The transformation that marketing has gone through over the last 15 years has been unprecedented. If you attend any marketing event in the world, the topics onstage and off have transitioned into something much different than what you would have heard less than a decade ago.

It started with the lead generation function of marketing. For the first time, teams could accurately track the amount of revenue they were contributing to the bottom line. This gave rise to a focus around demand generation, which transformed the way the entire marketing department began to collaborate and work towards a collective goal. Today, revenue marketing is a term often used to describe this new way in which marketing is adding value to their companies.

Due to this shift, we’ve progressively started to see marketing in the news more and more, “CMO gets a seat at the table” in Forbes, “Marketing to set the strategy” in Gartner. The reason that this became newsworthy is because the marketing department has always been seen as more art than science. Yes, there have been best practices in place, but translating marketing work to the bottom line has been, at best, challenging.

However, this has changed. We’re starting to see marketing become a voice in the boardroom. It’s now being held accountable to contributions to the pipeline, contributions to bookings, contributions to revenue, and it’s all highly measurable. We’ve moved away from this notion of marketing being a revenue spender to a revenue generator and the relationship between marketing and the rest of the business has evolved.

So how did this transformation happen? There were two main driving forces – methodology and technology.

The methodology change really started with the introduction of the Sirius Decision demand generation waterfall about 10 years ago. This waterfall followed along the same lines of the sales methodology that was brought to market by the likes of Siebel and Salesforce. The development gave marketing’s demand generation function the framework to measure every single step of the process.

  • Are there enough leads at the top of the funnel?
  • Are the leads properly qualified?
  • Does sales agree that they are qualified leads?
  • Are those qualified leads converting into opportunities and revenue?

The waterfall also let you track progress through each stage, look at the conversion rates and optimise your programs to be more effective.

This new methodology was supported, enabled and even driven by the second force, technology, which began to pop up in platforms like Marketo and Salesforce. Marketing automation ensued and things like lead nurture, MQL’s and SAL’s began taking centre stage.

Although this change started in the demand generation function, it didn’t end there. Looking at how content marketing evolved, and thinking about how we began using content in the marketing mix to drive demand, you can see how the shift changed the ways other functions in marketing worked. Content marketing began talking to product marketing, social departments began speaking with sales enablement who were talking to the advertising department, all within this new context of driving demand through the waterfall.

While this transformation was taking place in the entire marketing department, a question arose that couldn’t be overlooked – where is the communications department in all of this?

If you think about it, the communications department has largely been doing the same things it has for a long time – finding journalists, creating lists and spreadsheets, pitching them, looking for coverage, etc. Communication professionals were going through the same motions without the benefit the rest of marketing had in using new methodology and new technology. And not much has changed since.

Of course, there are technologies being used, Meltwater is one of them, but we haven’t seen that same transformation in a holistic sense as the rest of the marketing department. There are the media monitoring tools, influencer lists, community builders, social engagement platforms, but the transformation where the above comes together and interacts with other disciplines to drive end goals for the rest of the business has not happened.

And as marketing’s efforts are tracked right down to the bottom line, the communications department is getting pressure to come up with a more coherent and disciplined method to run the overall function in the same way.

The good news is that technology is getting there. Meltwater will be announcing some significant developments in 2017 that will help bridge the gap where the challenge exists to prove a return on investment.

Changes in technology will help communications professionals take a seat at the table in the same way. And as technology drove the developments in methodology for marketing, so will it for communications.

So get ready communicators, exciting opportunity up ahead!