Six Keys to Successful Marketing Governance Programs

Hands holding connected cogs with the sun shining through.

A strong governance program—or lack thereof—can make or break marketing operations initiatives. Without a clear plan that delineates your organization’s procedures and requirements, your efforts can, at best, be hampered or, at worst, not work at all. Everything from lead flow management to security to reporting can be affected when governance policies are not clearly documented, circulated, and followed.

Crafting a solid governance plan requires a lot of planning, analysis, and documentation. It’s a project that will take a good amount of time and resources, but it is certainly worth the effort. Here are 6 important steps to include in your governance project.

1. Define Your Goals

This might seem obvious. You want to create policies to ensure compliance throughout your organization. However, it’s important to document your current objectives in terms of metrics, both hard and soft. What challenges have been caused by a lack of governance? What gaps are you trying to fill? What opportunities do you see? Most important, what metrics will you use to determine whether your changes have an impact?

In many cases, a lack of governance leads to redundancies, wasted time, and additional resources to clean bad information or fix broken marketing processes. Some common governance goals revolve around data cleanliness and standardization, streamlined processes, adherence to naming conventions, and specific asset and security procedures, to name a few. Often, the end result affects efficiency, reporting, and capabilities. If you can quantify these issues and identify goals to correct them, you’re in a better position to prove the value of your governance project.

2. Acquire Support

Having internal champions and executive support is critical to the success of your governance program. No matter how great the plan, without the backing of key stakeholders, it will be very difficult to enforce. Your first step in winning support is to secure an executive sponsor who is responsible for working with the executive team to communicate the project’s value. This level of support is critical to ensure the governance policies are backed by a leadership mandate and that there are procedures in place to support them.

In addition to executive backing, it’s very important to gauge the attitudes of other stakeholders who will be affected by this change. Some team members might be skeptical of the new procedures. The executive sponsor should include a majority of these individuals in upfront discussions to ensure their requirements and concerns are included in the process. This will go a long way toward increasing buy-in.

3.  Develop a Communication Plan

A good communication and coaching plan increases the success of your governance program. Conversely, a bad one can undermine it. When thinking about communication, keep in mind that it needs to start early. As soon as you begin developing your governance program, you need to start planning your communication strategy. You’ll want to reach out to key stakeholders—and executive leadership especially—early to clearly articulate the goals, business impacts, and success metrics.

In addition, you’ll want to plan your communication to the rest of the organization. A sound change management approach should be considered as you craft messaging and channels of communication. Include a strong stakeholder analysis to fully understand needs, attitudes, and engagement drivers. Change is hard for everyone, but with a proper plan to communicate benefits, you’ll be in a much better position for success.

4. Conduct a Requirements Analysis

The most important phase of your governance planning is discovery. You need a thorough audit of the current state across all areas that you want to standardize. You’ll want to cover high-level and in-depth requirements around data, assets, security, integration, system processes, privacy compliance, and so on. Conducting extensive interviews with key stakeholders across business units and regions is important to understand current practices and future requirements. In cases where interviews are not possible, a workbook or questionnaire can help assess organizational needs, challenges, and opportunities.

Once this information is gathered, conduct internal working sessions to review requirements and potential solutions. Compare that with your current state to analyze gaps. You’ll quickly see opportunities for improvement.

5. Define Your Governance Plan

Once you’ve gone through analysis and requirements gathering, and you’ve compared gaps with opportunities, you are ready to build your governance plan. As mentioned previously, you’ll want to review policies and procedures in a number of categories to ensure you are addressing the goals and metrics you defined at the outset. Compare with your objectives. Will these new policies and procedures address your original concerns? Will you be able to track improvement? Do you need any additional changes to achieve these goals?

Once you’ve crafted your governance plan and defined the key requirements, it’s critical to document, document, document. Make sure every rule, marketing process, requirement, and procedure (along with roles and accountability) are clearly defined and documented. Ensure this documentation is available in a commonplace so all key personnel can easily access it. Ensure the language is clear and that adjustments have been made, where necessary, for regional and/or group differences.

6. Operationalize

This is where the rubber hits the road. You’ve secured support throughout the organization. You’ve crafted a thorough governance plan. You’ve documented every process, procedure, and requirement. Now, you need to ensure a seamless and successful rollout. This is where a strong training program comes into play.

As you plan your training program, consider all the users in your organization. You may want to break them into groups based on knowledge level, skills required, etc. From there, devise an onboarding program specific to their needs. Keep in mind that your program should include use cases and hands-on practice. In some cases, it may be worthwhile to create a certification program or a similar means of gauging knowledge level before granting system access or specific privileges.

Another part of operationalizing your governance program is adapting and/or creating processes to ensure compliance. Be sure to work with other teams to increase buy-in and aid onboarding. Depending on the type of program, you may need to work cross-functionally to create new procedures, adapt technologies, etc. Make sure you include these new processes in your project timeline.

Once everything is rolled out and your new governance plan is taking hold, you can take a nice deep breath. But don’t relax for too long. Governance, like most large-scale changes, is iterative. Like any well-run machine, the cogs need to be oiled regularly. In this case the cogs being the teams/roles/people/processes will constantly need to adapt and adjust as you discover new challenges and/or more efficient approaches. Adopt the mantra “always be improving.”

In summary, governance is a huge undertaking, but well worth the investment. With the right approach, you can see significant improvement across your marketing practice. What else do you feel is critical when drafting a governance policy? If you ever want to chat all-things governance, I would love to connect – comment below or contact us.

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