Barclaycard’s three step process for resetting the marketing agenda

In the race to meet deadlines and hurry your campaigns out of the door it’s possible for marketing teams to lose sight of the overall business objectives.

Therefore it’s necessary for the team to occasionally take a step back and try to reset the marketing agenda.

At Econsultancy’s Funnel event this morning, part of the Festival of Marketing, Barclaycard’s marketing communications director Gareth Hussey described the process that allowed his team to reset the agenda and create new growth opportunities.

It’s still a work in progress as it takes two to three years to complete, but Hussey shared his tips for getting started on that long journey.

When he started in his current role six months ago Hussey quickly realised that the team was in ‘order-taking mode’, working on pet projects for numerous different stakeholders without taking a view on how each one worked towards the overall business aims.

The team was working on projects based on who had the capacity and desire at that moment in time. There was no attempt to prioritise tasks or turn down less important ones.

Furthermore, there was a worrying perception among senior executives that the marketing team was just responsible for hosting events and making pretty brochures rather than being an important part of the business operations.

The team’s reputation obviously wasn’t where it needed to be, which also indicated that the department wasn’t doing its job properly.

To overcome this and reset the marketing agenda, Hussey described the following three stages:

  • Language of business.
  • Dialogue/agenda across two funnels.
  • Leading for alignment. 

And here they are in more detail…

Language of the business

Using the metaphor of the CFO as your friendly neighbourhood grip reaper, Hussey described the process of budget cuts that saw his team forced to slash around 45% of its budget.

Instead of panicking, the team examined the ongoing tasks and activities and “it quickly became obvious that there were a series of pet projects running with conflicting requirements and deliverables”. 

By prioritising the projects that met with Barclaycard’s overall business objectives Hussey and his team managed to meet the new budgetary requirements – but it didn’t stop there.

Meetings were set up with senior executives to explain the new processes and strategy within the marketing team, which helped to reset the agenda and allowed them now to say no to future projects as people now understood the relevant priorities and deliverables. 

That’s about having the ability to have proper business conversations with other teams and senior executives.

Obviously for this process to happen Barclaycard had to undergo a budgetary crisis, however Hussey suggested that there’s always space to create a crisis where none exists.

There’s always an excuse to articulate what the team is doing and how it’s helping the business. If there aren’t any crises on the horizon, just create one.

Dialogue/Agenda

The definition of a marketing team’s role and responsibilities depends largely on the business context.

Hussey said that at Barclaycard they consider that marketing has a two-fold role.

  • Firstly, it’s there to help the business meet short term revenue and customer goals.
  • Secondly, marketing should help to create the strategy and plans to fuel future growth.

Barclaycard was spending a lot of time doing the first part, but there remained an opportunity to step back and take a look at its long term goals. 

Therefore the team began to get involved in strategic plans, such as what should the business proposition be in 2014? And how should operations, analytics and sales teams work together?

As a result of taking on these new tasks Hussey noticed that marketers were being invited to meetings they wouldn’t normally be invited to, such as financial planning events. 

This wouldn’t have happened six months ago as the perception was that the team had no expertise or influence in these areas.

While this dual-fold approach has had tangible benefits for Barclaycard, other people’s definitions will be different. However it shouldn’t be forgotten that first and foremost the marketing team should be working towards achieving business objectives.

Leading from alignment

Hussey said there’s a difference between leading from alignment and creating alignment. And before you try to align people it’s important to look at the quality of your relationships within the business.

I try to reserve time to have catch ups with key stakeholders, with no agenda, just to maintain relationships. Internal relationships are a vital foundation in any business if you want to create alignment and reset the agenda.

Pinching a framework from leadership guru Steve Radcliffe, Hussey said that leading from alignment involves four steps:

  • Leadership. This starts in the future – you need to have a point of view on what you plan to do in the long term.
  • Risk. To reset the agenda marketers have to be willing to take a risk and put themselves out there in the business. This means booking an appointment with a VIP in the company and putting your neck on the line in order to get your voice heard.
  • Engagement. This starts with listening – you can’t just dictate and broadcast the vision for the company. Engagement requires a two-way dialogue with colleagues.
  • Delivering. Leadership is about delivering on your objectives, or you won’t last very long.

Hussey suggested that everyone within marketing has the ability to lead, it’s just about finding the right opportunity and taking control of a situation to help impact the overall agenda.

To finish with another metaphor, Hussey gave the example of Marty and Doc in ‘Back To The Future’. They took a risk, it paid off, and it felt good… 

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Barclaycard’s three step process for resetting the marketing agenda

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