Why is it that so many talented, passionate, dedicated marketing managers end up spending so much of their precious time doing tactical tasks rather than working on high-level activity?
In my experience, it’s that those smaller, more immediate tasks are what the leadership team see value in – the marketing team appears to be producing lots of physical work that everyone understands. However, these kinds of tasks are not led by strategy and often make very little difference in the long-run.
The engine room of innovation
When you step back and look at it, the marketing team is best positioned to act as the engine room of innovation for a company. They are, after all, the customer’s internal ambassador, aligning the business offerings with what matters to the customer. Surely, marketing is also the natural choice to champion better ways of reducing risk and cost for them too.
The problem, then, is this often overlooked connection between marketing and the customer. Marketing teams are regularly chained to managing tactical needs like the website and social updates, event and sales materials, etc. – with very little time to focus on being the eyes and ears of the customer.
Now you’re talking!
In my opinion, marketing is most effective when aligned with business objectives and the wider strategy.
Therefore there must be a deliberate strategy that focuses on achieving the business goals, beyond being a support to short-term sales targets, if it is to be adequately measured against an ROI.
All sounds good in principle, but how do you go about changing perceptions of what marketing can really do for a business?
One approach is to pitch it in a way that resonates with the leadership team to gain buy-in. For example:
Demonstrate the fact that stronger brands enjoy higher price premiums to the Finance Director – Millward Brown’s brand equity research, BrandZ, consistently finds that a brand can only justify a price premium if it is seen to be meaningfully different from the alternatives.
Appeal to the Managing Director or CEO’s appetite for building value in the business by reminding them of the power of vision and how it influences culture, that creates a space for innovation, that drives growth and leads to greater value.
Get the Sales Director’s backing by highlighting the lead generation possibilities with a switch in focus to appearance and meaning. With people tending to judge companies by 60% on how they appear and only 10% by what they say. That 10% should be overflowing with meaning for the customer. Smart brands know what makes them meaningfully different, and they make sure every potential buyer knows what makes them different too.
Whatever the approach, using the right language can reframe how the marketing function is seen. Concerns over risk can be reduced further if the marketing plan is driven directly from the business objectives.
The power of momentum
None of this is new, and I appreciate that it can still be incredibly challenging to get the leadership team, as a whole, to support a proactive marketing strategy. After all, targets and forecasts are not guarantees. But the one change I’ve seen that does make all the difference is momentum.
I’ve never met a marketer who hasn’t, at one time, become deflated due to the seemingly never-ending time and effort it has taken to produce a simple marketing activity. Sign-off procedures alone can be a bottle neck, and then there’s always a danger of too many cooks… with too many opinions. I’ll leave it there.
However, if you can find a way to maintain momentum, that’s when I’ve seen the greatest success. Keeping the interest going, maintaining ownership and pushing for a quick turnaround can often deliver a better final product and with more support from your peers.
Clearly, none of this is easy, but starting with objectives and then keeping the pace throughout will give your marketing the best chance of success – both internally and externally.