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Adjust or Perish: The Changing Role of Marketing 

Lately I have been pondering the vast changes that the roles of marketing and senior marketing executive have been undergoing. Some of these changes can be attributed to shifts in the economic environment, some to changes in technology, and, of course, changes in the needs and motivations of the customer.

 But I believe the most dramatic changes are happening internally, especially in this tougher economy. Right now, every dollar needs to work harder, and marketing in particular is under more pressure than ever. It is viewed as a cost center by many businesses. But marketing is responsible for creating the first impression and for driving demand. Yet marketing budgets are often the first to be cut.

 To be effective today, marketing must: 

1.  Ensure that marketing goals are in alignment with the organization’s goals. Too often this is not the case. This is especially important today with the increasing pressure on a company’s profits.

 2.  Marketing must spread their expertise across the total business, and not just within its functional sphere of influence. Senior marketing executives must be seen as business leaders – not just marketing leaders. It is critical for marketing leaders to help the rest of the company understand what it takes to win with customers and in the marketplace.

 3.  Marketing must stay relevant, keeping up with the needs of customers, studying new target marketing, and staying on top of new ways to provide value to the customer. This requires keeping one's skills up to date, as well as those of the marketing team members.

4.  Many marketers define their roles too narrowly and are resistant to putting themselves in positions outside their comfort zones. It is important to know what you don’t know and to put people on your team who cover your weaknesses.

 5.  Senior marketing leaders today must have a strong profit-and-loss focus. It is not enough to be good at operating functionally. It is important to demonstrate how marketing activity fits with the overall business objectives. Currently, there is too much focus on advertising and other activities without clear evidence how these activities support the business’ strategy and objectives. If marketing is merely advertising, then its budget probably deserves to be cut.

 6.  The Voice of the Customer is the most powerful business development tool that exists - bar none. It identifies competitive gaps that are important to the customer; and those gaps, whether positive or negative, will point to the specific products or services, people or process issues that can be improved to achieve or sustain a competitive advantage. Marketing must educate the company on the needs and wants of the customer.

 7.  Marketing’s task is to identify which customer segments are most profitable, to define the customers’ buying criteria, and to provide guidance and support to the sales force. This will help the company achieve its objectives by focusing increasingly limited resources on the places where they can deliver the most profitability.

 8.  Marketing needs to demonstrate accountability and show how it is having a real impact on the bottom line. Accountability is the key to credibility, and in business this means using hard metrics to demonstrate impact. Accountability is a fantastic driver of performance. Marketing needs to aim for specific numbers that forces the marketing team to focus their efforts around questions that drive bottom-line impact: What value are we delivering to our customers? Are we satisfying the customer’s needs – not satisfying? How many leads is marketing bringing in? What is the quality of those leads?

 9.  The senior marketing executive needs to be a businessperson first, and a marketer second. Many senior marketing executives come from technical or creative backgrounds, lacking the “business mindset”. It is key is for marketers to understand and speak the quantitative and financial language of business.  

In an article by Nirmalya Kumar, (Director of the Center for Marketing at London Business School) published in the Marketing Management Magazine, “The importance of marketing as a mind-set is unquestioned in firms. But true market orientation does not mean becoming market-driven; it means that the entire company obsesses over creating value for the customer and views itself as a bundle of processes that profitably define, create, communicate and deliver value to its target customers.”

Peter Drucker once wrote, "The business enterprise has two and only two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs." Marketing must stay aligned, engaged, and relevant or it will become just another cost. In today's tough economic environment, this is more important than ever.

Everyone in the company must help create customer value. In other words, everyone must do marketing, no matter what function or department they may be in. Marketing must lead projects that deliver value to the consumer - becoming more strategic, cross-functional and more bottom-line oriented.

There is a popular saying that states: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be what you’ve always been. Today's challenges can't be satisfied with yesterday's mindset.

About the Author:  Ken Wilson: Strategist, marketing guru, educator, facilitator, author, university lecturer and consultant, he can be reached at ken@wmg-mn.com  or 763-476-2216

Copyright ©2018 by Ken Wilson    All rights reserved.

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