The Fog of Marketing

Why marketing operations needs to evolve


Marketing has changed a lot in recent years. But operational processes have not.

Over-focus on the automation of marketing execution has come at the expense of running the actual business of marketing.

And this is stopping marketing from being as effective as it can and should be.

Many CMOs are stuck using an operating model that’s outmoded, disconnected, and opaque.

It’s impossible for them to take accountability for planning, performance, and profitability when data is locked in disconnected tools or spreadsheets. They can’t quickly respond to market disruption or rapidly changing customer preferences when they don’t know what’s going on at the point of customer engagement.

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Such poor visibility limits CMOs’ ability to plan, execute, and optimize at speed across geographies, departments, and campaigns.

They’re trapped in the Fog of Marketing, a chaotic state of operations that is:


Consumed with low-level configuration of martech tools, instead of giving the CMO visibility into how marketing goals and plans are being implemented by dispersed teams.


Marketing data is based on snapshots disconnected from critical dependencies, serving as a retrospective system of record instead of a forward-looking strategic resource.


Episodic, one-off planning processes, or worse, “shadow planning” diverges from marketing strategy, preventing collaboration and inhibiting creativity.

It’s time for marketers to escape the Fog of Marketing—and to start doing the things that they became marketers to do.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways in which the Fog of Marketing limits what marketing can do—and what marketers can be.



3 ways the Fog of Marketing is blinding and undermining marketers




They can’t see what they’re spending or driving results for (and thus can’t prove ROI)





Forrester reports that 63% of marketing organizations use spreadsheets for budgeting and planning.

With marketing budgets housed in multiple spreadsheets, disconnected from both strategy and execution, nobody knows exactly what was spent (and made) on campaigns this week, month or quarter.



For many marketers, this information can be obtained—but only through laborious manual processes. (Forrester found that budgeting and spend management is a mostly or completely manual process for 39% of marketing organizations.)

Being manual, these processes are error-prone, consume time and resources, and are too slow to allow for timely strategic pivots in spending. (Forrester found that only 30% of marketers can reallocate marketing budgets within a week based on campaign finance performance.)



Under these conditions, it’s tough to reconcile actual spend with forecasted spend. And equally, it’s nearly impossible to accurately forecast.

Worse still—and in large part due to siloed budgets—CMOs (unlike the leaders of other business functions) are unable to prove the ROI of marketing, either to the C-Suite or themselves.

“Without a single, real-time ‘system of record’ for all marketing plans and budgets and a way to organize everyone involved… it was a constant challenge to ensure our marketing investments were delivering intended results.”

Helena Lewis
Senior group manager for global marketing operations and technology
NI (formerly National Instruments)

They can’t see how strategy and execution are supposed to connect (which means they don’t connect)



Ideally, marketing strategy should feed directly into plans that marketing teams can easily access, follow, and measure their performance against.

But the reality for many marketers is very different. Plans are kept (and effectively locked up) in various spreadsheets, decisions on strategy and execution are taken in isolation by dispersed teams in different product groups and geographies.

As a result, execution is uncoordinated and drifts from planning, and strategy disappears beneath a thick blanket of marketing Fog.

Making matters worse, these teams have no picture of how their day-to-day work is contributing to overall marketing goals and the success of their company. They’re operating in the dark—never a reassuring place to be.

“Plans were not laddered to any business strategy. There was no linking between planning and budgeting. There were zero established operating procedures and no consistency on terminology.”

Lisa Cole
VP, corporate marketing
FARO Technologies

They can’t see the impact of their decisions (and so can’t move with speed or confidence)



To make confident, informed strategic decisions, marketers need to be able to easily access fresh, timely, and trustworthy performance data.

But because marketing data tends to be siloed in various tools and systems, marketers—from the CMO and marketing operations manager on down—are often left not knowing which tactics and campaigns are working best.



Many marketers aren’t confident that the data they can access is accurate and comprehensive. A survey we ran shows that 61% of marketing leaders don’t have the confidence in their own data to use ROI in decision making.

Without trustworthy data, marketers can’t make confident, quick decisions about what to do next—whether that’s major initiatives or minor deviations from the plan. (And forget about changing plans on the fly.)

“Not only were our marketers operating in silos, but they also couldn’t offer any evidence as to the impact they were having on the organization. They were super-smart people doing great things, but they couldn’t provide any data as evidence.”

Carey Rutigliano
Director, FP&A

Lost in the Fog, CMOs can’t deliver what the ever-more demanding C-suite expects from them: strategic leadership and full accountability.

It’s time to clear the air. (The future of marketing depends on it.)

The marketing department can now match pace with all the other company functions that use connected data to make better decisions faster, to link plans to budgets and then to successful outcomes.

This isn’t just an efficiency story, it’s a department-wide effectiveness story.

It’s about being able to look colleagues in the eye and prove that marketing is making a measurable difference to the business as a whole. It’s about confidence that all marketing activity is directed at achieving your goals. It’s about building and managing teams pulling in the same direction regardless of their focus or geography.

And it’s about being able to truly enable agile marketing: pivoting plans based on the freshest, most accurate data there is, and to know—quickly—whether that’s working.

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Businesses urgently need to clear the Fog of Marketing. They can do this using a new operating model for marketing that is:


Closing the gaps between planning, spending, and execution to give a clear picture of marketing ROI.


Giving real-time insights based on trusted data captured at the operational edge of marketing (where customers interact with the business), not in isolated spreadsheets.


Enabling continuous planning, forecasting, and spend management to react to changes in buyer expectations and market conditions.

marketing business acceleration

That new operation model is called Marketing Business Acceleration (MBA)

The best CMOs are already embracing this transformative new operational model and running their departments like great CEOs run their businesses.
Learn about MBA