Why CMOs Need to use Web Services to Stay Innovative

This month, Amazon was named as the fastest growing web service on the planet. It’s not much of a surprise really. It’s set the benchmark for scaling your business without the rigmarole and expense of building a reliable infrastructure yourself. You get a lot of bang for your buck.

Of course the model works because you can use it to incubate new ideas at very little cost to you, and change the capacity as your needs fluctuate. Brands that were just an idea on a paper serviette have become multi-nationals overnight thanks to the flexibility web services bring. JustEat and Zoopla being two brands that spring to mind.

What’s interesting about those brands, aside from the fact they have completely disrupted a market, is that they are not traditional Silicon Valley darlings. JustEat is Danish, Zoopla is British. They debunk the myth that you must be rooted in California to succeed.

The other thing they have in common is that they have done something that every brand should do, new or old: they’ve innovated. They have taken advantage of technology. And while technology may be at the heart of how they do things it’s not what they do. They are a take away service and an estate agent. In short, technology is fundamental to their existence but it’s not why they exist.

There’s a lesson there for lots of business, and many a boardroom is well aware of it. However, what they struggle with is how to apply the lesson to their own business. How can they be agile, innovate and change a market when they are the status quo?

It’s an urgent puzzle to solve – look at Toys ‘R’ Us. It was the golden child of retailing 25 years ago, now it is filing for bankruptcy. There are of course lots of reasons circulating as to why this happened, but one of the most interesting came from a retail analyst who said it has struggled to keep up with technology, not just buying habits.

That sums up the day job for many CMOs, lots of ideas in the hopper yet limited resource to execute them. They are too busy getting the ‘must do’ campaigns, out of the door. No time to think about ones that will separate them from the competition, nor how they will embed a process that’s makes devising such campaigns business as usual.

The pace of change in the industry, especially technological, also makes it very difficult to work out where to place your bets. Should you sell through Facebook? Is WhatsApp an advertising channel that should be exploited? What about augmented reality? The list goes on and that’s before you’ve even thought about how you will measure a channel’s performance.

[easy-tweet tweet=”CMOs must find the time, money and skills to move their marketing beyond the ‘me too’ marketing campaigns” hashtags=”Marketing, CMO”]

But given the intrinsic link between customer engagement and sales performance something has to change. CMOs must find the time, money and skills to move their marketing beyond the ‘me too’ marketing campaigns that all their competitors deliver, and instead trial new ideas and take to market extraordinary innovative ones more often.

I think the answer lies in shaking up how we organise skill and use web services. I’ll explain.

Organisational structures haven’t really changed. We still very much rely on a system of managers making decisions with a team of reports who make a plan happen. What has changed, is how much we expect people to do and how fast we expect them to do it.

This isn’t a model for innovation, or certainly not a sustainable one, largely due to skill, time and money.

Often the people involved aren’t the best equipped in terms of skill to deliver the job. For instance they might be brilliant at identifying who to target with an Instagram campaign, yet lack the technical know how as to how to design and run a campaign. And why should they if it’s not a core part of the business?

They also lack the time to do the day job, let alone devise ways to exploit shiny new marketing techniques. And then there’s often the lack of funds to do it.

Marketing teams have therefore looked outside of the company to help close this gap.

It’s a model that has worked and great collaborations have materialised. That said, there is still only a finite pot of money to give agencies and, speaking to CMOs, ideas often fall short of the ambition.

The ‘wow’ campaigns are either far and few between or bumped in favour of what they’ve always done. It seems that nine times out of ten there’s a trade off – invest in testing new ideas yet risk failure, or go with the familiar and have guaranteed results.

There is however a half way house that could solve the problem. Enter the hybrid model.

It might feel radical for HR departments but it’s one that works. Instead of binding the marketing department to a fixed structure, hybrid models allow you to have a central group of experts who run the day to day and a flexible set of dedicated contractors who take on the role of incubator.

They are experts in their field with the knowledge and experience to deliver innovative project quickly and to a very high standard as and when its needed.

In essence the company creates a gig culture employing people who aren’t tied to the desk full time but make themselves available for projects for a specific period of time. For instance they might work on a Christmas campaign during May, June and July knowing they can take the summer off to be with their family.

It’s a brilliant way to plan ahead, incubate ideas with experts, knowing that the campaign will make it to market and the investment will deliver an ROI. Plus the spinning plates of the day-to-day don’t fall.

When it becomes really powerful is when you couple this skill with the plethora of web services companies, especially those dedicated to customer management. These specialists are driven by innovation, taking new technology and exciting new content creation models to make the ordinary extraordinary.

They make it their business to ensure the new works with the old, and they don’t require massive IT projects to do it. They can spot opportunities and convert them quicker than you can say business transformation.

What’s interesting is that lots of companies are already doing this out of necessity rather than because a strategic decision has been taken to run operations this way. If they actually formalised the approach, and made the change permanent, they could very quickly find they have a powerful strategy for delivering campaigns that get the customer and the competition talking.

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