What is the Marketing Gap?

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Rion Haber | Feb 01, 2023

The size and scope of the marketing ecosystem has exploded over the last decade. The one-dimensional communications that used to drive awareness are being replaced by more dynamic and compelling omnichannel brand experiences. Implementing these strategies at scale however requires an unprecedented diversity of resources, from strategy to creative to technical expertise as well as the ability to tie them together with high-level project management.

That increased complexity has  spurred a growing divide between established and emerging brands. While growing organizations typically rely on lean, flexible solutions, keeping pace with the latest omnichannel trends means that new brands need access to larger, more highly integrated marketing resources with the efficiency to match.

Bridging the gap means rethinking how emerging brands power their communications strategy.

Defining the Marketing Gap

What is the marketing gap and why is it important for growing brands to take notice?

Saying that the communications ecosystem has grown “more robust” in the last decade is like positioning the internal combustion engine as an advancement on the horse drawn carriage. Recent changes to privacy rules, not withstanding, marketers have gone from “spray and pray” style outreach to personalized, dynamic, and highly targeted omnichannel communications in the relative blink of an eye.

That evolution isn’t limited to the digital ecosystem; it’s collateral impact extends to offline channels as well, prompting us to rethink our approach on everything from branding to out-of-home communications. That’s because in a commercial environment increasingly defined by ad fatigue, relevant messaging, delivered in a way that accurately reflects buyer journey, is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for influencing the purchasing decision.

It’s also created a enormous amount of complexity for marketers – including the need for new integrated methodologies that help omnichannel communications speak with one voice. While that complexity is often described through the lens of technology, its scope is much broader and ranges from strategy, to creative, to operational marketing expertise. While the full spectrum of organizational leaders often see these “behind-the-scenes” efforts needed to plan and implement these campaigns, they are a key part of the equation for making them effective.

Put simply , the “marketing gap” gives a name to this Delta. It helps define the difference that growing organizations and their better resourced category leaders face when trying to build seamless omnichannel messaging in today’s dynamic and rapidly evolving marketing ecosystem.

Solving for Scale

Over the last decade, emerging brands have come up with a number of ways to close the gap and compete more effectively with mixed results. They include:

1) Use borrowed capital to build a large enough marketing team to go “blow for blow” with larger enterprise competitors and hoping that revenue catches up to expense.

2) Trying to find a marketing “unicorn” that can perform each task themselves with a small and relatively inexperienced teams

3) Trying to downscale Madison Avenue inspired hub-and-spoke partnership models as a stand in for the inhouse operational marketing frameworks that enterprise organizations use to do the same thing.

At its heart, the marketing gap can be boiled down to the use of channel-based solutions to solve outcome-driven problems. Each of these solutions is limited by its scope. When leaders with a small marketing footprint (by necessity or design) try to leverage them to handle the multitude of day-to-day (or operational) marketing tasks, they typically end up in one of several corresponding scenarios:

Collapsing Resources

Enterprise organizations have the resources to sustain a much wider range of marketing expertise, including the ability to build more complex integrated marketing strategies. On its face, the challenge may seem like a monetary issue; don’t be fooled though. Even for well-funded organizations, the logistics of managing an inhouse enterprise-competitive marketing department sometimes just don’t make sense.

That’s because the cornerstone of integrated marketing strategy isn’t the simple expansion of technical capabilities; it is an operational marketing strategy built to better support omnichannel marketing strategies with deep interdepartmental collaboration. When leaders with a small marketing footprint (by necessity or design) try to leverage these same strategies to handle day-to-day or operational marketing tasks, they typically find that they don’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of the, now enormous, marketing ecosystem in a way that makes scale feasible.

That often spells the collapse of small marketing teams that don’t have the diversity of skills to wield these tools in an effective way and are unable to gain enough critical mass to drive ROI.

Team Burnout

Some level of cross functionality is to be expected for marketers at growing organizations. However, marketing leaders are often asked to play so many roles – often becoming the principal, teacher, and janitor in their own classrooms – that they burn out rapidly taking their team down with them.

The impact of the mismatch for organizations using this strategy – particularly those in the startup, nonprofit, and sales spaces – has been predictable. It includes a laundry list of challenges that boil down to a well-intentioned, but broadly underpowered, costly, and inflexible marketing apparatus unable to adapt to the speed and complexity of the information age.

Collaborative Entropy

The omnichannel storytelling that’s become a hallmark of today’s communications ecosystem takes deep strategic collaboration, project management infrastructure, and channel expertise. In lieu of of a fully resourced team, leaders most often create a web of supporting partnerships ranging from PPC to SEO. Typically this looks like a single marketing leader (CMO, SVP of Marketing, Director of Marketing, etc.) or small team engaging multiple siloed agency partners.

However, these types of partnerships were originally built to support a much different use case – highly capitalized brands that wanted pinpoint support from a subject matter expert based on a single tactical objective. These type of partnerships empower marketing leaders with the expertise to launch a broader set of marketing initiatives, but ignore the cumulative benefit of collaboratively based methodologies wherein each expert is able to learn from and support the other’s objectives. Because of that, partners invariably end up competing for the organization’s marketing dollar instead of working together to amplify it.

“In a commercial environment increasingly defined by ad fatigue, relevant messaging, delivered in a way that accurately reflects each buyer’s unique journey, is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for influencing the purchasing decision.”

Individually, these solutions will impact the ability of growing organizations to reach and move buyers down the brand’s funnel. When measured alongside increasingly high performance enterprise MOps capabilities, they tend to lose steam, spelling the collapse of small marketing teams that don’t have the diversity of skills to wield these tools in an effective way and failure of the business to gain enough critical mass to retain value.

A New Approach

Today’s most successful marketing teams comprise four roles: A strategist, creative, project manager, and technician. Solutions which claim to address the marketing gap must start by empowering marketing leaders as the hub of a full-stack team, not just expanding the scope of their day-to-day responsibilities or outsourcing them to third party players. Leaders at smaller organizations may be able take on or combine certain roles, or aspects therein for a short period of time. However, their respective skill sets are growing more unique and the approach doesn’t represent a scalable growth strategy.

To move forward and help growing brands better close the marketing gap, we need a new approach that, while borrowing from all three approaches, offers a single unified solution, emphasizing collaboration, scalability and expertise. That includes a redevelop the hub-and-spoke style agency relationship into a true methodology of its own – one built for the real-world challenges that growing organizations face on a daily basis.

Closing the Marketing Gap

Complexity, by its nature, benefits those with the resources to leverage it. Left alone, strong organizations tend to get stronger, while growing organizations struggle to keep up. That’s why the next generation of partnered marketing solutions need to be developed with the full breadth of the marketing ecosystem in mind. When done right, these – operationally focused – strategies can lead to deeply compelling and seamless omnichannel storytelling that builds advocacy across the entire path-to-purchase and allow growing brands to bridge the marketing gap.

We’ve established that closing the marketing gap is going to require a lot of muscle, but if you don’t want to invest in the resources to handle it, what’s next? Fortunately integrated marketing agencies like Catalyst tend to focus on just this type of challenge. Looking to help close your marketing gap? Let’s chat.

If you’re interested in working with Catalyst, for more information on the strategies shared in this post or please get in touch.

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