Friday, 3 April 2009

I'll scream and scream and scream

This week I went to a Chartered Institute of Marketing event to hear the results of a study on the role of marketing in large organisations. Carried out with Accenture, the very title of the study: 'In search of a strategic role for marketing' hints at desperation.

Marketing can be divided into two main parts: tactical (management of the marketing plan; brand management; lead generation) and strategic (customer insight; development of the value proposition; strategic planning). In most organisations the role of the marketing department is tactical, which leads to predictable wailing that marketers are misunderstood and undervalued.

But hang on a minute, let's look at this more closely. A business needs a marketing department to design and deliver the tactical activity. This is what provides the measurable revenues and there is nothing wrong or devaluing about it. A well designed marketing plan is firmly rooted in a detailed appreciation of the strategy of the business and the most successful marketing directors have the ability to turn business objectives into effective and actionable tactical plans.

The trouble with Marketing, though, is that it can't be satisfied with this role and wants to run the whole company. By the time we have been through the 8P's of product, price, place, promotion, process, people, physical evidence and positioning there is very little left for anybody else.

Many marketers thump the desk and demand a position for marketing on the board, refusing to believe that any business can properly function without it. These people are failing to draw a distinction between marketing as a concept and the individual abilities of the people in the marketing department. The remit is simply too broad and too important to be the exclusive domain of one person or one area of the business: it is the role of the board as a whole to set the strategic direction and the role of marketing to provide the insights and framework.

If individually marketers have the talent, they will rightfully earn a place on the board of the businesses within which they work. No business, however, can afford to offer board appointments on the basis of job title alone and the challenge for many marketers is to develop a sufficiently rounded level of experience to merit their promotion.


Andrew Cringle said...

I don't believe that marketing is simply a collection of tactics nor is it the preserve of a single department. Marketers (people with expertise, experience and belief in the value of understanding and responding to the market) need to start thinking and operating outside of their function. Marketing is an organisation wide concept, it needs marketing experts but they don't have to come from the marketing dept or even have marketing in their job title.

Michael Winwood said...

I do not believe the role of marketing to be mainly tactical. The business model of any organisation has to be built (rebuilt, changed, redesigned) around real customer needs and offer real benefits from its goods and services. If the organisation does not continually seek to both understand and gain evidence about customer wants, expectations, buying imperatives, price sensitivity etc etc it will be failing to optimise its outputs and its purpose. However, to think that the marketing department is the sole repository of either the knowledge or motive force to this endeavour is to miss the point. Market and marketing strategy comes from the executive and the board. If market insight is not available there how can we expect market led culture, customer service excellence or meaningful tactics?

The Marketing Eye said...

Michael, Andrew,
Thank you for taking the time to reply. We are on the same page.
If more people considered marketing as a valuable part of a career path rather than a career in itself, the discipline would have greater sponsorship from the top and the level of understanding and appreciation would percolate deeper into the organisation.

Kym Hamer said...

I agree entirely...I believe that 'marketing' is the province of the entire organisation and not the exclusive 'remit' of the marketing team...any marketer worth their salt should consider a major component of their role to be a PART of formulating strategy, key milestones and action-able workplans throughout the business not the sole author...

Liz Barnes said...

So where does business strategy finish and marketing start (or vice versa)? As a marketing strategist who enables companies to implement tactical plans (and taught CIM PGDip for 15 years), I see a continuum. Business leaders (on the board) are setting business direction - which IS marketing (e.g which markets to develop, competitive strategy, positioning etc). They must then design the operational context, resources and capabilities to fulfil their goals (marketing management) and train / develop marketing staff to implement coherent plans which deliver the business strategy. There is no start and finish point for marketing imho. Interesting debate.

The Marketing Eye said...

Thanks to everybody for their comments. The question has raised some interesting responses, which I will share with CIM. The broad concensus seems to be that:

1. Marketing strategy needs to be driven by the board, which is also responsible for making sure that a marketing ethos spans the whole organisation
2. There is a place in the business for an expert with a learned and practised understanding of good marketing principles and best practice, but he or she needs to also demonstrate good commercial acumen and not be isolated as a purist
3. A marketing department is needed for the operational delivery of marketing activity (principally promotion, positioning, physical evidence and the gathering of customer insight).

In my last employed role I was a Director of Strategic Marketing in a FTSE 100 business. I fulfilled point 2 and directed a team of people that delivered point 3. The model worked well (imho!), but I never had control of product, place, price, process or people and don't think I could have coped if I did. Instead I could only influence these areas by contributing to working groups etc. I never made the board either, but was a direct report to a board member who had broader industry experience than I did. This has shaped my opinion that marketers shouldn't fear stepping outside of marketing at some point in their careers to become more fully rounded. I also think that CIM has an important role in making sure that marketing principles are taught to HR, finance, sales and even IT professionals: it shouldn't just focus on educating its own.