February 8, 2023

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4 Factors Will Make Or Break Your Marketing Transformation

4 Factors Will Make Or Break Your Marketing Transformation

1nickbuckDespite visionary goals, solid planning and concerted efforts, many marketing transformation initiatives sadly fail to achieve their full potential — why?

When we think of transformation initiatives, we often think of vision documents, project plans and work streams that help design and build new capabilities and structures. The success or failure of these transformation initiatives, however, is often determined less by the specifics of the core project deliverables and more by the degree to which stakeholders embrace and adopt the subsequent new ways of working. This is where the risks start to emerge.

Transformation initiatives often involve changes to workflow between different teams and shifts in the balance of authority and decision-making rights. This can prove uncomfortable for some and confusing for others. When marketing leaders are focused on project milestones and solving design challenges, they can overlook other important “environmental factors” that can lead to deliberate or inadvertent resistance across the teams and individuals involved in the new operating model.

Driving success calls for sustained commitment and the willingness to engage meaningfully with stakeholders outside the core project team to ensure their understanding and support on an ongoing basis.

The B2B Marketing Ecosystem Model Rests On 4 Factors

In our research about building a high-performance B2B marketing ecosystem, Forrester identifies four environmental factors: Accountability, governance, infrastructure and culture. If any of these are absent or lacking in definition or substance, the marketing ecosystem will be disrupted and the adoption of the new working practices will be compromised.

  1. Accountability establishes a common definition of success and specifies the role that each stakeholder group will play in achieving the associated goals. A lack of definition or agreement on these across stakeholder groups can give rise to an environment of defensiveness and blame.
  2. Governance describes the ongoing oversight, stewardship and adherence to established standards throughout the marketing workflow to ensure that the agreed goals are achieved. Without adequate governance, it can be difficult to identify, diagnose and address issues and disconnects — leading to a critical loss of momentum.
  3. Infrastructure consists of the technologies, systems, tools and protocols that support marketing processes, teams and individual job roles. Without these in place, participants may struggle to adopt and apply new ways of working despite their best intentions.
  4. Culture is the manifestation of an organization’s unity of purpose and associated behavioral norms and, on its own, can determine the success of its operating model. Challenging cultural dynamics across the organization will influence stakeholders’ willingness to embrace change and can significantly hinder efforts to attain and sustain high performance.

Issues associated with these environmental factors will tend to manifest themselves in stakeholders being unable, or even unwilling, to align to the new ways of working. A stakeholder’s inability to adopt a new process is often a solvable problem and within the scope of control of the core project team.

Operational gaps can be addressed, with new procedures or tools defined and rolled out. Dealing with a stakeholder’s unwillingness to adopt a new approach can be more challenging and time-consuming to resolve. Misaligned motivations among team members are often symptomatic of cultural rifts and divergent objectives higher up in the company’s operating model.

Success Does Not Happen By Chance But Through Focus, Discipline & Tenacity

The nature and strength of the environmental factors at play will influence the actions taken to mitigate those forces. We observe that those actions typically fall into four broad categories: Goal setting and ongoing measurement; process definition and governance; stakeholder enablement; and leadership and communication.

The most successful marketing leaders take care to assess and address each of these areas to mitigate the risk of environmental factors negatively impacting transformation efforts. As you look to foster the success of your marketing transformation initiative, ensure that:

  • Objectives and goals for the initiative are crisply communicated, with the full understanding and agreement of key business stakeholders;

  • A sustainable, manageable and enforceable governance framework is established to orchestrate key points of alignment and handoffs between teams;

  • Both the strategic objectives and operational needs of stakeholders outside the core team are considered to secure their understanding, buy-in, and support of the new operating model; and

  • Beyond sponsorship of the initiative, there’s a plan in place to keep leaders visibly involved in and supportive of the new approaches.

The biggest changes will be the product of a bold vision coupled with multiple, smaller steps. By taking the right steps at the right time, B2B marketing leaders can prepare themselves to not only anticipate transformational risks but also take the right actions to help their teams keep moving and stay on course.


Nick Buck is a VP, Principal Analyst and Executive Partner with Forrester’s B2B marketing executive strategies service.