The great marketing declutter

Change marketing

Focus on what really matters. Discard what doesn’t. And rewire the rest.
Months of relentless change as customers have reevaluated their values and purpose have impacted marketers the most directly of all business functions. At the same time, shrinking budgets and increased pressure from the business to take the lead on customer experience and drive growth have made marketing even more difficult. Not to mention that the digital era has created more channels, touchpoints and tools. And more work for marketers.

78% of Canadian marketing executives say that the past year has completely exhausted their employees.

Yet we found a small group—just 17% of more than 1,000 marketing executives—whose marketing organizations are thriving. A full 86% of these select marketing executives say their employees have been energized by a new purpose of servicing customers’ rapidly changing motivations.

What marketing needs more of is less

Instead of holding on to what is, these Thrivers are decluttering marketing to manage complexity. This is paying off. Marketers are doing more rewarding work. Customer satisfaction and lifetime value have increased. And the business is enjoying a significant performance premium, particularly over competitors whose marketers are burned out.

Thrivers are over 1.4x more likely to perform far better in revenue growth and profitability

Thrivers are over 1.8x more likely to perform far better in customer satisfaction

Thrivers are over 2.5x more likely to perform far better in customer awareness

Thrivers, Strivers and Survivors

We segmented marketers into three groups based on specific aspects of their customer relationships.

Thrivers (17%) are fired up
They feel empowered to meet customers’ changing priorities and are flourishing because of it. They connect with customers in authentic ways.

Strivers (66%) are persevering
They have some autonomy to meet customer needs but limited awareness of customer changes. They have the will, but not always the way.

Survivors (17%) are burned out
They aren't in tune with the pulse of customer change and assume it's temporary. It’s becoming harder to wait for things to go back to normal.

Thrivers cut through the clutter

Our global survey pinpoints exactly how Thrivers are leading the way in both their thinking and their actions. The distinctions are most evident when comparing Thrivers to Survivors, which is where we focus our analysis.

By emulating Thrivers, Survivors can begin to turn things around. And Strivers—who are the majority of marketers today—can focus on specific ways to improve their impact.

Five rules for decluttering marketing

01: Reacquaint yourself with your customers

Customer behaviors have always been evolving, but the pandemic took customer change to uncharted territory. Marketers have scrambled to understand customers’ shifting priorities, and as a result, are reassessing which marketing activities to keep, which to pause and which to discard. Now is the time to step back and focus on what matters to thrive in a world in flux.

What Thrivers do
Thrivers faced the truth that the customers they once knew are no longer the same. Thrivers know their old beliefs about customer preferences—and by extension, how they connect with their customers—are less relevant.

of Thrivers believe that customer changes brought by the pandemic will be long-term (compared with just 17% of Survivors).
Seeing change for what it really is

Most Canadian marketing executives (72%) think the pandemic will have only short-term effects on consumer psychology and behavior. However, Thrivers are the radical realists. More than half believe that marketing will be significantly influenced by the pandemic for the foreseeable future, compared to just 17% of Survivors.

Listening to the customer zeitgeist

Thrivers find the truth of customer change by listening to customers. To get close to their customers, they know they have to be contextually relevant to where their customers are, and most commonly invest in geolocation technologies.

Measuring what matters to customers

Thrivers fully commit to it and shift their priorities accordingly across everything they do. And they hold themselves accountable by measuring their own performance through a customer lens. While cost, efficiency and competitive measures clearly still matter, Thrivers’ self-assigned first accountability is to what customers care about—an external measure rather than an internal vanity metric.

How to get reacquainted with your customers

Focus on what matters

Put customers in the middle by engaging with them—from developing customer advisory boards to giving them a voice in product or service development.
Discard personas

Humanize customer segmentation, shifting from one-dimensional caricatures to multi-dimensional views and activate them across all initiatives.
Rewire what is measured

Evolve performance measures to reflect the outcomes that are most important to customers, not just to the business.

02: Find your collective difference

Every part of the business is hyper focused on its own priorities and workstreams. But delivering on differentiation and customer experience takes unity and collaboration. Now is the time to rewire the enterprise around its collective difference—eliminating competing ambitions so that the whole is greater than its parts.

What Thrivers do
Thrivers know that they cannot go it alone when it comes to differentiating in the market. So, they use data to create a common understanding and rally the organization around its collective difference. After all, differentiating the brand to customers is the one thing that binds everyone together no matter their siloed responsibilities.

of Thrivers report owning the customer experience - their input is highly critical to key business decisions (versus less than half of Survivors).
Rallying around a common ambition

To unleash differentiation, Thrivers have stepped up to take ownership and accountability for customer experience. Today, far more Thrivers than Survivors own customer experience within their organizations. In addition, Thrivers know that experience is inextricably linked to differentiation and growth. They are 67% more likely than Survivors to provide essential input to corporate growth strategies.

Leading with influence everywhere

Unlocking collective difference means leading with influence outside of the marketing department. Collaboration even in areas not typically aligned with marketing has become second nature to them. As an example, 19% more Thrivers provide highly critical input on aftersales strategy compared to two years ago.

Asking for forgiveness later

As much as Thrivers value collaboration, they are keenly aware of the fine line between building consensus and bottlenecking progress. Thrivers are deliberate about how they collaborate across the C-suite, embracing a do-it-now, ask-for-forgiveness later attitude while keeping peers informed about what they are doing and why. They are 2.5x more likely than Survivors to say it is very important to work with the CEO and Board of Directors to impact business priorities and strategic issues.

How to find your collective difference

Focus on building trust

Take ownership of a vision that the whole organization can get behind and allow people to participate through their actions.
Discard old operating models

Lead the charge in the business to evolve the operating model to remove friction, support data-driven decisions and create better work environments.​
Rewire relationships

Communicate the marketing strategy to internal stakeholders—particularly the C-suite—as a value story.

03: Move at the pace of change

There is so much rapid change and mounting pressure in marketing today. It is easy for marketers to lose focus and get lost in all the clutter of priorities coming at them from all sides. Now is the time to rewire the marketing organization for speed so that it can move at the pace of customer and market changes.

What Thrivers do
Thrivers acknowledge that customers’ behaviors are changing faster than ever. They understand that the only way to lead and stay relevant is to move quickly and proactively in real time, which has made speed non-negotiable for them.

Thrivers are 5x more likely than Survivors to say that other functions support and buy into their agile methods.
Changing marketing for speed

Thrivers are committed to making a wholesale shift to adapt everything they do—insight, data, engagement, responsiveness—so that change is the expectation, not the exception. A critical foundation for this is to have an operating model, ways of working and technology capabilities that allow for rapid and smooth shifts. Thrivers make this a priority.

Mastering test-learn-tweak-repeat

Thrivers are interested in working smarter and faster on the right things. Thrivers do this with a more adaptive, agile organization and by embracing agile methods fit to the needs of their marketing organization. With agile methods that enable experimentation and test-learn-tweak-repeat approaches, Thrivers continuously follow the pulse of customer change. They quickly toss aside the initiatives that are not resonating, and zero in on those that are—earlier with less wasted time and effort.

Scaling what works the best

Thrivers realize that getting the most impact from Agile means practicing it at scale, not in isolated corners of the marketing department. Essentially all have increased their ability to scale at speed. That means that Thrivers are increasing technology investments to improve execution time. Take AI, for example. Thrivers have implemented AI at far higher rates, which enables them to quickly localize and personalize content and campaigns with its ability to predict customer intents based on each customer’s profile, behavioral and contextual data. Then they design experiences and offers around these intents.

How to move at the pace of change

Focus on better decisions

To get buy in, get to the point by trading lengthy business cases for executive summaries that tell decision-makers everything they need to know.
Discard narrow thinking

Avoid over-indexing on one method or approach to improve organizational velocity and take a broader view of all the components.
Rewire to experiment

Allow for experimentation to easily test new ideas to find those to invest in at scale—ensuring that the organization is change ready by design.

04: Figure out what no one wants to do

Creative Performance
The marketing ecosystem has become exponentially more complex thanks to an explosion of touchpoints, technologies, regulatory issues and partners. Managing everything they have to do can be overwhelming and defeating for marketers. Now is the time to clear the space to focus on what really motivates them to do their best work.

What Thrivers do
Thrivers have outwitted complexity. They understand that not all marketing tasks are created equal. It is not about stopping tedious and transactional tasks. Instead, it is about getting them done in other ways.

of Thrivers have industrialized marketing operations to reduce overall complexity, compared with just 62% of Survivors.
Moving from mundane to motivating

Thrivers identify the tasks that marketers do not like to do, or that are repetitive with few changes, and lean into process automation and industrializing operations to get them done. Survivors are not even close in matching these investment increases. Having made these investments, Thrivers are in an ideal place to benefit from the next generation of marketing automation. In addition to taking on the repetitive, unfulfilling work, intelligent machines are on an exciting trajectory to making the fulfilling work even more fulfilling.

Delegating with confidence

Thrivers are also turning to trusted partners to rewire ways of working in marketing. Realizing that they do not have to do it all, Thrivers empower other groups and partners with the right skills and capabilities to take on their share of the responsibility. Doing this makes good sense from both resource utilization and employee engagement perspectives.

Seeking out fresh thinking

Having redistributed some marketing tasks to machines and skilled partners, Thrivers understandably invest in different skills for the human workforce. Looking toward the future, they are interested in developing innovation skills and originality. At the same time, they are interested in hiring people with the technical skills needed to strategically lead the automation of lower-value work, which makes for an interesting duality.

How to figure out what no one else wants to do

Focus on marketers

Create an environment where marketers feel that they can share their thoughts, including the parts of their jobs that they do not like doing.
Discard temporary Band-Aids

Avoid the temptation to invest in tools before streamlining existing ways of working. Focus on improving processes to better serve customer needs.
Rewire for future work

Be transparent with employees about how their roles will shift and make it easy for customers to seek out human-to-human interactions as needed.

05: Own what you want to stand for

Brand purpose
Many marketers have discovered that trying to be all things to all people is messy. It is easy to lose sight of their unique brand purpose. In trying to appeal to everyone, they risk appealing to no one. Now is the time for marketers to discard the long tail of tactics that yield diminishing returns so they can truly own what they stand for in big, bold ways.

What Thrivers do
When it comes to new opportunities to stand out to their customers, Thrivers take them—and own them. They do not just express their brand purpose in what they say. They embody it in what they do.

Thrivers are 5x more likely than Survivors to view shifts in customer values coming out of the pandemic period as opportunities to rethink marketing’s role and reimagine their brand purpose.
Empathizing with customers

Thrivers are owning their brand purpose in authentic ways by focusing on their target customers, not on everyone. They feel far more responsible for ensuring that their customers feel cared for when they interact with them. Among all marketers, Thrivers are best positioned to do this because they feel the deepest connection with their customers.

Connecting in more meaningful ways

Thrivers are nearly twice as likely as Survivors to have adjusted their marketing practices to resonate with personal care and service. At the same time, Thrivers are more than twice as likely to have adjusted how they market to accommodate customers’ focus on trustworthiness. To deliver for customers in these areas, Thrivers think beyond optimizing channels and touch points and focus instead on creating bold gestures that are authentic to their brand purpose.​.

Innovating without boundaries

Thrivers understand that connecting with customers demands both innovative thinking and implementation at scale. They believe that the chief innovation officer is the most important executive to collaborate with to impact business priorities and deliver on brand purpose. Less than half as many Survivors value this collaboration in the same way.

How to own what you stand for

Focus on brand purpose

Rally employees across the company as the best evangelists of the brand purpose. Cultivate a shared aspiration that everyone can embody and express.
Discard empty promises

Forget vanilla proclamations of brand purpose that could fit any brand. Ensure that the brand purpose is meaningful and specific to the organization.
Rewire the culture

Foster an open and creative culture that makes room for rebels and recognizes that going above and beyond is essential today.
Less of the wrong things, more of the right things.
Thrivers have discovered that shifting and getting rid of things produces greater returns. More growth. More meaning. Even more joy. This is why instead of burning out, they are igniting a rallying cry that is changing marketing.

Together, we can rewire your organization for transformative growth.


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