10 Ways to Make Your Marketing Organization More Strategic and Effective
One of the biggest challenges for marketing professionals is to determine how to balance their time to work on both tactical and strategic marketing activities and actions. Left to natural tendencies, most marketing people and teams will work on short-term activities that help drive the business for the next month or quarter. An old HP colleague of mine calls this the “tyranny of the current.” Most organizations naturally assume that the primary role of marketing is to help sales close short-term and mid-term business. And that certainly is an important part of the marketing function. After all, we are trying to create new products, brand awareness, and demand for something! If it is not for sales – or to generate incremental revenues or market share – then what is it for?
Yet at the same time, when marketing teams focus only on the short term, they miss some of the strategic roles that marketing can and should play within the organization. From experience, I know that tactical, short-term focused marketing teams are not very well-respected. In order to be considered a strategic function (like finance, operations, R&D, etc.), there are other critical roles the marketing function must play. I listed those key areas in the blog entry 6 Key Roles of Highly Successful Marketing Organizations. I won’t repeat them here.
What I would like to do is highlight 10 distinct ways marketing can become more strategic in any organization. They include:
- Bring more customer insights and the voice of the customer into the organization.
- Write a strategic marketing plan, budget funds towards it, and execute against it.
- Focus a few key positions on strategy (long term) and keep those people focused on longer term activities and goals (such as planning, strategic initiatives, etc.) vs. execution (tactical).
- Separate sales or business development functions from marketing, if they are organizationally together. When marketing is imbedded within the sales department, it makes it particularly difficult to be strategic.
- Separate marketing operations (the business of marketing and reporting, forecasting, pricing, sales response, etc.) from marketing management. Give it focus within an organization.
- Set objectives, accountability, and metrics for short and long-term team objectives and hold your people accountable for delivering results for both. After all, what gets measured gets done.
- Hire the right people for your organization. You need people who have the skills to operate at both a strategic and tactical level.
- Learn to prioritize and say no. Of course, this is very hard to do. But stick with activities that are aligned with the organization’s objectives, not the “issue du jour” advanced by an aggressive sales manager or the sales response team.
- Read Marketing Managementby Kotler and Keller. This is a great book to learn about strategic marketing management.
- Set expectations around long term focus with senior management. With constrained resources, a common feature to most marketing organizations, certain tactical activities will need to be de-prioritized in order to spend time on the longer term, strategic elements of the business plan. These strategic elements should contribute to the company’s longer term revenue and profitable growth.
Effective marketing requires a balance of strategic and tactical work. Too little tactical work and marketing will be seen as working “in the clouds.” Too much tactical work and marketing will not be valued as a strategic function but as a “sales assist” team.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how you have balanced these orientations within your own marketing teams.