After a long career in marketing, both within and providing business services, I’ve seen many iterations of the marketing function.
Getting it right will directly correlate with business success. Getting it wrong is an expensive problem that you don’t want to deal with.
Over the past decade, most businesses, large and small, have grappled with this dilemma. On the one hand, business leaders accept that marketing does work to drive profitable sales. On the other, marketing needs to prove its worth and fit neatly into the business's operational matrix.
In this article, we outline some of the primary considerations and some traps to avoid. Most important is the creation of a measurable boost to productivity. Not just for marketing, but the organisation as a whole.
What matters most?
In my experience, marketing effectiveness needs these elements to prosper.
- Strong leadership
- A clear organisation-wide understanding of objectives and strategy
- Well defined roles
- Efficient processes
- Continuous improvement
- All supported by robust and flexible marketing technology
What do you want to achieve?
Any investment is a strategic decision. Plus, people bring a layer of added complexity and management overhead to the decision.
There are revenue and profit objectives, of course. There’s also the breadth and depth of scope that the marketing function holds.
Your business category, go-to-market strategy and how you intend to advance your product or service offer; will weigh on your decision.
For example, here are two extremes:
- An old-school approach to a B2B marketing function would be to develop leads and provide support resources to sales
- A modern FMCG business typically regards themselves as a marketing organisation where marketing devises products and services and holds P&L responsibility for every brand.
The marketing function in the majority of businesses is, at its core, responsible for creating demand. So, let’s look at how to advance this through a set of decisions. Too often we head straight for what people do, rather than think first about what we need to achieve. We need to consider why and how they will do it.
- What is the scope of the marketing function?
- What is the marketing and sales strategy?
- What skills are required to lead and execute the strategy?
- Does the business have the existing knowledge, skills and bandwidth to lead the marketing strategy, processes, and to develop its marketing specialists and suppliers?
- To what extent will marketing and sales integrate? Today, strategic alignment and shared objectives are critical. Leadership can be common or split.
- What are the revenue and profit goals, the growth required and the ROI expectations?
The answers to these questions will help leaders to be clear on the skills required, and the financial investment that will define the marketing function.
Insource or outsource?
In very broad terms, call it a generalisation, SME businesses often insource with too little skill and end up in a world of unguided tactical mayhem. Or they under-fund their internal team or outsourced partners. Or both. These are the businesses that doubt whether marketing works because it never has for them. Remember, it’s about ROI value much, much more than an expense.
The other generalisation that I’ve seen time and again is that large organisations outsource too much. Their marketing teams are often slow and inefficient, bogged down by a cumbersome approvals process and spending too much time managing external partners.
Insourcing is often lower cost on paper or per hour. Outsourcing can be more efficient. For almost all businesses, there will be a balance. The solution will meet the mutually dependent needs of leadership, skills and resources—this, combined with sound process and measurement that drives performance and continuous improvement.
There is a better way
Because customer and buyer behaviour evolves so rapidly with technology, marketing and sales keep changing at a pace. For this reason, the majority of businesses have plenty of room for improvement.
It pays to steps back and assess this from time to time. Help is available.