Three Roles of a Transformed B2B Marketing Organization

ITSMA held its annual Marketing leadership Forum,  Marketing Transformation: Rethinking, Reskilling, and Reinventing the Organization, last week in Napa Valley, CA. During my presentation one of the attendees asked, “What is the definition of a transformed marketing organization?” This sparked some interesting conversation.

“At every company, the expectations from marketing are different; marketing organizations start at different levels. So marketers need to establish baselines for themselves and note the degree of change from the baseline.”  

“A definition is difficult; you are never really totally done.”

“A transformed marketing organization is one that has met its goals for transformation. Every organization will have different goals.”

“The key to marketing transformation is to build a flexible marketing organization that can adapt when it needs to.  A transformed marketing organization is one that is able to keep changing.”

So, each marketing organization has different objectives, a different starting point, and is never totally done. Given these realities, is it even possible to come up with a definition for a transformed marketing organization?   

The research team at ITSMA was up to the challenge. We conducted 20 hour-long qualitative interviews with the North American and European members of our Board of Advisors, as well as an online survey that engaged 178 respondents. Our research objective? Gauging the progress marketers have made on their transformation journey.

Tactical is not the Opposite of Strategic

We got an earful during the interviews on where marketing is moving from: internally driven, siloed, marcom and event focused, a black box art. Marketing leaders told us, as we expected to hear, that marketing has to become more strategic and analytical. That means stepping out of the roles of event planner and brochure writer. That means becoming an advisor to the business, not just a supporter. But surprisingly, we also heard that marketing, at the same time, has to become more effective and efficient—in other words, better tacticians.

It was an “aha” moment! Tactical is not the opposite of strategic. Reactive is the opposite of strategic.

Despite the underlying drive to become more strategic, tactics are still very important. Marketing organizations need both and the challenge is balancing the two. Strategy is longer term and has more of an impact on profitability while tactics are shorter term with more revenue impact. So it is not really one vs. the other. A transformed marketing organization has to be good at both.

Three Roles of a Transformed Marketing Organization

Based on the research, we identified three roles of a transformed marketing organization. You can think of these three roles as the ultimate goals, or destination, of marketing transformation:

Strategic Business Driver: creates value for the customer and ultimately for the business by bringing an outside-in orientation to the rest of the company; aligns with the line of business/P&L owners to shapes new offerings and innovation and determine the right marketing programs and campaigns to drive business in targeted areas

Relationship builder:  builds relationships with customers either  directly through on- or offline community marketing, customer engagement and advocacy programs; or by enabling the sales team; not just filling the pipeline, but working with sales to build and nurture relationships throughout the end-to-end buying process

Effective executor:  improves the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing by architecting the marketing organization to best access and leverage talent globally; using data and predictive analytics to make marketing more effective and prove business impact

Most companies will find elements of all three in their transformation. However, for each of the companies that contributed to our research, we saw that one of these three roles tended to dominate. The reason?  Well, any marketing executive leading his or her organization on this journey will tell you, “Transformation is challenging.” It is very difficult to tackle all three roles at once.

Six Charateristics of a Transformed Marketing Organizaton


So where should you start? What should be prioritized? The answer, of course, will depend on your particular situation.  Every company’s journey will be different. But we at ITSMA think we have come up with a pretty good definition of a transformed marketing organization—that is, until it changes.

What do you think? What would you add to the definition? Where are you headed on this journey?


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