"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.
I had a wonderful conversation with Renee Horne, AVP, Social Business at USAA, at last week’s Merkle CRM Summit, in which she noted something that could make a great guiding principle for us all – she said, “We focus relentlessly on always putting the member first. We are mission-based: it’s about serving our members.”
“I like to use this framework to think about it: think about the member first, then think about the company’s (e.g. USAA’s) needs, then it’s about the individual teams - all the individual agendas come last,” said Ms. Horne But here’s where the rubber meets the road when companies follow that model – as she puts it, “There is not an option other than to work collaboratively, which we do very well at USAA. We have to bring enterprise-level stakeholders together to make it all happen.”
As David Williams, Merkle Chairman and CEO, aptly bemoaned while speaking to the broader group (there were several hundred of us in attendance – mostly marketers), “This industry needs to stop buying capabilities. There’s too much focus on capability, capability, capability. Everyone is getting bombarded by ‘capability’ companies. In reality, it’s not a capability game anymore. The capabilities are there. [The real issue is] people not creating real operating leverage from all the capabilities they have - the operating model of the organization needs to change.”*
In other words, companies need to stop leading with functional expertise in their decision-making (“I need the very best DMP for display and that’s all I care about.”) and allow functional expertise to extend from a larger, more integrated company mission (“We’d be well served to choose a DMP that effectively leverages our first party data across a wide range of relevant applications” – connecting the on-site experience to display, as an obvious example).
Easier said than done, I bet. And it’s always a balancing act when making “best of breed” versus “meeting the needs of the many” decisions.
In fact, I am not arguing that there are very real instances where a specific technology company with a specific capability is the best choice to meet a given business need (“This is the best Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) display technology I’ve ever seen!”). Rather, I am saying that if every decision is made this way, organizations will be awash in “best of breed” capabilities that have no connection to one another – which gets companies no closer to delivering connected experiences. It’s about broader organizational conversations and a commitment to thinking beyond one’s own cube walls (or, I suspect, for many of you, being given real permission to act beyond your own cube walls!).
As Ms. Horne put it to me, “Cross-functional leadership alignment will be a key differentiator going forward.”
Thoughts, comments, send them through!
*As a noteworthy aside, the whole thrust of the conference was focused on the idea of “the platform marketer”, who “embodies the collective competencies needed to operate in an addressable world at scale,” according to Mr. Williams. Yep, I’m into that. But also interesting was Merkle’s heavy focus on key “audience platforms” with which deep relationships are critical to deliver on that: Google, Facebook and Twitter were all conference presenters. So the archetypal “platform marketer” is one who both understands and is facile with technology and can work with the major audience owners to deliver 1:1 experiences. It’s an interesting angle.