The marketing organization of the future will be very different from the current structure and culture. The classic model, in which a marketer entrusts a single advertising agency with all communications, is outdated. Let’s examine why.

Consumers will become more demanding in the future. Within a few short years, the technical possibilities within every consumer’s reach will be astounding heightening expectations towards companies and consumer intolerance for bad products and service. Also, the desire to come into contact with a brand will rest entirely with the consumer since technology will make it increasingly easy for consumers to shield themselves from commercial messages. Even with social media too, consumers only wish to be linked with a limited number of brands.

As a result, companies will have to invest heavily in three dimensions in the years to come:

Extreme customer-centricity: Customers will no longer be satisfied with an average treatment. Those companies with a policy of extreme customer-centricity will be the most successful.

Technology: Marketing and technology will be two sides of the same coin. IT budgets will continue to shift toward marketing. For marketing departments all over the world, data and technological know-how will be prerequisites to success.

Selling without selling: Convince customers through expertise instead of commercial messages. Win them over by bringing added value to their lives.

These three dimensions are examined in greater depth in this new presentation ‘Marketing 2020’.

Get Ready For Marketing 2020 from Stephen van Belleghem

The Marketing organization of the future

However, making this new philosophy a success requires a new marketing organization. Without this organization it is impossible to succeed in each of these three areas. The new organization must consist of three elements:

Conversational leadership: This aspect requires a leader with an understanding of and commitment to the new context, ideally someone actively involved in the conversational world. The management of the corporate ‘why’ will be even more crucial.

Agile: Flexibility is key to success. The efficiency of a marketing organization can no longer be determined by its own talent or limitations. The need for flexibility will cause downsizing of marketing departments and boost the marketing services industry.

Discipline: Discipline is more than ever indispensable, both to keep content flowing and to consolidate the company’s long-term vision.

The need for conversational leadership

First of all, there is a need for a new brand of leadership. The new leader’s main objective is managing the ‘why’. Primarily, he manages the company’s reason for being as well as its long-term vision. In addition, there are three aspects that characterize the conversational leader:

Empathy: the new leader is a good listener. He is available both for staff and customers. His job is to provide support and counsel wherever possible.

Connecting: the conversational leader is a bridge builder; he connects people. He believes in the power of networks and helping other people, even when there’s no short-term gain involved.

Decisive: the conversational leader is capable of making decisions and executing his vision. It’s not just about listening; in the end it’s also about taking action.

Agile in action and thought

Agile means many things. Internal organizations must show a certain degree of flexibility if they are to achieve our external goals. This implies a new structure for marketing organizations. Until recently, everything was organized in-house. While this creates stability, it also results in rigidity. At a certain point, your people’s competencies are no longer in line with the company’s or consumer’s needs.

The marketing organization of the future will make increasing use of flexible experts. The core strategy and a limited number of projects are managed from inside the company. Everything else involves specialized skills hired in accordance with the company’s immediate needs. Partners are selected based on concrete ambitions.

In addition, we must also start to question budget mechanisms. Most companies still use annual budgets but in reality too much changes in a 12 months’ period. My first book, ‘The Conversation Manager’, makes a case for a flexible budget of 20%. I am now convinced this is not enough: companies must strive to make their entire budget flexible. The fixed expenses are integrated in the annual expenses. All extras are allotted through a project-based approach. The required budget is only earmarked for projects that appear profitable or relevant. Apart from keeping you sharp, this approach also gives a company the flexibility required to tap into current trends.

In short, we marketing organizations need a new philosophy: fire bullets before you fire grenades. Try new ideas on a small scale. If they catch on you can always increase your investment. If they don’t, you simply end your investment. Once a new approach has proven its potential you can invest further. Getting this balance right is no simple task, but it’s absolutely essential given how sophisticated today’s customer has become. Here’s a quick look at what today’s marketer can expect from tomorrow’s customers.

What are your views on marketing organization in 2020? Which aspects are key to success?

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