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  • Writer's pictureMary Nice

The Power of a Documented Marketing Transformation Roadmap

Navigate Change with Vision


Last month, the CMO of Starbucks took a new position as the CEO of Starbucks International. Rather than refilling the now-empty CMO role, they demoted it to a global brand creative leader, leaving the head marketing role outside of their C-suite. 

This is not an isolated incident; giants like Johnson & Johnson, Uber, UPS, and Etsy have also removed their CMO positions, signaling a significant departure from traditional marketing leadership structures.

This evolution transcends mere title changes; it marks a fundamental reevaluation of marketing's strategic seat at the table.

In some cases, this shift broadens marketing’s scope to embrace a more holistic approach to customer engagement, digital transformation, and long-term strategic planning. The expansion of responsibilities is a testament to the evolving nature of marketing, reflecting the opportunity to drive business strategy and foster sustainable growth.

In other cases, it’s not so rosy. As businesses increasingly confront integrated initiatives that push departmental boundaries, the discipline finds itself at a crossroads. A striking 55% of business leaders view marketing's role in cross-functional initiatives as overestimated, per Gartner CMO Leadership Vision Report

This perception isn't just a critique; it's a call for marketing to critically evaluate its strategic contribution and realign its value proposition. The need for marketers to adapt and evolve has never been clearer. 

As eMarketer recently highlighted, "Today’s top marketers need to blend traditional knowledge with broader business acumen and digital expertise, reflecting the evolving nature of the role."

Redefine Marketing's Value and Chart the Marketing Transformation Ahead

As marketers, we feel the urgency – the increasing (albeit fair) pressure to deliver tangible results amid complex realities that include the proliferation of digital tools, the consumer expectation for real-time personalization, and heightened data privacy regulations.

If you feel it, you’re not alone. This urgency is echoed in the 2023 CMO Spend and Strategy Survey from Gartner, where a significant majority of marketing leaders (86%) acknowledge the need for profound organizational changes to drive profitable growth. But 75% agree that the marketing org faces pressure to do more with less to drive profitable growth immediately. 

In the rush to address value questions, many organizations end up in a reactive approach where finding immediate efficiency is the name of the game where marketing leadership is consistently shifting their teams focus, prioritization and purview to try to find it. That creates a slew of issues, namely, that the impact of efforts is not accurately considered or measured. The true challenge lies not in quick fixes and organizational band-aids, but in embracing a transformative vision for marketing's future role and impact.

It’s critical to redefine marketing’s value to the organization at large, but perhaps more importantly, first to to demonstrate the purpose and value within the marketing organization itself. Teams are feeling the churn and burn:

To move from quick fixes to enduring growth, teams need a well-crafted roadmap that redefines marketing's value and connection to the business bottom-line, its alignment to overarching business strategies, and the priorities ahead. Here are the essential elements of such a plan:

Move From Quick Fixes to Enduring Growth

As marketing leaders are moving quickly, putting out fires, trying to capture next-gen approaches, and enabling the team to do good work, the last thing they often want to do is pause. But that can often be the simplest, most concise, highest impact option.

Pause to think, reframe the vision, rewrite and simplify the marketing priorities, and translate those priorities into a thorough transformation roadmap.  A unified approach connects overarching business strategies to team momentum, and shifts from reactive projects to strategic, long-term initiatives.

Roadmap Essentials:

  1. Role in Achieving Business Strategy: This element is foundational. It’s about delineating how marketing initiatives directly contribute to the company's overarching success. By drawing clear pathways, we underscore marketing's pivotal role in driving business strategy, ensuring that every marketing effort is tightly aligned with the company’s goals.

  2. Position to Deepen Audience Engagement: In a world where customer expectations are ever-evolving (and increasing), marketing’s role in understanding and enhancing the audience experience becomes crucial. This involves leveraging insights to forge stronger, more meaningful connections and ensuring that every interaction ties back to delivering customer value.

  3. Critical Projects for Strategic Focus: Identifying and prioritizing projects that are essential for achieving strategic marketing goals allows the focus on efforts where they can have the greatest impact. This strategic focus ensures that resources are allocated to initiatives that drive forward the business’s strategic objectives.

  4. Minimal Viable Strategy: Adaptability is key in a rapidly changing market. A streamlined, flexible marketing roadmap that can respond to market feedback and changes ensures that the marketing department remains agile and effective, even when facing unforeseen challenges.

  5. Clear Roles and Streamlined Resources: Efficiency and clarity of roles are crucial in a complex digital landscape. This optimization ensures that every dollar spent contributes to a cohesive strategy that addresses the fragmented media and consumer landscape.

  6. Approach to Prove and Improve Marketing’s ROI: A systematic approach to measuring and refining marketing efforts, using data-driven insights maximizes ROI and demonstrates marketing’s strategic contribution to the organization.

By integrating these elements into our strategic roadmap, we move beyond addressing immediate challenges to laying the foundation for sustained growth and strategic impact. This approach not only addresses the complexities of modern marketing but also positions the marketing team as a central driver of business success.

In their report on the top 3 strategic priorities for the CMO in 2024, Gartner echoed this sentiment with the following model:

Gartne's model of what a CMO must do to recast marketing's value

By documenting this need, we pave the way for a realized future where marketing is not just a department, but a core driver of business strategy and success.

Lay the Groundwork: Introduce Your Team to the Transformation Journey Ahead

The key to mobilizing your team and harnessing their collective strength lies in effectively communicating your vision for what's ahead and engaging their collective wisdom and expertise. 

By sharing a clear, compelling vision of the future, you invite your team into the journey, fostering a sense of ownership and collaboration that is crucial for navigating the transformation together. Involving your team in the roadmap development process not only fosters a sense of ownership and commitment but also ensures that the resulting plan reflects diverse perspectives and insights.

Critical questions to answer (in writing) to kickoff this process with your team:

  • What is the role of marketing in the organization? (and how that has or has not shifted over time)

  • Why is a marketing transformation needed now? 

  • How will the organization benefit?

  • What is marketing’s role in achieving business strategy?

  • What components of the roadmap do we need to collectively figure out?

  • What critical projects for transformation facilitate us to realize marketing’s success?

  • What can we take off the roadmap to produce a minimal viable plan?

  • Does every single person in marketing have a clear role and responsibilities?

  • How will we prove and improve marketing’s ROI?

  • What will the approach be in creating the roadmap?

  • What can your team expect in their day-to-day roles? 

  • How often will you be providing updates?

Themes to Convey:

  • Define a Future-Focused Marketing Vision and Explain Why Now: Clearly articulate where marketing is headed over the next 3-5 years, emphasizing how this vision aligns with overarching business objectives. This includes a renewed understanding of the marketing function's role within the organization and its evolution, demonstrating how marketing initiatives must directly contribute to achieving broader goals. 

  • Embrace Evolution Through Incremental Innovation: The path to transformation is not marked by a single, monumental change, but rather through a series of iterative initiatives. By adopting a mindset focused on the minimal viable plan and embracing cycles of learning and adaptation, you take away the expectation of perfection. This approach invites your team to refine the strategies over time, learning from each step and evolving in a way that is both sustainable and impactful. It’s a journey of ongoing enhancement, where each initiative builds upon the last, guiding to long-term vision.

  • The Need to Uplift Strategic Thinking: At the core of today’s marketing transformation sits the need to continuously uplift strategic thinking. Commit to elevating the strategic thinking within the team, expanding skill sets to match the demands of a rapidly changing marketing landscape. This includes investing in training, mentoring, and development opportunities that align with the future vision of marketing.

  • Be Candid (and Ask for It in Return): It's essential to be candid about what this process will entail and what it won’t, setting realistic expectations from the outset. Avoid making promises you can't keep; instead, foster a culture of transparency and trust by openly discussing the challenges and opportunities ahead. Often to begin the transformation process, you must conduct a gap analysis in certain areas. Set the stage for your team on the need to be open and transparent. These are critical moments where team members can begin to feel at risk. Encourage your team to speak up candidly about critical gaps in capabilities, technologies, and processes. 

Be the Visionary for Marketing's Strategic Future

The evolution of marketing's role in today's business landscape demands a proactive approach to redefine its value and chart a course towards enduring growth. By acknowledging the shifting dynamics and challenges faced by marketing teams, organizations can leverage strategic initiatives to secure marketing’s place as a core driver of business strategy and success.

This journey must begin with laying the groundwork through transparent communication and active engagement with the team, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment that is vital for navigating the transformation together. 

Stay tuned for the next chapter of this planning journey, where we delve into what to avoid and shed in your transformation process.

What is your biggest obstacle in driving marketing transformation

  • Unclear vision

  • Lack of time to focus on the transformation

  • Team's resistance to change

  • Lack of budget/resources to implement transformation vision


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