WHAT IS A MARKETING EXCELLENCE PROGRAM?
Marketing Excellence programs are company-wide initiatives aimed at creating the company's distinctive approach to marketing, internally homogeneous, externally differentiated and true to the company's DNA and values.
These projects typically:
- Are able to significantly raise organization's marketing capabilities
- Arm teams with new tools and skills, designed to facilitate superior marketing decisions
- Ensure a unique marketing language, shared across different teams and geographies
- Ultimately enable companies to reach the desired market outcomes more consistently and predictably
TYPICAL BUILDING BLOCKS OF A MARKETING EXCELLENCE PROGRAM
A Marketing Excellence program covers an articulated set of topics including e.g.:
Approach to category strategy (incl. portfolio management, pricing, etc.)
Approach to marketing planning and budget preparation
Supporting systems and programs (e.g. knowledge management, DSS and IT, training, communities, information sharing, etc.)
HOW TO DESIGN A MARKETING EXCELLENCE PROGRAM – RECOMMENDED JOURNEY
Designing a Marketing Excellence program requires mastering marketing decision making and having a profound knowledge of the most effective approaches and frameworks.
But that is not enough: such journeys require drive, time and hard work. Success depends on having a clear vision, ensuring top management committment and carefully managing the change program.
Based on our experience in running such initiatives, we recommend the following 6 steps for a successful implementation:
Here a detailed description of each step:
STEP 1. ESTABLISH THE VISION, SET GOALS AND ENSURE TOP MANAGEMENT SUPPORT
Implementing a marketing excellence program is typically a CMO or CEO decision, and the most important success factor in these initiatives is a focused program vision and a strong support from the top.
The first step in such programs involves the CMO/CEO directly. It is such figure in the organization that should provide a clear foresight for the program, define its scope and objectives and set precise goals for all levels of the marketing team to strive toward.
For example, a decision should be made regarding the program scope. Should it only focus on marketing frameworks, tools and templates, and on how to build marketing skills based on them? ... or should it also extend to organizational aspects, such as marketing processes, operating models, career paths, reward systems and infrastructure?
The CMO/CEO should also take decisions regarding how the program management should be orchestrated: with a unique project direction, or by appointing different teams to different aspects.
We typically support the top management in the initial vision setting, and, depending on the program's specific goals and on the organization's structure and capabilities, we suggest different approaches to program management.
Whatever the chosen approach, we then follow closely the program's implementation and ensure that top management is kept up to speed and takes the needed decisions at appropriate times.
STEP 2. CREATE WORKING TEAMS IN CHARGE OF SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF THE MARKETING FRAMEWORK
The second step in a marketing excellence initiative is to get organized for project's content development.
There are typically two alternative models:
a. A unique project direction and development team, that works on all aspects of the program
b. Different project teams in charge of different aspects of the program, with a unique coordination to guarantee alignment of results.
When different teams are assigned to different aspects, we normally attribute content responsibilities for an articulated set of topics including, e.g.: A. Gap analysis, to clarify what are the areas of strengths of the current approach to marketing and what gaps should be filled by the program; B. Brand management and brand management tools; C. Consumer understanding; D. Category strategy (incl. portfolio management, pricing, etc.); E. Marketing planning and budgeting; F. Integrated communication development; G. Innovation and product mix; H. Supporting systems and programs; I. Marketing organization, people and career paths
STEP 3. CONSOLIDATE AND FINALIZE THE MARKETING FRAMEWORK
This is the stage in which project team(s) work(s) on content development, in each of the specified working areas.
Each team is ultimately required to develop a robust approach, that ensures that marketing people do the right things, in the right order, and with the right tools.
The content is developed based on an initial status quo assessment, internal benchmarking and best practice review, followed by an integration and ideative phase.
We support the teams with our experience on such programs and with our proven marketing frameworks, to integrate where required the existing internal models.
A working plan and working model for each team is defined at the beginning. Different iterations then typically follow, with individuals assigned to specific tasks and regular working meetings to review content development, provide feedback and define next steps.
When more teams are involved, this step is normally organized with regular team meetings for each team, as well as plenary alignment meetings. We normally act as coordinators across the various teams, ensuring that content development is consistent and well orchestrated along the different working areas.
STEP 4. RUN COMPANY-WIDE TRAINING AND PUT SUPPORTING SYSTEMS IN PLACE
Once the approach is designed and approved, we need to move to a capabilities building phase. Only a skilled team can truly achieve marketing excellence!
The path to implementation typically involves:
- A preparatory phase, in which training programs are designed, knowledge management systems are put in place, manuals are finalized and the IT infrastructure is predisposed
- A company-wide kick-off event. During this event it should be apparent that top management is fully behind this effort, will closely support and monitor implementation and reward champions
- A series of customized training programs, including case studies and examples. Manuals that clearly describe the new framework should be distributed in connection with the training. The knowledge management system and the supporting repositories should also be introduced in detail. Training programs should be customized for different levels and functions: leaders, specialists and non-marketers.
STEP 5. DRIVE CHANGE THROUGH SENIOR LEADERSHIP CHAMPIONING. REWARD IMPLEMENTATION
Implementing marketing excellence doesn't stop once the first training has been rolled out. People need not only to understand the new framework on an intellectual level, but also to experience its business benefits on a day-to-day basis.
It is a long and articulated change program, that needs to be managed with dedication and passion.
Especially in the first phase, there should be a time for experimentation and learning, when risks will be taken and mistakes made. Over this time, the frameworks being employed will offer a secure and fruitful platform to build the new skills.
In the initial phase, senior leadership is essential to program's success and should give the right level of support to the new approach. Leaders should become true champions of the program. They should require that the new way of thinking is fully embraced, and adopt it in first person. For example, they should demand that any new presentation to top-management is prepared using the new frameworks and tools.
They should prize implementation, define roles and responsibilities using the new system, establish metrics and distribute rewards and incentives in accordance with the new approach.
This will allow the company to overcome initial resistances to change. Over time, as the new tools become more familiar and the value from using them becomes evident, acceptance of the new approach will be widespread and will require a significantly lower level of investment.
STEP 6. DESIGN ON-GOING SKILL ENHANCEMENT PROGRAMS AND EXECUTE THEM SYSTEMATICALLY
The marketing excellence framework should be nurtured constantly and upgraded over time.
The initial classroom time is not sufficient to effectively train. There should be other training occasions, and it is advisable to also establish a supporting online training platform.
Furthermore, an ongoing skills enhancement program should be established, involving collaboration, best practices development, sharing of case studies.
A fruitful approach is to organize a series of coaching sessions, leveraging internal or external experts. The experts meet with different teams, organized either on a country-basis or on a brand-basis, and provide real time feedback on how well the approach has been used on actual case examples and how its implementation could be improved.
Companies can build an internal cadre of experts, that can be called when support is required. A marketing excellence team can also be created within the global marketing department, acting as internal referents and in charge of upgrading and enriching the approach over time.
IMPLEMENTING MARKETING EXCELLENCE: HOW WE CAN HELP
We act as change facilitators and lead company's internal teams across all stages of the journey.
We bring our multi-year experience in running such programs in a variety of complex environments, and we leverage our expertise in marketing to create, together with our clients, the most suitable frameworks and tools.