The topic of how to organize a B2B marketing organization is a long one, but my belief is that the old functional structure is long dead. Future posts will walk through this in greater detail by looking at the key metrics a marketing team needs to drive and comparing those metrics against the required organization to drive the numbers. But for today, HBS Review brings us an article titled “Hierarchy is Overrated“. Read the article, then reflect on how this relates to marketing.
My opinion is that a flat organization is critical to B2B marketers where fast decision making is important. Why? The prospects and customers for a company are evaluating products nearly 24 x 7 through websites, social media, comment boards and video sites among others. Key influencers are doing the same at a more amplified volume. So while the company’s sales team may be having a fixed number of daily touches with prospects, the online interactions are most likely an order of magnitude or more in both magnitude and frequency.
Companies can no longer control the “editorial calendar” or have the ability to only carefully construct and launch “campaigns.” The concept of a campaign is not lost, but the importance of these set piece events is being overtaken by the real time ongoing campaign for customers. To respond and operate in this real time environment, marketing has to be able to move quickly and respond daily, hourly and sometimes immediately to stay current in the real time campaign. Only by doing this can they impact the traffic numbers that are required to go constantly go up to increase lead production and revenue for the company.
Hierarchical organizations with their semi-annual planning cycles, quarterly reviews, and constant need to collaborate, facilitate, and coordinate among all the functional groups can’t move fast enough or effectively enough in this type of environment. Senior leadership doesn’t even posses the knowledge to make real time decisions responding to tweets, blog postings, comments or other digital broadcasts that impact a company’s brand strength. But this is more than a “social” phenomena. The discussions that occur online should impact product direction, sales strategy, competitive responses, and demand generation. To move at this real time speed and survive in this stream of discussions, decision making must be distributed and pushed down to the lowest levels of the organization. The ability to distribute this decision making only happens when there are few layers between the CMO and the front line performers doing the work.
Running a flat marketing organization has all kinds of individual impacts on career progression, compensation, and job titles. Running a real time team means mistakes will be made, but also that successes will be even greater. The company’s marketing beta, to borrow a stock market term, goes from 1 to higher number. But the speed of today’s B2B marketing requires this type of rapid decision making. This is a rich topic that we will revisit many times in the future as we look closer at operating metrics. In the meantime, enjoy the HBS article.