Monday, June 28, 2010

The Power of Marketing

Does your company have a marketing function?  Do the people involved in it actually do marketing?

I continue to be amazed at how few people in business truly understand the concept and value of marketing.  In many organizations, marketing activity consists of nothing more than handling the company's advertising, website, and product literature activities.  This is unfortunate because of the huge potential that marketing can have on the company's overall success.

What is Marketing?

Companies are in business to create value for customers and, because of this, they can't succeed without effective marketing.  Marketing enables an understanding of the customer's needs to determine the type and mix of products or services that will create value.  In effect, the more effective marketing is performed, the more successful the company will be.

Marketing has the potential to have an enormous impact on the organization.  It drives sales by aligning the product or service offering to the needs of the market.  It drives manufacturing by providing direction on cycle times, inventory levels, and target costs.  It drives new product development by providing information on what customers want and need.

Buried in the Organization

One sign that a company may not understand or value marketing is having it lumped into the sales function.  Often a company will have a "Sales & Marketing" department that is mostly (if not completely) staffed with salespeople.  I have worked with companies in the past where people were actually hired into "marketing" positions, only to have their responsibilities gradually shifted toward sales.  This is unfortunate because marketing drives sales - it is not the other way around.

I have also worked with companies that, except for advertising or promotions, had no marketing function at all.  Marketing strategy in these companies weas informal and inconstant.  And these were not small companies - one in particular had revenues of almost $1 billion.

When a leader does not understand what marketing encompasses, he or she will not see the value of having one or more full-time people responsible for marketing (unless, as mentioned above, those people are involved in advertising or promotions, which can produce fairly quick results).

It could be the inability to easily measure the effectiveness of marketing that keeps it from getting the emphasis it deserves.  Other functions like manufacturing, procurement, engineering, and sales are much easier to evaluate with traditional measures (although, as I have argued in previous posts, many of these "traditional" measures are ineffective and, in some cases, destructive).

A leader should never get so hung up on measures that an activity is not given proper focus.

Marketing Needs to Drive

Marketing is not just another function.  In fact, it is so critical to the company's success that it really needs to be elevated above "functional" status.  Rather than burying it deep inside the organization, it needs to reside at the highest level and drive the company.

Placing marketing at the organization's highest level will assure it has the authority to influence all aspects of the company's operation.  Organizationally, marketing should provide direction to operations, sales, and product development because of the direct impact it has over each of these functions.  Since this would be too much of a change for some companies, the idea of separating marketing from sales and elevating it to the senior executive level should at least be considered.

Continuing to ignore the importance and power of marketing will hurt the company and keep the business from ever reaching its full potential.  Without the development and implementation of an effective marketing strategy, any level of success achieved will be short-lived and the company will forever be in the shadows of the likes of Apple, Samsung, Pepsi, and others who understand how to use marketing to achieve success.

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