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Boost the Success of Your Centralized Marketing Service With This Simple Framework

By Carlos Guerrero | August 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Gartner’s 2020 Marketing Organization Survey reveals that marketing teams are using centralized service models at high levels.  Specifically, nearly 50% of marketing organizations use a Shared Service or a Center of Excellence (COE), while early 33% of marketing organizations use an In-House Agency.  Many report near-term quick wins from these models such cost savings and improved strategic alignment; but simultaneously struggle to show long-term success.  In fact, many marketing organizations admit they can’t confidently say the good in centralized marketing services outweighs the bad

To boost the likelihood of success of your centralized marketing service model keep these three words front and center:


All three are easy to understand and all three are important.  You should hold your centralized marketing service accountable to deliver against a specific set of metrics; it should establish strong credibility for work quality across the organization; and it should be productive enough to justify its existence.  However, depending on the specific service model, one of these words becomes more important than the others.


Center of Excellence (COE):  Accountability 

An organization creates a COE when it determines that it lacks a mission-critical capability.  To fill this gap, they bring together subject matter experts to build and advance this capability for the organization.  A COE is focused on developing the capability and pushing it beyond standard performance.  See, Defining Centers of Excellence in Marketing, What They Do and When to Utilize Them.

To drive long-term success, a COE should be designed to and held accountable for making an organization better at a specific discipline.   Marketing leaders should be able to confidently say:

“We are more mature in [insert marketing capability], as a result of our COE.”

There should be an inherent sense of credibility for COEs because it’s staffed with “the best of the best” from across the entire organization (not just “doers”).  Finally, a COE’s mandate should go beyond getting work done!  While COEs usually manage a heavy workload, marketing leaders should not assign aggressive productivity metrics that get in the way of the COE’s strategic objective.


In-House Agency:  Credibility

Marketing organizations’ use of in-house agencies continues to rise.  In addition to cost-savings, this model can deliver improved operational efficiency, increased brand consistency, and can foster innovation and strategic alignment.  See, CMO Insight: Justify Benefits and Choose the Best Model for Building Your In-House Agency.  However, if internal clients believe their in-house agency lacks creative, digital, or strategic chops for success, then this potential is greatly reduced.

To drive long-term success, focus on  building your in-house agency’s credibility with internal clients.  This means providing it with the necessary staff, technology, and resources.  Marketing leaders should be able to confidently say:

“My in-house agency has as much credibility within our organization as any of our external agencies.”

First, conduct a skills and technology gap assessment to better understand the creative or digital resources your in-house agency needs.  In addition, measure your in-house agency’s performance by using the same metrics you use for external agencies.  See, 5 Steps to Working with Your In-House Agency to Achieve Best Outcomes.  While accountability and productivity are also important with in-house agencies,  prioritize setting it up for success.  Your in-house agency won’t be successful (accountability) if internal clients see it as “second best” to external agencies, or as order-takers of low value work (productivity).


Shared Services: Productivity

A shared service model provides a reliable work engine for marketing organizations.  Marketing leaders recognize a high demand for a specific marketing activity and various groups responding this demand across the organization.  In many cases the decentralized nature of these responses creates inefficiencies and inconsistencies.  To counter this, they create a centralized group of specialists, available to the entire organization, tasked with getting work done.  This allows for scalability, surfacing of best-practices, and increased process consistency.  See, Strengthening Decentralized Marketing Teams: Shared Service.

To drive long-term success your shared service should demonstrate high levels of productivity.  However, don’t conflate productive with “busy.”  Many teams can be busy but deliver sloppy work!  Marketing leaders should be able to confidently say:

“Our shared service has successfully managed our high demand, while maintaining superior levels of quality, and acceptable levels of responsiveness.”

You can support shared service productivity through technology investments (see, Market Guide for Workload Management Platforms) and through flexible ways of working (see, Four Steps for Building an Agile Marketing Organization).  In addition, measure shared service accountability through a balanced (volume, quality, speed) dashboard.  Finally, the key to shared services’ credibility is through productivity.  Show internal clients that the work gets done just as well (if not better) than when it was decentralized.


Accountability. Credibility. Productivity.  Use this three-word framework and prioritize accordingly based on the service model.  This will boost your likelihood of long-term success.

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