Why centralizing strategic insights is imperative for CMOs

CMOs desire a strategic and agile marketing organization that meets diverse work requirements. In pursuit of operational efficiency, 60% of marketing organizations have centralized some or all of their functions.

However, many CMOs deal with multiple insight-generation micro-teams across the function that do not collaborate well. This can leave them struggling with managing disparate teams that do similar work. Without structure and unification, the strategic insights feeding future activities suffer. 

Here’s how structuring a strategic insights unit can help CMOs overcome this issue. 

Building a solid foundation for success

CMOs must build their organization on a solid foundation stable enough to tackle goals impacting the business. Given the demand to accomplish more with limited resources, this foundation becomes essential for success.

The foundation involves gathering and acting on insights from business intelligence, consumer trends and past marketing campaign results. Customer insights are particularly crucial. These insights can be applied to various aspects, like creative briefs, new business initiatives, strategic marketing plans and content strategies.

The core benefit of centralizing or consolidating teams is to increase marketing’s overall impact. This leads to easier justification of technology investments and provides internal stakeholders with unified services — from consulting to self-serve options — making insights and research widely accessible.

Gartner data has found that 57% of organizations with linkages among all data sources agreed that “marketing analytics has not had the level of influence on our marketing organization that our leadership expected.”

When asked about the areas their marketing analytics team should focus on to increase the value of the analyses, users of marketing analytics cited exploring data for new insights (37%) and meeting with decision-makers to understand their needs (34%).

As such, the business is often confused about which team to contact for support or what type of insights, data or research each one provides. The result — which no CFO wants to hear when their purses are tight — is investments in new research, external data sources and technology going underutilized and wasted.

Dig deeper: 3 ways data can steer you wrong — and how to glean better insights

Establishing a central unit for higher business value

To address this problem and increase the value of marketing’s contribution to the business, CMOs must reevaluate their entire resource ecosystem. Eliminate silos and improve collaboration and marketing’s strategic influence by combining similar organizational functions.

Specifically, CMOs must merge small teams that provide insights, research and intelligence and form a centralized unit that functions similarly to an in-house agency.

That marketing organization can mine for and apply insights to influence the business’s strategic direction, craft unique thought leadership content, strengthen brand and content messaging and enhance product or service innovation.

In its ideal state, this unit should:

  • Employ synthesizers with critical and strategic thinking skills and can form insights into recommendations and action plans.
  • Use an in-house agency as its internal service operating model regardless of how the unit is referred to internally. Some work could be categorized as best practice or center-of-excellence-like work, particularly in highly decentralized or global organizations.
  • Mature from an emerging or combined unit to a full-fledged consulting-type in-house agency. If starting from scratch, the unit may have 5-10 people. If combining multiple existing teams, the unit may start with 20-100, and roles must be redefined. Some mature insights consultancy units for larger and more complex enterprises have 200-300 people, not unlike large in-house creative agencies and content studios.

A supplemental consideration is also the skills of the team members, separate from their titles. Of the skills most difficult to develop within their teams, CMOs cited strategic thinking (69%), collaboration/leadership (62%) and messaging (50%) in the top five.

CMOs also cited remixing of the specialist versus generalist balance in their market research teams as 32% planned to hire more specialists and 22% planned to hire more generalists. 

Steps for establishing the insights unit

To design and structure the insights unit, CMOs must take several steps to ensure their foundation is sound:

  • Conduct a discovery audit to determine all current sources of insights provided by multiple team, including external resources (such as market research firms), audit skills and competencies, too.
  • Combine most, if not all, existing and similar teams into one centralized service unit that together is more effective than the individual and separate siloed teams. 
  • Appoint or hire a head of insights to spearhead the insights unit, assess current staff and gaps and develop a plan for hiring, servicing and measurement. The unit head should have consultancy, agency or advisory experience, management and measurement competency.
  • Operate the insights unit to manage and prioritize incoming project requests, similar to how an in-house creative agency serves the business. Align talent and resources to the business as appropriate (e.g., single point of contact for major business units, regions or markets).
  • Offer a menu of services including a DIY or self-serve option and consultant services.
  • Staff depending on whether the unit is being formed from scratch or by merging several established teams such as market research, customer insights and business intelligence.

By taking these steps to centralize their insights unit, CMOs will ultimately help bolster marketing strategy, innovation and digital experience initiatives.

Dig deeper: From startups to Fortune 500s: This marketing strategy is unbeatable

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