How to Identify and Break Down Marketing Silos

We hear a lot about silos in marketing. It’s one of those buzz terms that linger without being addressed. It’s surprising given how much they can impact all sorts of business, from commercial enterprises through to educational institutions. You’re probably struggling with two or three of them right now.

Luckily for you, silos are the focus of today’s blog. We’re taking a look at the different types of marketing silos; what they look like, how they are created, and most importantly, how they can be addressed.  Let’s get into it.

Types of Marketing Silos

So what are marketing silos? They’re any process, grouping, or barrier that disrupt communication either internally or for your audience. They can exist in all levels of business, they just look a bit different for each organisation. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

  1. Institutional – These are silos that span the entire organisation. Often caused by sheer size, they can include differences in locations, processes, or branding across a business. Think of bank branches with differing hours of operation, or brands with a unique personae per social media platform.

  2. Departmental  – These smaller silos are the result of dividing up teams. These could be as simple as different systems used by your marketing, sales, and finance teams.

  3. Program/ Product Level – These silos are best described as conflicting priorities across your entire suit of offerings. For commercial institutions an example could be inventory differences across locations. For educators, it could look like ten psychology MBAs with nuanced differences, all competing for the same audience.

  4. Data Management – Likely the most common, data silos involve both the storage and access to information. If teams are struggling to access data you already have, it’s a silo.

How to Identify Marketing Silos

Funnily enough, it’s often easier to spot silos from the consumer side. Marketers get too caught up in day to day struggles to notice when they’ve formed. For consumers, silos are glaring experiences too frustrating to ignore.  

One of the most obvious tells is a lack of cohesive branding. Showcasing a range of logos, fonts, colours, and tone of voice is counterintuitive to brand building. Some brands get it right, such as Coca-Cola, which makes slight modifications to each flavour without losing the integrity of their core design. Alternatively, business schools can be the worst offenders, with brand guidelines entirely different from their shared main campus institutions.

It’s not just about branding. Silos become equally apparent through consumer interactions. Instances include overlapping dates for events that target similar audiences, or lack of access to a consumer’s profile across teams. Ever had a customer service rep redirect you to the correct department? Why have different numbers in the first place?

As advertisers, one of the most common silos we see relates to budget splits. At some level, funds need to be distributed across an organisation, however in practice this can lead to higher costs and cannibalisation of your own audience.

How Silos are Created

As beneficial as it is to identify silos, it’s arguably more important to understand how they are formed in the first place. There’s often a variety of factors at play.

  • Segmentation of goals – Whether on a personal or at a group level, individual goals can be harmful to an organisations overall mission. Everyone wants growth, but not at the expense of another’s progress.

  • Knowledge on a need to know basis – Knowledge limitation often comes from privacy concerns, but there’s a limit. Team members of all levels need to understand their part in the grand scheme. Without it, there’s a risk that individual actions work against the grand plan.

  • Data – This involves both storage of information and access to it. With increasing pressure from data regulators, the temptation is to cut as much access as possible. The reality is that once a consumer’s information is provided, they expect it to be accessible across an org.  This also prevents the need to continually ask consumers the same questions.

How to Break Down Marketing Silos

Thankfully there are several ways your organisation can start to address marketing silos. Here’s our list of places to start:

  1. Align on Goals. It sounds simple, but gathering all stakeholders to discuss the broader vision can work wonders. Get everyone on the same page to identify how teams can work together for the benefit of all.

  2. Rework your Data Systems. Establish a central place where information can be stored and retrieved. Grant access to all relevant team members so everyone is starting from the same place.

  3. Establish and Cement Brand Guidelines. Most organisations have them, but make sure they are enforced. Find ways to incorporate smaller subset of the business into the larger brand story. Ensure a similar look and feel through all materials and communications.

  4. Combine Budgets When Possible. We know the temptation is to divide funding into neat and tiny boxes. The reality is that this causes unnecessary internal audience competition, and hurts your ability to optimize based off what’s working. Try a more flexible approach that keeps everyone’s goals in mind.

Bringing Silos to an End

Silos may be a huge pain point shared across many businesses, but they aren’t innate. By starting to understand their sources, you’re already that much closer to dismantling them.

We hope these tips are just the start of a larger process to break down silos, helping to building more efficient and effective teams.