An alien audits your marketing… what happens next?

You’re an alien immigrant! Welcome to Earth!

Luckily for you, you assimilate well and thanks to your experience back on your home planet you decide your optimum ‘cover’ on planet Earth is a job in marketing! Huzzah! You can persuade these earthlings to buy material goods and innovative services, to make their businesses better and their lives more productive! Is easy! You like!

Thanks to your psychic resume and tremendous interviewing skills, you land a job as CMO at a large B2B tech firm, which sells its unique flavor of products and services to the technologists of Earth-bound businesses. You can’t wait to get stuck in. Welcome, Jeff Jeffty Jeff, CMO of Acme Inc.

How do we differentiate

On your first day, you find yourself interrogating the product marketing and proposition leaders to find out the key points of difference of your products vs. the competition. The team provides some opaque and jargon-filled nonsense about your product being the ‘world’s leading’, being both ‘proprietary’ and ‘standards-based’ at the same time, and lists a series of features which, on further questioning, they admit are very similar to those offered by your chief rivals in the market.

Eventually they acknowledge that the real and most vital point of difference is the customer service element.

Good Communication is the backbone

So of course, you interrogate this. How is your customer experience better/ different/ faster/ stronger? How are we making ourselves indispensable to our customers in a way that our competitors don’t?

Again, the answers are somewhat confusing. The team talks about strong SLAs (which sound not vastly different to our competition), but they talk of an aspiration to communicate and market to them in a manner they describe as ‘customer centric’. About engaging with customers on the issues they care about, in a manner that is personalized to them, that delivers great content to them how they need it, when they need it. Helping them make their business and personal lives better.

This sounds good. You like this. You’re looking forward to your first team meeting.

Most marketing comms are fragmented

So you get the gang together, look forward to hearing how your team is joining forces to deliver this.

And you can’t believe what you hear.

Your team, for all they were talking about customer-centricity, are focused on individual communications channels and platforms. Most of them are sending completely different pieces of content and stories out on these platforms, which don’t relate to each other, and certainly couldn’t give customers a cohesive impression of the brand. Indeed, some pieces of content are VERY poorly suited to vital channels for your customers – one of your colleagues, in what seems to be a slightly misguided attempt by your predecessor, was trying to drive customers to consume a 56 page technical PDF via mobile channels, requiring they fill in a fifteen field data capture form just for the privilege of downloading it.

This sort of thing used to happen on the home planet, too, until the global marketing regulator put an end to it. I mean, that level of intrusive data capture for a white paper? On a device with a 5” screen? Madness.

Marketing comms

Worst of all, they seem oblivious to it. The fact they are operating as ‘one team’ and because, twice a year, they run cross-platform campaigns (including the one the aforementioned white paper was a part of), they think they are pioneering. And maybe by Earth standards they are. But you’re not from Earth. You want better.

So you resolve to make it so.

Find a leader

After an exhausting first day, ending with a glass of something the Earthlings seem to enjoy called ‘Sauvignon blanc’ you head in the next morning and review the marketing plan in more detail.

You make a mental checklist of as many of the broken elements of the organization’s communications you can and add it to a list of problems to solve. You think you can actually cut the budget by taking a more cohesive, intelligent approach to this, if only you can corral your teams into action. Plus you’ll deliver more consistent messages, more rational calls to action, make more of your paid media investment and boost your credibility with and on earned and own media.

You start to get excited about it…

Jacks of all trades

And on reviewing your team structure, you’re delighted to find that for all that they were divided by channel and discipline, there are some capable generalists as well as some deep experts with a strong understanding of the need for a variety of content and story types across platform in order to be effective.

These ‘t-shaped’ people – capable generalists with occasional deep technical expertise – are perfect for your plans. Given the right molding, they could help you make your vision become a reality.

Interlinked Metrics

But of course, for years they’ve been chasing after siloed metrics to show their value. They need to deliver a number of downloads or a number of pieces of media coverage, or they won’t have delivered their piece of the puzzle.

Well, perhaps there’s a way around this to. Outcome centered metrics that the whole team would have to sign up to, regardless of who was delivering on a platform or channel element. It’d take some getting used to – the idea that YOUR metrics was even partially contingent on the performance on another – but once the team bought into it, it would drive a far more cohesive approach to campaign planning and delivery.

Breaking down silos

By day three, you’re starting to see some promising conversations emerge. Colleagues used to working near each other are now working with each other, asking the right questions that move the new approach along. Of course there are disagreements and misunderstandings as they come to terms to a new working paradigm, but these are essential to progress.

Baby steps to climb a mountain

And you’re realistic. After all, the great galactic capital Kezwatchian wasn’t built in a day. You’ll start by getting them to agree to tell the same story, then by having them think harder about different content types that work on different platforms, then different storytelling techniques that are more engaging than the typical ones, then about more sophisticated ways to measure customer engagement and personalize the service… and so on. It’ll take you at LEAST two weeks to get it all sorted. If not three. (it’s possible you’re been caught up in overenthusiastic optimism on this front).

Getting the right value from discipline

And of course, you consider yourself fortunate. Whilst you were a great marketing leader on your home planet, you’re not deeply familiar with all of Earth’s strange and unusual communications channels. You really don’t understand Snapchat – I mean, what is the point? So to have a team that does understand what the Earthlings want and care about, how to engage them, how to deliver content they will consume to get them behind the brand – fantastic. You’ve already started constructing a dossier of skills and capabilities you can draw upon when the time comes; whether it’s digital, an event, marketing platform or other requirement, you know who to tap on the shoulder. Or other relevant appendage (it seems you’re not the only extra-terrestrial in marketing).

Start yesterday

Of course, the biggest challenge is that your stakeholders within the business wanted this type of support yesterday. When the CEO asks for a plan to promote a product or service, he’s not really asking for separate plans for each channel, and the old team structure would have resulted in that. And when he asks how well it’s done, he’s not asking for marketing metrics. He wants to know what it’s added to the business.

Your new approach will deliver this. But it’s also about showing the senior leadership team the value in changing things around. If only you had some means of kick starting the process a few years in the past…


Any of this story feel familiar to you? It’s a challenge we see time and again working with brands large and small. This kind of change can take time but it needs willing most of all; to change, to embrace new approaches to everything – from storytelling to measurement and beyond – which isn’t always a straightforward ask. I’d love to hear and discuss your experiences and challenges on this front.

Written by Armand David, Managing Director, Applied Innovation.

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