creative excellence (54%)
3. Finding new ways to reach consumers as they block or skip ads (52%)

What is missing from the conversation today is the important new role marketing must unequivocally accept – marketing is now a direct and substantial part of the sales process. The new role is not about creating more content and publishing more often; it is about being more effective at earning audience attention and driving demand.

The 2015 B2B Marketing Trends Report from CMI highlights a key organizational challenge that must be part of the new marketing conversation. It is the wide distribution of accountability across organizations for content marketing: C-level (23%), product marketing (19%), demand gen (18%), PR (15%), social media (6%), or the omnipresent “other” (14%).


The distribution metric is significant because it documents a fractured model aligned to traditional internal structures.

Unfortunately, most attempts to adapt and improve marketing performance have been tactically iterative, constrained by legacy assumptions and habits. Technology, consumers, and communications have changed too much for incremental evolution.
Everyone needs to turn off autopilot and re-think the entire approach, right down to organizational structures and processes. Process is key to efficiency, but a process based on an old set of rules is industrialized disaster. For many, this is the status of B2B marketing today.

Until organizations accept this, marketing execution will be marginalized by the lack of a holistic vision and execution strategy. New, operationally sustainable strategies will need to break old habits, processes, and role-based silos. Digital business requires transformation at every level, perhaps most of all in marketing.

As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” Are you ready to change the conversation of marketing?

This article was originally written for and published by Content Science Review.

Every Shade of Grey – The New Reality For CIOs


It wasn’t long ago that the CIO mandate was simple to define.  The role was clear and operational, customers were internal and IT was transactional.  CIOs managed a necessary cost center; not yet the competitive differentiator it has become.  The role of business IT was “clear,” well defined, and not particularly ambiguous. It was black and white.

All of that has changed. Continue reading “Every Shade of Grey – The New Reality For CIOs”

Open letter from a CMO to a CIO

Dear IT,

You and I both know the history of our relationship has not been particularly close over the years. A decade ago we shared few interests, but things have changed. Where once we had little in common, today we need each other to be successful. I hope you agree.

Lately, I‘ve felt the need to share some disturbing visions I keep having. Understandably, your first thought might be “I hardly know you, why bring this problem to me?” Because you too are experiencing tremendous pressure and change in your role as CIO, which tells me you can empathize. And frankly, I need to share it with someone who can appreciate my pain.  I hope you’ll hear me out.

Sleepless Marketing Leader

I haven’t slept well in months. I keep having recurring dreams that when I’m at work, I have blocks of cement on my feet. Every time I try to affect change or adapt to changing customer trends, I can barely move. And, I’m not alone. My team is wearing lead shoes, as are so many others. The dream has different outcomes, but none end well. That’s when I typically wake up.

Again, you ask yourself “Why me?” I’ll explain.

As I was reading Forrester’s Digital Business Imperative report the other day, I was painfully reminded of the growing impact digital everything is having on our personal and professional lives. Traditional marketing tactics are no longer relevant and plug-and-play is no longer enough for either one of us. As CIO, you appreciate the steep challenge of digital evolution; after all, you and your teams are on the front lines, defining and managing technology.  Lets be honest with each other, both our classical measures of value are barely relevant today.

Forrester pointedly states how urgently business leaders must harness digital technologies, not only to deliver the digital experience customers expect but also to increase competitive market position. Digital is transforming our business in every way, at a pace that feels like it’s virtually overnight. Though the analysts refer to it as “transformation,” it feels a lot more like revolution.

How’s this for revolution – Gartner predicts that by 2017, marketing will control more IT budget and technology than you will? As a marketing leader I find that prediction staggering. I don’t mind telling you that we are not equipped to go it alone. Though I remain unconvinced of their prediction, I do know that we need each other to be successful. We need to work together. I’m convinced it’s time for a reset.

I’ve come to realize lately that we hardly know each other after all these years. In fact, I suspect that our perceptions of each other, our roles and our organizations, are fundamentally wrong.   Though our professional paths have been quite different, customers, technology and digital business are common threads redefining both our professions in ways we never imagined, and insisting we redefine ourselves. To be honest, I welcome the challenge.

Most important, we need to get ahead of the curve strategically, or we will slip further behind operationally and financially. There is a lot of change for us to manage and we cannot continue to bolt new technologies onto old models. So the question before us is how, when and where do we begin?


Your new best friend,

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse on June 30, 2015.

Business 4 Business – A New Model

Improved business outcomes. Isn’t that why any business invests in technology? According to Thomas Lah, co-author of a new book, B4B – How Technology and Big Data Are Reinventing The Customer-Supplier Relationship, the focus on measured business outcomes is growing. Moreover, shared risk and responsibility for those outcomes is becoming a differentiator and a new source of revenue for systems integrators and solution providers. Continue reading “Business 4 Business – A New Model”