Too often within multinational organisations, there is a fundamental gap between Marcomms and Operations. The disconnect between these functions can develop for a number of reasons. The primary one is often, simply, time: Operations people are usually incredibly busy with their day-to-day roles; they have specific targets to hit and they can view marketing activities as surplus to requirements.
Furthermore, there is often a lack of understanding of how marketing activities can support them in their day-to-day roles. The issue is exacerbated by large multinationals that often have complex, matrix structures that aren’t conducive to building trust.
The Marcomms team are usually responsible for defining the communications strategy, but its implementation usually relies on engagement and validation from Operations. In a way, the Marcomms team are reliant on buy-in from Operations for their projects and campaigns to be successful. This is why the relationship between the two functions is so important.
From internal communications projects, to executive profiling campaigns and social media programmes, coherent strategies can only be executed when there is mutual trust and respect from both sides.
So how can marketing teams build trust and respect with operations, which will be mutually beneficial for the entire organisation?
- Set manageable programmes with quick wins
When developing plans that involve direct engagement from Operations, it’s important not to inundate colleagues with unrealistic volumes of work. Remember that marketing activity sits outside their core function. For instance, if you’re developing a leadership series on social media for a senior executive, start by setting modest targets. Offer input to create the content and then develop a streamlined approvals process. Moving forwards, you will always have the opportunity to ramp up activity as you build momentum, but don’t start too quickly.
It’s also important to get results on the board quickly. If your subject is new to marketing, he/she may well be sceptical around the value it adds so it’s important to build momentum fast. For instance, if you’re running a profiling series in the media for a senior executive, ensure you get your first piece of media coverage quickly. If you’re running a leadership content series on LinkedIn, ensure you stick to the schedule and get the first piece out quickly
2. Understand the environment they operate in
With complex, B2B organisations with sophisticated value propositions, Marcomms teams may not be as familiar with the business environment as operations teams. Rather than just a base-level understanding of a product and the rough understanding of the macro-trends, it’s important to have a detailed knowledge and understanding of the operating environment. This is fundamental to gaining respect with Operations functions. Before any call, meeting (or even when developing content), ensure you have (at least) an idea around the following questions:
- What are the current market dynamics driving the industry?
- What could our unique proposition be that aligns with our prospects?
- How does our offering compare to competitors?
- Who are our customers and what is the nature of the relationship?
3. Clearly demonstrate the tangible benefits
The big challenge for marketers and communicators alike is demonstrating the return on investment of marketing activities. Whenever briefing on a new initiative or project, it’s vital to demonstrate the why as well as the how. Rather than using marketing jargon such as ‘engagement’, ‘thought leadership’ ‘cut-through’ and ‘click through’, go out of your way to demonstrate benefits in a tangible, straight-forward way. For instance, if a media campaign is designed to help drive awareness with a c-suite audience, clearly explain why that is important and how it could help achieve their business goals.
4. Understand when to push and when not to
A key skill for all marketing teams is being empathetic and flexible. It’s always a bad idea to chase on feedback on a blog or advertorial before an executive has a prospect meeting, or indeed anything else that takes precedent. It’s important to have at least a loose awareness of people’s diaries so you can see what the big events are coming down the track and adjust accordingly. Don’t push on a deadline day - the last thing an executive needs before an important meeting is being pushed on a piece of marketing.
5. Keep it going!
Too many marketing activities that begin with the best intentions tend to drift and lose momentum. This is why it’s so important to build programmes slowly and scale up once you have momentum. Many projects begin with a bang and sizzle out after two or three months. Ensure that you carefully create a plan with longevity and be rigorous in sticking to it.