Marketing Center of Excellence
The Benefits, Payback and ROI
- A Marketing Center of Excellence brings access and scale to scarce and high-demand skills so they can be shared across the organization. The intent is to centralize resources to scale talent. Those resources deliver a force multiplier performance effect by disseminating insights, best practices and services throughout the company.
- The goal is to surpass ordinary performance standards and achieve extraordinary financial results. Many times, that means driving operational performance beyond the norm to Best-in-Class levels.
- Marketing Centers of Excellence focus on the most significant cost and revenue opportunities. Experience shows that a single project success can deliver high single digit improvements to company revenue and low double digit increases to Marketing ROI.
A Marketing Center of Excellence
Increasing marketing's contribution to the company isn't getting any easier.
Customers are more connected and informed. They educate themselves on companies and products from sources other than the companies.
They pursue non-linear purchase processes over multiple channels. Their behaviors and ad-blocking technologies increasingly tune out company communications to avoid an overabundance of irrelevant noise. They are in control.
At the same time, marketers are fragmented across an increasing number of functions and disconnected from each other. They and their customer data often operate in siloes.
Despite individual learning from experiences and customer lessons, nominal collaboration results in minimal innovation, tacit knowledge, and lost revenue opportunities.
Poor knowledge management, inefficient reusability of assets and labor redundancy become acceptable costs that deteriorate marketing ROI.
Marketing Center of Excellence best practices and shared insights sound like great ideas but will have to wait for available time.
All of these complexities create an accelerating pace of change that makes it difficult for marketers to move as quickly as their customers. And when marketers are unable to keep up customers view them as slow, non-responsive and eventually irrelevant.
When disconnected approaches deliver inconsistent customer experiences, they fail to engage customers. And that reduces lead acquisitions, lead conversions, brand impact and marketing's contribution to the company.
Fortunately, there is an increasingly popular solution for these challenges.
Companies are adopting Marketing Centers of Excellence to harness skills, turn collaboration into performance results, and deliver personalized and contextual customer engagement.
The American Marketing Association advised that "to keep up with marketing's continuous evolution, companies could get a jump on their competitors by creating a marketing center of excellence."
SiriusDecisions Global CMO Study found that 96 percent of CMOs will make changes to their organization over the next two years and said that Marketing centers of excellence (COEs) are at the top of their list.
Those are some interesting industry insights, but there's no shortage of hyperbole in this industry. So, to separate fact from fiction, it's helpful to clearly understand exactly what a CoE is, when it's needed and the financial payback it delivers.
Marketing Center of Excellence Defined
Analyst firm Gartner defines a Marketing Center of Excellence as "concentrating existing expertise and resources in a discipline or capability to attain and sustain world-class performance and value."
That's a good start but lets put some context around that to make the definition more practical.
A Marketing Center of Excellence (CoE) is a virtual or physical team focused on specific competencies or areas of expertise to achieve operational excellence and increase company revenue results.
The CoE manages resources with skills and proficiencies to achieve increased operating performance and revenue results. The team members generally prioritize and focus on the initiatives that drive the biggest revenue uplift to the company.
They share several operating characteristics, including the following:
- They are customer focused. They align company engagement with the customer journey to increase conversions, customer growth and retention.
- They remedy deficiencies and exploit opportunities that increase revenue and profit growth.
- They compare programs and tactics to understand and rank those that drive the most revenue growth or highest ROI.
- They apply data to precisely understand where increased effectiveness and scale delivers a linear impact to marketing's revenue contribution.
- A relatively small group of specialists can identify the insights and share best practices to the broader organization and achieve a force multiplier impact.
- They are often benchmark driven to achieve slated and measurable performance improvements; quite often to achieve Best-in-Class performance levels.
A CoE is often a response to decentralized resources operating independently and performing ad hoc acts, duplicating efforts and failing to achieve satisfactory results.
Be clear that a CoE is much more than the centralization of resources or delivery of shared services. It's a purpose-built service that becomes the single greatest source for continuous performance improvements, revenue uplift and marketing transformation.
When a Marketing Center of Excellence is Needed
We’ve helped clients implement marketing Centers of Excellence for years, and from our experience we have identified several scenarios that deliver the highest impact and ROI.
Consider a CoE for the following conditions.
- You need to address a knowledge deficit with specialized skills or expertise.
- You need to adopt or scale critical skills that drive the most important objectives, such as marketing's contribution to company revenue growth.
- You need to improve company and customer alignment, such as implementing company processes or technologies that engage customers on their terms, in their channels and on their devices.
- You need to better leverage modern technologies.
- You need to acquire buyer insights, customer intelligence and customer engagement best practices and deliver that knowledge to every person that engages customers or every customer interaction touch point.
- You need to centralize difficult to acquire skills so they can be scaled across the organization to achieve a force multiplier impact.
What a Marketing Center of Excellence Actually Does
Before we get to the ROI or payback, we have to identify what actually gets done to deliver that payback.
The missions and activities vary, but the below responsibilities and services are extremely common.
- A primary responsibility is to surpass performance norms and deliver extraordinary results. Conducting business as usual or failing to accelerate the most important performance objectives would render the CoE ineffective.
- Fully leveraging MarTech is a common responsibility. The CoE is responsible to design a MarTech strategy, vet new technologies, and implement those technologies that deliver the biggest upside. They may also be responsible for governance, customer data management and software utilization.
- The CoE drives continuous process improvement (CPI). CoE staff identify high impact process improvement opportunities and apply methods such as Agile Value Stream Mapping to streamline, simplify and automate those processes. Sometimes the processes they reengineer are low impact but high transaction volume or voluminous in occurrence. Other times they may identify and eliminate redundant efforts or duplication of work. They measure continuously so they know when performance is good enough and additional investment results in diminishing returns.
- They solve the toughest problems such as getting accurate campaign attribution or improving lead conversions. Many times, solving these problems requires thorough root cause analysis and methods such as fishbone diagrams or the 5 Whys.
- They turn data into institutional knowledge. They harness that knowledge with knowledge management tools such as knowledgebases, content management systems or wiki's. This also includes harvesting reusable assets. Sometimes, they maintain a catalog of reusable assets. They improve organizational memory and avoid making repeated mistakes.
- They quite often take on complex or first of a kind (FOAK) projects. They understand how to apply risk management to identify, measure, and prioritize risks. They implement strategies to manage risk and create plans to prevent, mitigate or respond to high likelihood or high impact risks that threaten project objectives.
- They quite often lead product innovation. They can gather market insights and voice of the customer data, steer the multi-step innovation process, create improved or new products, and launch those products in existing or new markets.
- They provide training, most often to other marketers and the sales team. That may include surveys and skills assessments to identify training opportunities and various forms of training such as online or classroom training.
- They provide performance governance and information reporting. That includes identifying the most important key performance indicators and ensuring the right metrics are delivered to the right people.
- They often manage the marketing budget and always calculate the CoE's revenue contribution and ROI. They know they must justify their existence with top line and bottom-line financial measures.
The Payback and ROI
No program is sustainable unless it drives incremental profits.
The CoE must be able to cover its cost and demonstrate a significant ROI.
Fortunately, experience shows that's achievable and relatively simple math shows how.
For example, consider a company with 200 opportunities per month at an average opportunity value of $10,000 and a close rate of 48% (which is the median close rate in several industries). If the CoE applies a combination of process improvements and technology to raise the close rate to 58% (which is the Best-in-Class close rate in several industries), the annual impact is a $20.4 million increase in revenues and a 10% increase in profits. Most companies would celebrate a 10% profit rise, especially when created from a single effort.
A similar financial gain could be earned by increasing lead acquisitions, reducing lead leakage, calculating price optimization, or improving any number of other lead-to-revenue funnel conversions.
If you can scale the improvements across locations, you will achieve a force multiplier effect.
Here are some Johnny Grow client examples that demonstrate some hard-hitting figures.
- At a midsize manufacturing client, we implemented a CoE to focus on MarTech and lead distribution to manufacturer sales reps. The original plan was to optimize lead conversions. However, during the planning we discovered lowering lead leakage would produce a higher revenue uplift. That decision increased revenue 8 percent within 170 days.
- At a financial services company, we implemented a CoE to take the lead role in increasing customer lifetime value (CLV). After acquiring solid customer insights, the CoE applied a combination of dynamic customer segments, look-alike modeling, precision offers and price optimization to increase CLV by 11 percent for the highest value clients and 8 percent for all others.
- At a small but high growth software-as-a-service company we implemented a CoE to lower customer churn. The CoE acquired customer intelligence by customer type. It then used the CRM software to automatically calculate customer health scores and used the CRM software’s AI component to create at-risk customer defection alerts. This SaaS company lowered customer churn by 9 percent within 120 days.
Each of the above examples achieved significant results because the CoE combined top talent with disciplined processes and technologies to solve challenges that were otherwise out of reach.
More empowered customers, fluid buyer behaviors, complex technologies and digital-first startup competitors create unprecedented change for marketers and the companies they serve.
Failing to proactively respond to this change steadily deteriorates marketing's contribution to the company and is a recipe for irrelevance.
Marketers must recognize that maintaining the status quo in an advancing market is by definition moving backwards.
Instead, leaders must embrace the change and harness it for competitive advantage.
For many companies, that may occur with a CoE that resolves the biggest challenges, pursues the biggest revenue uplift opportunities and aids the marketing organization in achieving repeatable, predictable, and scalable performance results.