Just recently, I met a marketing manager friend who told me that a large international company was just now beginning to set up new structures and processes to break up silos. Their goal is to better coordinate communication and project work and avoid redundancies and resource shortages.
I was a bit surprised that the company was only just now getting started, since the agile way of working was developed more than 25 years ago for software development. But, OK, better late than never.
I began to wonder what the changes would mean for all those who stayed inside their comfort zones. They built up a network there, and they accumulated knowledge and experience in the belief that they would still be able to apply it in the years to come.
Today, in many areas, business skills are seen to be more important than long-tended sets of knowledge. Many companies train their employees on new technologies and processes but fail to enable them with social and soft skills – the very things that are needed to work in agile and lean ways and to break up silos.
For years, I’ve been concerned with this point of friction, and some time ago I started to share some reflections on it in some of my articles. If you want to keep up in today’s business world, boost innovation, and support the development of the business, individuals need to begin by analyzing themselves
Professionals can gain the skills needed to become more comfortable in an environment that constantly changes with coaching and training. But, of course, there’s the risk that new approaches aren’t adopted, which leads to frustration. How nice it would be if you had someone on site to show you and others the way to work across the boundaries of silos in new agile teams.
For me, that person would have many skills of a scrum master, who is guiding a cross-functional team to stay focused and follow the pre-identified sprint goals, but that’s not enough. Scrum masters mostly deal with current projects and necessities while being less concerned with the long-lasting processes and methods needed in an agile and lean environment. Anti-Silo Officers should be part of management, live lean management philosophies, encouraging and enabling others to share knowledge, open siloed teams and structures to work collaboratively in cross-functional teams, help others to understand stakeholders’ and business needs and set up and enable agile processes.
Therefore, my question: Why haven’t there already Chief Anti-Silo Officers been established in every company?
I'm sure you've heard or read the saying "I'm not here. When I get back before my return, please tell me to wait for me." It's usually printed on colorful, funny postcards, which you like to give or show to someone in case you don't want to be disturbed.
So this simple saying directly represents a "note of absence" - what a name for short, concentrated snippet. Also known as Out-of-Office Message - at least here the abbreviation is simpler (OoO).
But is the absence note really as trivial as it sometimes sounds? For me the creation of such a note is rather highly complex. After all, you want to briefly tell someone that you're unavailable at the moment, that you can't reply to the matter, but that you will take care of it upon your return, and that you can possibly give a contact who might be able to take care of it immediately. If you now refer good email marketing practice, your hair will stand on end. At least 3 important information, if not even 4 should be accommodated in a 2-line. And even are, see the following samples:
Why are such small snippets treated so criminally? Probably because they are not seen as part of the overall marketing mix and strategy. Every communication should be attractive, active, friendly, binding and based on the company codex. In some of the following examples, however, one could question which company the sender belongs to. Or worse, which image the company aims to transport internally and externally - if taken the criteria mentioned above.
Are those copies appealing to you? Sure some samples make me smile - but not really laughing. It's rather a shame that these snippets receives so little attention from the sender and that the recipient has to read them. If I will got such an email without having contacted the sender before, I mark it as spam. Enough nagging - what can you do?
The following ideas are mainly addressing German out of office messages. However, if those might also be relevant for English OoO, maybe even partially - fine with me.
First of all, it is important to define exactly what the main message is - probably that the customer's request cannot be replied to immediately (believe me - it's not about you being out of the office). Is there an interim solution except that the mail is not forwarded.
So it could be something like this:
Good day to you and thank you very much for your message.
I am not in the office at the moment, but I will answer your request as soon as I return.
Wishing you a good time.
Hello and thank you very much for your message.
I am currently not in the office, but will answer your request immediately after my return (*possibly with the note: at DD.MM.YY). If your matter is urgent, please contact XYZ (email).
Thank you very much for your understanding.
Thank you very much for your message.
Too bad you can't get hold of me. I will be happy to answer your questions after my return. If your matter is urgent, please contact XYZ (Email).
I am looking forward to your email.
With best regards
*Consider carefully whether you want to include personal data in the absence note. This may violate the DSVO or at least company guidelines. In addition, is it adding value to tell that you are still on holiday or business trip for 2 days?
Maybe you are someone who takes several short vacation instead of a long one, the question can pop-up, how much vacation you have. Or how often you are on business trip instead of being in the office and why you don't check your email remotely.
Is the out of office note really business critical? Probably not directly, but subconsciously it contributes to the corporate image. Besides, why shouldn't this communication being friendly and polite, or even funny.
Due to it’s complexity of both content marketing and content development, all the different aspects of this strategic marketing tool need to be addressed separately. Content marketing is much more than content development – it’s rather one step forward in digital marketing.
Content marketing helps you to pitch your products to your customers. So, you’re asking now „What’s new“? as you are doing exactly that for years.
Content marketing ist the strategic content planning and it’s development. Content Development must follow this content marketing strategy.
For content marketing you need to change approach and perspectives. Content is spread across different online and offline channels all along the daily life of your clients. And this requires new rules to follow. Language, content length need to be adapted to each of the single channels. A good sample here is Twitter – you only have max. 145 characters to share your message and to influence whether users will read further.
Further more content marketing is a strategic marketing tool that supports sales and the overall corporate goals. It is required to target the content by also transferring the company philosophy. In general it’s all about authentic stories around your products throughout the entire campaign life-cycle.
Content Marketing focus on information about the product and the company rather than on the product itself, see also this definition from Content Marketing Institute.
Content marketing must become a standard part of your marketing strategy to eventually support the overall business development. Each of your new content marketing campaigns need to be based on a strategic content development.
Starting with a clear definition of your target audience and KPIs per conversions, followed by the definition of appropriate keywords for SEO as well as targeted and product related channels. Very important is your knowledge about the market – who are your competitors and how do they talk to your customers?
After all this preparation you can start your content development appropriate. However these generic questions are base for each your pre-defined channels:
There are different options to create your content marketing strategy and the following content. However each of these following 2 templates can make your planning much easier:
Your customers will only accept your content marketing when it’s authentic, reliable and adding value.
See here some best practices:
German: Content Marketing Institute
Keep in mind for your planning and strategic content development: remain flexible and always measure your success. This will ensure that you can adopt your content ad-hoc and real-time to any changed customer or market behaviour. Only than your content marketing strategy will support the company goals at a long-term.
How far is your content marketing? Is your content development already strategically integrated in your corporate marketing plan?
I published my first blog article about agile marketing already in 2016 – interestingly, I can see that it’s still relevant today. So, just thought to share this baseline again. This shows that companies are still on the transformation journey, and must learn to fully integrate marketing.
In today’s marketing world, customers are running the market. By their assessments which are pro-actively shared through social media, they dictate the value-chain-rules quite often through their likes/shares/comments for e.g. the point-of-sale or salesmen.
More than ever it’s important to generate new customers, retain them and even more to collaborate with them. Viral marketing has become a powerful communication tool, dictated by your customers, business partners as well as prospects.
Quite often it’s still usual practice to create one static marketing plan to be implemented throughout the year. Those plans carved in stone were essential in the analog world to produce materials and execute programs. However in today’s digital world the modern marketing plan must be flexible and adaptable – in other words agile.
Quite often those static marketing plans lead into ad-hoc silo activities, e.g. eBook PDFs must be shared online, un-planned events must be organized to support spontaneous sales activities or short-term produced image videos are needed for a long-term scheduled exhibition. And at the very end everyone expects clear results and sales or recruiting leads out of those separately conducted actions. For sure – those activities will never be successful due to missing integration into the corporate strategy and synchronized execution.
As consequence of Marketing 4.0. an agile marketing strategy with new marketing role models are required to achieve company and sales goals. Instead of pre-defined tactics, clear channels must be predetermined.
In essence an agile marketing team needs heterogeneous experts. The strategic all-rounder to translate the corporate goals into communication channels and specialists who lives and execute the new channels.
In reality many marketing all-rounders have been asked to also take responsibility for digital marketing communications. Some other companies have hired young digital specialists with less corporate experience. While generalists know the new communication channels by name but less their chances, strengths and threats, the digital specialists live the social media channels with less understanding for integrated marketing and sales strategy. And on top sales representatives show up with their own goals and perspectives. No wonder that communication and planning is much more hindered than necessary.
What happens when all-rounders take over special tasks, specialists are only partly involved in projects and sales is requiring innovation? Do all these 3 teams speak the same language? Is marketing talking the same language than the customers or the market? Is every employee aware of the corporate goals?
What does it mean: eBook? How to read a digital RFP and how to reply? Should we also offer XYZ just because competition is doing so? How to measure success?
What’s relevant: touch-points or conversion? What is SEO and when is it to integrate?
These sample questions only highlight the complexity of the marketing plan in the 21th century. Translation from analog understanding to digital language is essential for Marketing 4.0. This must cover sales goals, marketing messages, combined online with offline activities, new analytics models, etc. And in essence must be aligned to the overall company business goals and model.
Marketing, sales, recruiting, technology, people belong together. All happen every day in every area of life. At the end of the day it’s all about selling products and increase loyalty between supplier and customer, or for recruiting purposes between employer and potential talent.
This can only be achieved by a holistic, agile marketing strategy, appropriate execution as well as close communication with customers. In Marketing 4.0. most success can be immediately measured at least for digital channels and events while branding and thought leadership will pay into the short-term benchmarks.
To distinguish from others, every company – independent if small, medium or large business – should translate marketing strategy into it’s individual goals and benefits.
In old business-models, it might be still confusing when marketing talks about transformation. For a successful business 4.0. model it’s essential to involve marketing in every transformation step and further ahead enable the organization to support marketing transformation.
Always starting with the question: what comes first: the hen or the egg? Customer or product? Marketing or sales? Revenue or employees? Most discussions are mainly focusing the changed customer scope, customer journey and revenue sources.
Interaction of the 6 most critical divisions determine success or failure of your transformation:
Following sample questions might help to determine expected transformation results.
Your marketing journey starts with a strategy. Silos must be busted, inter-divisional goals and processes have to be defined.
Your marketing journey starts with a strategy. Silos must be busted, inter-divisional goals and processes have to be defined.
Organizations that are open for change and willing to integrate transformed marketing can provide innovations and hence differences to the market. Marketing 4.0. is more than traditional functions, it’s rather driving new processes, perspectives and directions.
Let’s start with your corporate homepage which should be the repository where your customers can find everything around your services, philosophy, etc.
Almost all companies – if small or large business – are present online. Do the websites follow the last market requirements? Is online marketing a part of the overall cross-channel marketingplan?
It is strongly recommended to review and evaluate a company website twice the year: are there any outdated data? Have all comments been replied, captured? Do you need to adapt the site structure to latest markets trends? Are all your latest and greatest services online?
Generally spoken it’s all about content that attracts the target audience and represents the corporate position. Following some sample questions that will help you to launch a long-lasting but flexible website:
All these questions will help you to establish a long-term, stable website while being enabled to react immediately on market changes. Ideally these questions have already been answered by your company strategy and corporate communication plan.
It is essential to define clear goals as those will have impact on your website content, structure and layout. E.g. if you are looking for awareness you might want to start with a smaller website introducing your company, the corporate philosophy, the differentiator, etc.
While when you are already focusing on direct sales opportunities you need to focus on contact forms, product descriptions etc.
A thought leadership site will be strong with external statements, guest blog articles, etc.
Interaction and discussion are strong viral marketing tools to be industrialized through Social Media.
Social Media must be part of every cross-channel marketing plan. The kind of social media you’re going to use must be defined by your online business objectives. E.g. Instagram and Pinterest can be efficient channels for target audiences around the age of 18-24. LinkedIn, Xing, Twitter are for professional topics such as product news etc. You also might want to think about LinkedIn and Twitter if you are targeting an international customer audience.
Your online language is following your corporate language but also your target audiences’ wording. Both must match but be also authentic.
To find the right language you need to prepare and develop a holistic content strategy. Stay tuned for another blog post only around this topic.
Every offline activity must link to your online presence to provide further information, to enable interactions, etc. Your strategy defines if sales should be completed either online or offline.
When I started with internet marketing in 1995, everything was brand new. Companies started to think about the internet but more from a technology developers perspective than for marketing or sales. The company I was working for at that time already noticed the impact of that new media. As one of the first I rolled-out an on-site internet café for their employees, management, clients and journalists. I trained all these different groups on how to use the internet and to read its’ specialities. After a while the internet became more popular, especially by individuals who took the advantage of the easy way to create a personal homepage and get virtually connected with others. Companies started their own web presences but the pace they followed was dependent on their home country. Approximately 5 years ago the meaning of digital marketing changed from an ad-hoc silo channel to an integrated part of the standard marketing plan.
Today online and offline marketing is connected as one and therefore has become much more complex than in the past. Read my blog “New marketing world” to see what that means for today’s marketing experts.
Even those companies with a prominent web and market presence lack in holistic cross-channel marketing. See IKEA as sample who just promoted their new digital family card. Customers received that announcement via email with a call-to-action to click on an embedded link to visit the registration page. On that page they are asked to open a specific URL via their smartphone to finally get the digital card on their smartphone.
It’s pretty reasonable that with this extra step, quite a lot customers might not finish that process or at least need to spend more time on it than necessary. The general idea of digitizing the card is great and follows the current trend of transformation. However, customer experience could have been optimized. In this case IKEA could have embedded the call-to-action directly in the email. IKEA could have won the first price if they would have embedded a QR code in that same email so that customers could have opened the registration landing page directly on the appropriate mobile device.
What do you think about cross-channel marketing? Is your online presence already connected to your company goals and marketing strategies? Do you already live cross-channel or does that practical example sound familiar to you?
Share your experiences. I’m looking forward to your feedback.