Getting the marketing organisation’ future-fit’
August 4, 2023

Rapid changes in the business environment and customer behaviour are forcing reappraisal of the role and responsibilities of the marketing function, which has major implications for business operating models.

It’s another example of the accelerated changes taking place, but one which presents an opportunity to achieve greater organisational alignment and faster response to market changes. But radical change needs bold thinking and innovation.

With more consumers and business customers transacting online there is an inevitable and understandable rush to building digital capability and online presence amongst organisations of all sizes. These shifts have led to wider adoption of e-Commerce and digital marketing tools with direct-to-consumer strategies being increasingly explored, especially amongst retail and consumer brands. 

However, this is not exclusive to B2C markets – the business-to-business sector has seen customers increasingly willing to conduct transactions online, changing the nature of relationships and interactions between customers and suppliers.

Against this backdrop there has been much discussion and media coverage about the changing role of marketing and the CMO. However, this is not a marketing issue to be resolved by marketing leadership alone. Rather, it is an organisational challenge to be addressed by the whole business.

Many large corporate businesses are already advanced on planning how they respond to these trends in terms of technology, people development and operating models with many medium sized organisations reviewing what exactly is the role of their marketing operation.

Although marketing has never been an exclusively ‘top of funnel’ activity, the simple fact is that in an online, omni-channel ecosystem, marketing’s responsibility is creeping down the purchase funnel raising big questions about its role within the business and its relationship with the rest of the organisation, especially sales.

This re-appraisal is forcing a review of marketing’s role and the skills it requires to perform these activities. We are looking at a fundamental change here – a quantum leap in how marketing organisations operate in future with structures, processes and job roles unrecognisable from ten years ago.

To develop the optimum solution requires some blank canvas thinking and fearless creativity to stimulate the innovation needed in the marketing and sales functions, while understanding this may involve fundamental changes to the wider business structure and its operating model.

A common problem we see is a rush to build digital capability with an array of tools and platforms. Marketing transformation needs to be about culture, people and organisational capability and a deep understanding of what customers expect.

So, with many businesses now in the post-pandemic recovery room, the first question should be “what are our longer-term business objectives, what do our customers expect and how will we go to market?” and not “what marketing stack should we build and which e-Commerce and CRM package should we buy?” 

Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – organisations need to work out what’s right for them. But fundamentally, marketing needs to be positioned as a core business activity with appropriate representation at the most senior level. Unfortunately, for as long as it is perceived, and indeed operates, as a ‘necessary support function’ – i.e. a cost centre, focused on communications and promotion – it will be unable to fulfil its central role in the transformation process and meet the needs of the business in the future.

Shaping the marketing organisation of the future requires bold leadership, openness to change and innovative thinking. From what we see in forward-looking organisations, the role of marketing and the responsibilities of marketing leaders is changing fast; technology-enabled, data-driven with new structures, roles, processes and relationships bringing along a whole set of new skills requirements. 

It’s a big but important undertaking, and vital for remaining competitive in the new landscape.

Authors: Neil Burrows & Andy Goram

Neil Burrows is Founder and CEO of SaturnFive® and leads the international consulting network from its UK base in Oxford. Andy Goram is Associate Consultant, Employee Experience at SaturnFive® Consulting and owner of BizJuicer Consulting. 

Neil Burrows

Andy Goram