blog overview
Frans Riemersma, 08 Sep '16

How to Craft a Bottom-Up Marketing Strategy

Stop wondering what your team is doing and meet your marketing targets. Create self-organizing marketing teams that continuously align their own goals with your strategy.

Being a CMO has never been this easy. Apply the RACI model when crafting your strategy. Here is how.

You won’t deny that marketing is a collective effort. CMOs want their team to be motivated and to collaboratively work towards achieving goals. However, alignment between departments and teams is a challenge for many companies. So how to craft a strategy that is aligned across teams and their members?

More than once we’ve heard marketers confess they’ve never had a meeting with sales, or any marketers from another team, brand or segment. But they should. The minority of marketers that do actually meet with other teams often find themselves in lengthy but ambiguous strategy meetings.

As a CMO, you can’t go around translating (personal) ambitions into quarterly targets that don’t have the support of your team. You just can’t tell if any of it can actually be achieved in practice. Forcing a team to perform dubious tasks won’t work for long. And what about their commitment?

Collaborative goal setting is not just about having team members work on whatever little quick win is within reach that day. CMOs shouldn’t be tyrants, but they shouldn’t just leave their team to figure out their own business either.

Luckily, there is a third option that takes the best of both worlds. Tedious strategy meetings will be a thing of the past.

Use the RACI model when crafting your marketing strategy

Teams need to be able to set their own goals, but they need to do so in a structured manner. You can make this happen by using the RACI model. It is a popular method to clarify and assign the various roles involved in pursuing a goal.

For our purpose, we’ll only need the R and the A. When you assign team members to be Accountable or Responsible in a consistent manner, you can create self-organizing teams. And their goals will align with your strategy automatically.

When you get it right, you can transform your marketing department and save tons of time on tedious strategy meetings. Assign some A’s, Assign some R’s, sit back and watch your marketing team organize itself as they sprint towards the horizon. Being a CMO has never been this easy.

What marketing nirvana looks like

In our experience, when the CMO starts to really work on their marketing strategy, it won’t go unnoticed anywhere the company. Not in the management board. Not in the neighboring departments. Not within the team. Everyone will know.

Why? In order to create a marketing strategy that supports the company goals, your team members will wander out into the company to gather the information required to build their strategy and make things happen. Soon, the entire company will know things are happening.

Ideally, CMOs meet with their team to discuss broad objectives once a year to discuss the big goal… and that’s it. The rest of the year, team members will set their own goals working towards achieving the big goal. You’ll see your strategy emerging in front of your eyes.

Your team will collaborate vigorously, but efficiently. Meetings will only rarely be necessary. A short email or nod of the head will generally suffice when everyone knows what they’re working towards and with whom.

Marketing is leading

When things are running smoothly and effortlessly, the CEO may eventually start to feel like the CMO is taking over company strategy. Which is a good thing.

One CMO happily confessed that one day the CEO walked into his office asking, “Are you taking over the company?”.The CMO’s people were involving everyone as they were crafting an aligned marketing strategy. And the CEO was thrilled.

The entire company benefits from a well-functioning marketing department. Marketing nirvana does exist, but it is quite a long way from how things work in the average marketing department. So… how did the CMO in question do it?

Knowing which hands to shake

Having marketers wandering into the company is certainly not a random act. It isn’t wasting anyone’s time! Collaboration requires everybody involved to agree on the goals to pursue.

A CMO once told me, “A marketing plan or goal that has not been agreed upon by the receiving ends (and sales) is no goal”.

Only when you can get your internal marketing supply chain going, perpetual disputes on which goals to pursue and ‘who’s actually involved in this’ will belong to the past. To get team members to actually shake hands and finally commit to pursuing a goal, you need to facilitate transparency.

Using the RACI model will help your team when wandering out to other departments, like Sales, Business Development and Customer Success. It immediately makes clear who is delivering the output, and who is requesting (and paying for) the output. 

The bottom up marketing strategy

This approach works bottom-up. Once you have set the big goal, all team members have a look at their tasks, select only the relevant ones, and start aligning those with the big goal.

We asked all our client’s marketers to pull out their to do list and to write down which goals they were pursuing by performing those tasks. They soon realized how their goals were all isolated. The performed tasks may have helped achieving a goal, but the different goals different people were pursuing did not add up.

What you should do about it? Use the RACI model! For every goal, specify who should be Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. Or rather, focus on Responsible and Accountable. Forget about Consulted and Informed.

For the Responsible to know which tasks suit the Accountable’s goal, the Accountable needs to come up with a clear goal. He has to really think about what he’s actually trying to achieve. What exactly is the goal we’re after? What does success look like? Why are we doing this?

When you request your team to assign someone to be Responsible and Accountable for a goal, people will start to think about which goals feed into other goals. Teams will start to really think about who is helping who, who’s the internal client and who’s the internal supplier. When you apply RA(CI) to all your goals, a marketing supply chain will dawn from the chaos.

To understand the difference between Accountable and Responsible, here is an example…

Accountable - provide bread

Responsible - buy the bread

The responsible could buy the bread himself or delegate the activity. The buying of the bread could be a task to achieve the Accountable ’s goal ‘provide bread’. Or the buying of the bread could be sub goal to the parent goal of ‘provide bread’.

Have your team indicate who the Accountable and Responsible person is for each of their yet to be aligned and for now isolated goals. People are Accountable for achieving goals and Responsible for performing tasks. And both should be different people. This way, a reliable internal supply chain is created.

Initiative to align goals should come from two directions.

The Responsible

The Responsible person should request the Accountable person to be very exact about the goal, providing a KPI and target. What does the bread that is to be provided look like, exactly?

The Responsible needs the Accountable to be specific about his goals so he, the Responsible, knows what goal he’s trying to achieve so he can plan and perform appropriate tasks.

The Accountable

The Accountable person should request the Responsible person to specify which tasks need to be performed to achieve the goal. How, exactly, are we going to get our hands on the bread?

The Accountable needs the Responsible to be specific about his tasks so he, the Accountable, can be certain the tasks are appropriate and his goal is likely to be achieved.

If the Accountable agrees with the tasks specified by the Responsible, both parties shake hands and commit.

raci-applied-to-goal-management Boardview
The Accountable sets goals, the Responsible performs tasks

The trick is to involve two people with specific roles to work together but not being allowed to bother with the other’s role.

In theory, you could have one person being Accountable and Responsible, being the goal owner and the one performing tasks to reach that goal at the same time. But people may end up becoming less specific about their goals as they should be.

Stick to this guideline. The Accountable isn’t allowed to instruct which tasks the Responsible should perform. So he has to take a step he most likely wouldn’t have taken when he actually was allowed to instruct tasks: he has to write down and become explicit about goals. What are we trying to achieve?

Similarly, the Responsible has to take a step he most likely wouldn’t have taken when he was allowed to perform tasks that don’t serve a specific goal: he has to write down and become specific about tasks and their relation to the goal. To the achievement of which goal does the performing of these tasks add?

By keeping roles strictly separated, having the Accountable set the goals and having the Responsible perform tasks, goal formulation becomes more collaborative yet more structured. Marketing strategy formulation will become the domain of the teams, rather than the CMO. And the team will be better at it than the CMO could ever be on his own.

Apply the RACI model yourself, and then sit back

Dear CMO, it is time to make your life easy.

Introduce the RACI model…

  • Explain the R and A to your team.
  • Have your team indicate an R and an A for every one of their goals.
  • Have the R request the A to become specific about the goal (KPI + target).
  • Have the A request the R to plan (and later perform) appropriate tasks.
  • The A and the R shake hands and commit.

All you have to do now is sit back, pop the champagne and celebrate you finally have time for the important stuff.