Author: Olaf Kopp
Reading time: 8 Minutes

Marketing we have a problem! Silos and missing interfaces

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Marketing and corporate communications face major challenges. Particularly in our strategy workshops, we repeatedly encounter silos and barriers in companies that make a holistic communications and marketing strategy difficult or impossible to implement.

It is time to work in an interdisciplinary way and to allow synergies with other professions – because valid competitive advantage can only be created from an ensemble of skills.

The following factors, which ideally build on each other, are particularly important:

  • Focus on entrepreneurial goals
  • Sound analyses as a basis for strategy and for optimizing tactical implementation
  • A holistic marketing or communications strategy, cross-media and cross-channel
  • Creative and emotional concepts and a graphic, content-related and technical implementation that guarantee an outstanding, consistent user and customer experience across all contact points.
    Holistic measurability of goals and intermediate objectives
  • To meet these criteria, it is necessary to create interface positions and break down silos within companies.

Anyone can say that, one or the other will now claim. That is old hat … the other. Therefore I try to convince the skeptics among you with the following arguments that these positions and steps are all the more important nowadays.

Channels on their own no longer work

The days when you could achieve great success with SEO, a Google Ads, mailing, TV or newsletter campaign alone are over.

For an optimal penetration of the market and corresponding attention up to the purchase and beyond, many cross-channel and cross-media contact points are needed.

Attention to an advertisement, clicking on an ad or consuming a piece of content alone does not turn people into customers. A holistic, cross-media and cross-channel strategy is needed to create as many touchpoints as possible along the customer journey.

The decisive factor here is who you address where, when, with what and how. The context creates the necessary relevance.

Performance marketing and branding are considered separately

How do you anchor a brand in the mind of the target group(s) and thus create branding? Relatively trivial to answer. By creating as many contact points as possible with an outstanding user and customer experience via marketing, communication, service and the product or offering itself.

This customer experience has a direct influence on performance in terms of, for example, interaction rates, completion rates and resale rates.

Therefore, performance and brand building cannot be considered separately. Both target areas are directly related to each other.

Marketing and communication are becoming more and more complex

In 2013, I wrote a post titled “Evolution of Marketing: From Advertising to Content – From Push to Pull” from which the following infographic was created:

This graphic illustrates the increasing complexity of marketing and communication. We must be able to master all formats, methods and channels, both online and offline, and link them together. Due to the many factors and variables that have arisen since the digitalization of communication, everything seems very complex. Which it is!

Not so easy to find: Fundamental breadth + degree of specialization in several disciplines

The art of professional communication is to identify the broad overview of potential and already successful instruments and channels while at the same time implementing and optimizing them professionally. This requires in-depth know-how and innovative spirit at the implementation level. PI shaped marketer profiles are more important than ever. We need more former practitioners with strategic skills at management levels, less theoreticians.

The T-Shaped-Marketer model is no longer sufficient for the versatility of marketing disciplines and communication channels to fill the necessary interface positions. For these strategic positions, marketers are needed who have deep practical experience in multiple areas and at the same time a sound overall view of many areas in communications/marketing. The more practical experience in different disciplines the better. This is the only way to fill an empathetic and thinking interface position such as a communications manager, marketing manager or CMO.

Specialist departments and old structures

Most companies have grown organically into digitization. Positions with digital responsibility were added to the existing structures or, in the worst case, only added to. At the core, however, the existing structures have remained in place.

In my opinion, the first important step in overcoming the above-mentioned challenges is to break down the existing silos of expertise. Only in this way is holistic and interdisciplinary communication possible.

Obviously, the biggest obstacle is the fear of change among the people affected and the additional work that is involved in restructuring. But I see a second barrier here. The cost center accounting and budget pots, which are based on these silo structures in many companies. But I don’t want to go into that in depth right now.

We took the step two years ago in our agency and dissolved the specialist departments SEO, PPC and PR and created interdisciplinary project teams. This had positive effects in many respects:

  • More fun and motivation at work for the employees due to direct collaboration with “non-specialist” colleagues
  • Better strategic thinking, because of a holistic overview
  • View beyond the end of one’s nose, because of better strategic way of thinking
  • Holistic view of the customer journey of the respective target groups

These are all developments from which we as an agency and our customers could benefit directly.

Missing interface positions as conductor of strategy

Structural and budgetary sovereignty is taken away from the departments. Budgets are no longer allocated to specialist departments, but to the overriding communication and marketing goals. The budget can be used flexibly depending on the strategy, in the spirit of holistic communication and interdisciplinary marketing. This allows an ongoing strategy to be continuously optimized and adapted in terms of tactical implementation via channels and instruments.

However, since such free availability can lead to uncertainty with regard to budget allocation, project management and resources, interface positions are required on which a high level of responsibility but also competence is expected.

These interface positions, as I have described them, are not department heads as we have known them up to now. They are positions that are to be classified high in strategic management, independent of the channel, such as CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) or CCO (Chief Communication Officer).

They are responsible for brand development, strategic holistic or cross-channel planning and strategy. If I could bake myself the skillset of such a position it would look something like this:

  • At least 15 years of experience in marketing and/or communications
  • At least 10 years of experience in digital communications and/or online marketing.
  • Several years of practical experience in tactical implementation in at least two to three channels or instruments such as SEO, PR, display, SEA, TV advertising … This is important because he must understand the craft at the implementing level. There is nothing worse than a non-practical planner.
  • Quick perception and decision-making skills. This requires a good intuition for right or wrong, hype or trend …
  • Technical affinity
  • Sense for the market and target groups
  • Talent and empathy for building bridges

I must honestly admit that I have met very few people in my life so far who have grown optimally for such a role. On the one hand, this has to do with the fact that digital communication and online marketing are relatively young communication disciplines and lack professional training. On the other hand, there are many people who are very good at tactical implementation but lack a holistic strategic mindset or the talent for it, and vice versa.

Structure Examples for modern corporate communications

I have tried to outline the role of these positions in a corporate structure in the following draft structures, although there may be differences here depending on the size of the company and the business model.

These structure model drafts have not been thought through to the end in detail, have gaps and allow for criticism, especially with regard to different business models. See them as an impulse.

The first draft structure is based on the classic activity-based approach. The interface position of CMO or CCO is responsible for strategy, media planning and budget allocation according to the strategy.

The head-of-positions are responsible for technical quality assurance in implementation and ensure innovation and further development of know-how among the implementing positions. The Head ofs coordinate the technical implementation in the sense of the jointly developed communication and/or marketing strategy or the strategy specified by the interface positions.

All head ofs have cross-disciplinary access to all implementing resources. The implementing positions remain structured on an interdisciplinary basis without silos.

Another possibility is a user-centric or customer-centric structure according to the customer journey phases. Michael Singer supported me here. In this structure, the (potential) customer is the focus and no longer the disciplines or activities, or the structure follows the customer-centric strategy.

Sorry for some german words in this graphic

Michael Singer: “In an ideal-typical company, people must subordinate themselves to the company’s goal. The corporate goal then defines which structure best serves the achievement of the goal. In an e-commerce company, the essential contribution comes from the customer. Accordingly, the company must map the phases recruiting – rentention – recovery as a life cycle in the structure.”

In such a structure, the phases of the customer journey are at the center of the structure. According to classic marketing theory, these (customer) phases are called recruiting, retention and recovery. In our customer journey model at Aufgesang, the phases are Pre-Awareness, Awareness, Consideration, Preference, Purchase, After Sales and Loyalty.

Such a structure creates additional interface positions along the customer journey phases in addition to the CMO or CCO, which reduces the workload and also ensures a consistent customer experience or user experience of the touchpoints along the customer journey. Possible additional interdisciplinary interface positions could be Head of Customer Recruiting, Head of Rentention and Head of Recovery.

Team leaders are responsible for technical quality assurance and innovation.

Sorry for some german words in this graphic

The models raised are ideal-typical. However, since companies consist of people with needs, fears … restructuring is not easy to implement.

Possible barriers on the way to the new structure

Restructuring or loosening structures in this way creates free space, which on the one hand enables opportunities, but on the other hand also leads to uncertainty.

Like any kind of change, such drastic restructuring can lead to problems.

  • Employees who are particularly in need of security can be unsettled by the dissolution of fixed structures. And fear is usually a powerful inhibitor.
  • There aren’t many CMOs, CCOs and other interface positions that are up to the role. Since these positions are very difficult to fill, it can be a long process to find or develop the right people.
  • As the roles of the head ofs need to be redefined, these middle management individuals can prove to be the brakes on a restructure. They lose part of their budget responsibility and, as technical managers, are primarily responsible for preserving the special know-how among the employees. For this reason, such positions should always be filled with personalities who are as ego-free as possible and who subordinate their own interests to those of the company.
  • For the management, restructuring is often a horror, because it means unrest. The wish of most managing directors or the management is to keep calm. However, this is exactly what restructuring does not guarantee, and it requires a confident demeanor and careful but consistent handling of employees.

These groups of people can become a brake on such a restructuring. And here we can draw a bow to my last XING Insider article “Management, middle management & HR are the biggest showstoppers in digitization”.

Thanks for reading to the end here. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the topic. Feel free to post in the comments or message me directly.

About Olaf Kopp

Olaf Kopp is Co-Founder, Chief Business Development Officer (CBDO) and Head of SEO & Content at Aufgesang GmbH. He is an internationally recognized industry expert in semantic SEO, E-E-A-T, modern search engine technology, content marketing and customer journey management. As an author, Olaf Kopp writes for national and international magazines such as Search Engine Land, t3n, Website Boosting, Hubspot, Sistrix, Oncrawl, Searchmetrics, Upload … . In 2022 he was Top contributor for Search Engine Land. His blog is one of the most famous online marketing blogs in Germany. In addition, Olaf Kopp is a speaker for SEO and content marketing SMX, CMCx, OMT, OMX, Campixx...


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