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Marketers don’t need to be more creative.  They need to be more accountable.

That’s the title of a great article by Michael Schrage in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network.  You can read it at https://blogs.hbr.org/2014/06/marketers-dont-need-to-be-more-creative/

I applaud Michael’s insight and recommendations on marketing accountability.

It’s funny how history tends to repeat itself.  Before co-founding Imagine Wow (www.imaginewow.com), I was a corporate CIO, CTO, and head of strategic planning in various organizations.  I lived through the days, ok decades, when Gartner would tell us that the number one challenge for the CIO is alignment.  And I remember the Chairman of the Board of a company asking me how I turned around IT so quickly and effectively.  The answer was simple – strategic alignment.

I went on to lead corporate strategy for that company and then consulted with others.  Alignment was the common thread in all of our successes.

So what is alignment and how does it apply to marketing today?

We used common and proprietary methodologies to help leaders set clear objectives and then have the next layer or two of management help us determine realistic measures for those objectives.  And we engaged a representative sample of the workforce to help define how to achieve those measures for the stated objectives.  And we documented it all so simply and so plainly that we were able to share the strategy and key initiatives with the entire workforce.  We even sent CEO’s out to meet with employees at every location to explain the mission, vision, values, objectives and key initiatives that would make the company successful.  Finally, those measurable objectives were cascaded from the CEO, through the leadership team and down to every single employee.

The true measure of an aligned organization is when the CEO can ask any employee what he or she is doing to contribute to the business’ success, and that employee can answer crisply and decisively.

That means that every department understands their role in achieving the company’s goals.  And every one of those goals is measured.  And every employee contributes in a focused, aligned way.

I turned around countless IT organizations by aligning IT strategy with business strategy and measuring the business value of everything we do.  And then we applied the same techniques to every department in the organization.

Marketing has flown under the radar for a long time, depending more on creativity than accountability.  But more and more companies are seeking, even demanding, the same accountability from Marketing as they expect from the rest of the organization.

That’s where digital marketing and social media come in.  Once the marketing plan is aligned with the business strategy and we know how we will measure success, the digital world offers us the tools to measure progress, to quickly know what’s working and what’s not, to make the necessary adjustments and, ultimately, to show the business – in unequivocal terms – exactly what value Marketing delivers.

This is Marketing’s chance to be a hero.  There’s plenty of room for creativity and that will never go away.  But now there’s an opportunity to measure the results.  And that accountability will drive alignment and much more successful businesses.

Marketing doesn’t need to be more creative.  Just more accountable.  And now they can.