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Why your marketing governance isn’t working

Most of my clients are large companies, so governance is a crucial issue. Without proper governance, you can try to change your marketing practices across your organization, but it won’t take. Some people will go along with the changes, some won’t, and you need to do better than that.

Governance in marketing requires two things:

  • Lawmaking
  • Policing

In most companies, they use their management structure to perform both. They let their executives order people around and they expect the execs to punish recalcitrant groups. The problem is that it doesn’t work.

Oh, sure, if you want to get a new standard in place, such as requiring all web pages to have unique titles (to improve your SEO), you can ask your executive to order everyone to do it. Perhaps you can get the exec’s attention long enough for him to sign off on a new edict, but what do you do when someone refuses to go along? How do you police it?

You can’t go back to the exec every couple of weeks to say, “Johnny isn’t playing fair.” There is only so much time that any executive will give you. Many groups within an organization won’t comply with the new standard because they were not involved in creating it.

So, in reaction, other companies try to win the hearts and minds of the rank and file by creating the new standard with a democratic approach to lawmaking–usually they seek complete consensus within the organization for any new rule. While this sounds noble, the truth is that the larger the organization, the less likely you can get everyone to agree. So, you might find that the democratic approach means that you can’t pass the standards that improve your marketing.

What can you do instead?

Maybe you should be looking for a model that mimics how governance works in similar situations. If you think about a situation where no one can order everyone around and you can’t get everyone to agree, maybe you would consider the United Nations. The Security Council needs unanimous consent, but of just a few countries.

You can do the same thing within your company. Every company can identify several business units that are more important than the rest–they might have higher revenue, or higher profits. Those units comprise your Security Council. If one of them vetoes your new standard, it is dead. But when you get them to agree, everyone must go along.

How do you deal with policing?

Technology is the quick answer. Choose standards that can be automatically checked by software. Get your executive to agree to hold business units responsible for the results of that checking. Tying bonuses to performance against the standards is especially effective.

If you’re still flailing about with the wrong approach to marketing governance, what are you waiting for?

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide.

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