Adele Sweetwood has been on the frontlines of transforming marketing from a group that reacts to product launches to a revenue engine that anticipates customer needs. As senior VP, global marketing at SAS, Sweetwood led an overhaul of the software company’s marketing structure and put all the lessons learned into a new book, The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization (Harvard Business Review, 2016).
In an interview on the sidelines of the National Retail Federation’s annual show, she spoke about how to create a nimble creative organization that’s also driven by data.
Velocitize: What led you to write The Analytical Marketer?
Adele Sweetwood: As we were going through a lot of those changs — we were implementing different analytical techniques,
cultural design efforts, structural changes — we were also doing a lot of work with Tom Davenport, who’s the author of Competing on Analytics (Harvard Business Review 2006). Tom kept pushing me, saying “You guys should share this, write this down.”
I also saw it an as opportunity to give a voice to the people doing all the heavy lifting and all the work. It’s very important to me that the practitioners across the organization had a vehicle to talk about what was working, what’s not working — sharing best practices, sharing examples.
So what is the new Go To Market strategy that you write about in the book?
The framework was based on two components: marketing shared services and go-to-market infrastructure.
Most marketing organizations over the course of the last five years have built departments in marketing based on channels or based on a particular approach, and created more silos than anything else. The marketing shared services model matches go-to-market efforts, and the way we structured and designed it allows for those silos to converge.
The shared services are a set of functional categories where you have some level of expertise — so you are going to have a marketing scientist, you are going to have a digital marketer — but they are in alignment with go-to-market field teams and everything is designed by an orchestrator-type role that lives in the go-to-market (model) and then reaches in the shared services model to build up the expertise. So your multichannel strategies — for how you take a message to market, whom do you target and how — are more cohesive.
So how do marketing leaders reform organizations to make them more nimble and flexible?
It is an exercise in change management for a long time, and it doesn’t really stop. The experience we had basically had four components.
Once we were able to identify where we want to be and what we want to do differently as a marketing organization, then you start with changing the cultural components, the mindset. Several years ago, we were a traditional marketing organization that was much more reactive: We have this thing we’re trying to sell, here’s the audience and a lot of push marketing and reacting, trying to drive a certain activity. (We were) shifting that to being more customer-focused and more behavioral-driven.
Once you take that determination, you have to take what had been traditional marketers and change their perspective from a cultural mindset — make them more proactive in their thinking, less reactive — and make them more analytical in their thinking, building out an analytical function to a degree. Our objective at that point was: I want analytics, data and information on the desktop of every marketer all the time, every day, all day. We need to get away from this “I need a report on how that campaign did and let me go ask some other group to do it.”
That means you have to think about people. Technology is going to be there, but how do you get the people to adopt it and be comfortable with it? So a lot of training, a lot of adoption strategies, such as competency centers and shadowing.
We went from the changing of the culture to the strategy: Are there job families that we don’t have that we need? We built out stronger digital families. We had content marketing functions added. We added segmentation analytics. We changed our structure to map those particular functions and where those intersect.
Then we looked at the talent and where are the gaps. Where can you upskill and where do you have to bring in new skills?
And finally at a leadership level, I’m a big proponent that the leaders have to adopt and use in the same way that the marketers do. There has to be a cohesiveness and consistency in how we do it.
Part of the infrastructure that I built with my leadership team was basically a guiding coalition of analytical marketers who helped bring the organization along. Each year we have different sets of objectives that we’re trying to meet, and introduce new concepts that you’re constantly feeding and nurturing.
How important is that toolbox that’s open to everyone, so they can adopt it to their needs?
Our perspective is that information needs to be accessible to all the people that need it to make their decisions. Different types of marketers need different types of information, so the technology is there. That information needs to be available to them to see what is working and not working; so they can shift investment, change strategies if they need to.
At the highest level, a marketer needs to know information every day. That to me is open information. The complexity of how models are built or some of the more sophisticated techniques may be more specialized. Everybody is not going to do modeling and scoring, but I still believe you have to have that analytical mindset to ask the questions.
The days are gone where we pushed a campaign out there and waited a few weeks for it to produce something. It just doesn’t work that way anymore.
What’s your profile of a modern marketer?
One of the things we put in the book was all of our job descriptions. Again, you can’t find that, so I was hoping other people will start sharing that. Clearly, some of the first things you’re looking towards, regardless of what role you’re in is having a very strong comfort zone with all the digital and social components.
The other pieces we tend to look for is people who have an aptitute for understanding analytics, for being able to take data and information, run some basic analytical techniques around it and then build out a story based on that. I look for people who are almost like marketing architects in the context of process and design because you’re designing more for a proactive approach.
What stage of the transformation are you at now?
I don’t think it’s ever over. In some parts of it, we’re 80-90 percent there. In some other parts, we’re 50 percent there. We added some new elements of globalization this year, which disrupted things again. We want to advance techniques, which is disruptive again. There’s always the next form; but I think today, we would describe ourselves as an analytical marketing organization.