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It’s Time to Rethink Marketing

  • Written by Kevin Bobowski, Act-On Software
  • Published in Demanding Views

1actonkevinbFor years, it was demand generation that drove us — delivering marketers the leads, conversions and opportunities that won us praise from our superiors, that nudged our top line forward. A high-risk, high-reward vehicle that powered our businesses and proved our worth. But perhaps somewhere along the way, we strayed. Maybe the technologies that rose up around us to support our efforts (digital marketing more broadly) made us complacent; maybe we leaned on demand generation too heavily, figuring it would carry the day.

We marketers have seen our discipline change tremendously in recent decades, as we’ve edged gradually away from the “Mad Men” ways of old (favoring air cover and broad-based branding) toward a decidedly more targeted, data-driven approach (thanks in no small part to the advent of digital marketing). Here at Act-On, we wanted to know just where the pendulum had come to rest, which is why we commissioned our Rethink Marketing report, surveying 250 senior-level marketers to find out: First, was demand gen still marketing’s golden child — and given the lion’s share of resources accordingly? Second, was demand gen most responsible for marketing results?

There were three marketing functions we examined:

  • Brand marketing, the Attract stage of the customer lifecycle (public, press, analyst relations);
  • Demand marketing, the Capture, Nurture and Convert stages of the lifecycle (lead nurturing, scoring, field marketing); and
  • Customer marketing, the Expand stage of the lifecycle (community-building, advocacy, upsell and cross-sell).

Right away, we discovered that many marketing leaders don’t actually focus on demand generation entirely, with 87% reporting that they dedicated at least half their staff to the other functions we evaluated.

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We also learned that many organizations have already taken the step of integrating these three functions. Of the respondents, 92% indicated that their brand, demand and customer marketing efforts were “somewhat aligned” under a cohesive strategy. Top performers in particular (companies that regularly achieve or exceed their revenue goals) were 52% more likely than their laggard counterparts to apportion significant staff resources to each major function, with 23% also likelier to allocate budget to these functions (again, as compared to laggards). Successful marketers know to allocate their time and resources equally across the entire marketing spectrum, and recognize that an effective marketing strategy delivers a quality customer experience from end to end, versus simply driving demand. It’s called Balanced Marketing.

It’s here that a technology like marketing automation proves particularly critical, offering significant value at every stage, from brand awareness to demand generation to customer retention and loyalty. The same segmentation, scoring and nurturing capabilities leveraged to acquire new customers can just as easily be applied to other outreach efforts across the business — influencer relations, for instance (identifying, nurturing, and tailoring content for analysts and members of the press), customer retention (assessing usage and overall satisfaction) and customer activities more broadly. For our part, we at Act-On recently announced our integrated workspace to better support these three marketing functions. New use cases include, on a brand front, functionalities for event management, brand identity management, internal corporate communications and press release attribution. On a customer front, it includes functionalities for onboarding, new feature promotion, expanded product usage, satisfaction surveys, upsell and cross-sell and advocacy and loyalty.

Of course, additions like these depend on CMOs acknowledging the critical role they play in all this, as a marketing general manager versus demand-gen-centric leader, responsible for fostering and facilitating success across branding, demand generation and customer marketing functions. And luckily, CMOs appear to be catching on, with many that we surveyed reporting to expect direct ROI in each individual area (preferring “revenue generated” as their KPI across the board). Nevertheless, the fact remains: few businesses today have seized on marketing automation’s potential beyond demand generation, and it’s high time they do. Their revenues may well depend on it, from what we found — organizations aligning their marketing functions are 43% more likely to meet revenue goals than those that don’t.

In this way, we’ve arrived at an exciting moment for marketing. The discipline’s faster-paced and more competitive than it ever was previously, but the opportunities are endless. Balance your efforts across all three marketing functions — building your brand, driving demand and expanding customer relationships — and you’re sure to deliver uncommon results. Better still: With marketing automation at your back, you’re sure to do the best work of your career.


Kevin Bobowski is the CMO of Act-On Software. He joined Act-On as the VP of Demand Generation, where he leads the go-to-market strategy and pipeline marketing. He also directs the teams responsible for developing highly integrated marketing and communications campaigns and demand generation programs across the globe.