This post is the fifth part of a five part series on the elements of marketing operational excellence. To wrap up the series, this post focuses on a few critical steps you can take to build a culture of excellence.
Some context on the series
In a recent blog post, we discussed the impact of ineffective marketing leadership execution. But if the impact of ineffective marketing leadership execution is so high, why don't more people try to solve the problem? In most cases, the issue is not a lack of effort, but the lack of all of the core elements required for operational excellence.
When these elements are combined, a marketing organization can get much closer to its true potential. A single missing component can throw everything in the entire system off. The marketing leader in an organization needs to operate like the conductor of an orchestra, the NASA mission commander, or even a classroom teacher in charge of wrangling a bunch of adolescents.
These organizations and systems all require the following:
- A strategy-based and goal-driven planning approach
- A complete system view
- A process for measurement, refinement and optimization
- The discipline to connect all activities to outcomes
- A culture of excellence
Building a culture of excellence
The best operational leaders can fail if they don’t have the full support of their team behind them. Additionally, the operational rigor of an organization can be quickly eroded if you accept deviance from your cultural values. The secret to getting your entire team behind you is to build a culture of operational excellence. Culture comes from the top, so it is critical that marketing leadership embraces the following principles:
Focus on truth, not credit
The best marketing teams operate like scientists, not promoters. You can tell which type of group you have when it comes to quarterly review time. The promoters focus on all the good parts of the last quarter and gloss over (or worse, hide) any negative results. The scientists are always seeking truth, even if the truth isn’t very attractive.
When promoters report on their results, they often cherry pick only the good campaigns or channels. The scientists will report out on all the channels and campaigns, highlighting the outlying performers - both positive and negative. When reporting on negative results, the scientists will develop a theory for the poor performance, and may even design an experiment to try to prove that theory with upcoming campaigns.
One key indicator of a culture of marketing promoters is the amount of “marketing influence” in their results. Marketing influence can be an important metric, especially with long, complex sales cycles. But when all positive news is in the form of marketing influence, it is time to find some scientists.
Celebrate success and learning
A guaranteed way to discourage marketers from reporting the truth is to punish them for reporting negative results. Don’t confuse negative results with mistakes. In some cases, poor performance is due to a mistake, and there should be accountability in your organization. But poor performance may come from an assumption that was proven wrong. That’s how you learn.
So how do you avoid the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality? You reward and celebrate success and you celebrate insights from experiments that can turn into future performance improvement. If a marketer presents results that didn’t perform as expected and then shrugs when you ask why the campaign didn’t perform well, they don’t deserve any praise. But if a marketer can articulate the assumption they made, the data that proves the assumption was wrong, the impact of that assumption, and how they will improve future campaigns, they definitely deserve your praise.
Diverse organizations perform better because they see the same problems with different lenses. The best marketing organizations are excellent at identifying changes in the market, their campaign performance, their competition, etc. By identifying and responding to change rapidly, marketing teams can outpace their peers and deliver much higher performance.
One of the best ways to identify change is to look at problems from different perspectives. If your entire team is cut from the same cloth, you can quickly convince yourself that your perspective is the only one that matters.
Develop emerging talent
One way to make sure that you have fresh perspectives in your organization is to embrace the idea that the development of emerging talent is a critical, ongoing process. One of the best ways to reward up-and-coming talent is to give them a special project to work on. It costs nothing, and you often end up with excellent results.
Furthermore, there are lots of reasons for opportunities to emerge in your organization, including turnover (voluntary and involuntary), growth, or positions that become available when other high performers in your organization take on a new assignment. The best operational leaders will always have someone ready to fill those unexpected vacancies - temporarily or permanently - with emerging talent from your team.