Time for Marketers to Rise Up and Claim Their Strategic Post!

November 07, 2017 / By Bruce McDuffee

This is chapter 11 from my book, The New Way to Market for Manufacturing. Download your free copy.New-Way-Cover-paperback_103px.png

In most manufacturing companies, the belief is that the sales team generates the revenue. The sales team may be a direct-sales force, a network of manufacturer’s reps, or some combination. The salespeople are the heroes because they bring home the bacon. The power of influence within a manufacturing company usually resides with the sales team, the product team, or some combination of the two.

It is extremely rare for the power of influence to lie with the marketing team at a manufacturing company.

The marketing team, if one exists at all within the manufacturing organization, is relegated to being the service center for the sales team and the product group. In other words, the marketing team produces whatever the sales team and product group demands. Their contribution may include generating brochures and presentation slides, attending trade shows, organizing seminars and webinars, overseeing social media posts, and doing nearly anything under the sun that is desired by the sales team.

As a manufacturing marketing consultant, I worked with a company structured as I just described in the previous paragraph. The marketing department acted as a vending machine of collateral for the sales team and the engineering (product) team. This story is representative of the challenge facing manufacturing marketers around the world as they try to reconcile how the sales team fits with the practice of marketing. This particular manufacturing marketing team wanted to advance to become an effective, modern marketing team that participated in generating revenue through proper lead generation strategy and execution, content marketing, and marketing automation. As with most marketing organizations, they had a limited budget, people, and resources. Head of marketing was a title tacked onto the vice president of engineering. No doubt he was a brilliant engineer, but he was utterly clueless about the practice of marketing. Just the fact that he was appointed to lead the marketing team tells you where the leadership at this particular multi billion-dollar global manufacturing company placed the importance of marketing. 

I was invited to attend their annual marketing planning meeting. The marketers were smart and good at clueless.pngmarketing. They presented what they were asked to present. At the end of the meeting, the vice president of engineering/marketing told them he was disappointed. Imagine how they must have felt. I guarantee you that every marketer was demotivated entirely, and some were just plain pissed off. To top it off, the vice president told these professional marketers they should demonstrate more “pizzazz” and “flamboyance.” The professional marketers in the group were confused by this directive as was I. How disheartening. 

In preparation for their massive annual trade show, the sales leader told the marketing leader that sales wanted a laser light show at the trade show. The particular laser show they wanted would cost more than $150,000. The marketing lead gave the sales team a choice between the laser light show and a lead generation program backed by high-quality content. The sales team chose the laser light show as a clear message at this company that sales matters and marketing does not matter.

Although this is a sad story, it is not atypical. It is the nature of manufacturing to undervalue the marketing function.

Do sales have a place in the practice of marketing? Not in the traditional manufacturing company. If I may be so bold, I suggest that sales should be one part of the marketing function and the leader of the sales and marketing group should be a marketing professional.

To take this dream even further, I have a vision I would like to share with you, dear reader. Consider a manufacturing company where the structure is such that there is no sales department and there is no marketing department. In its place is a revenue team under the leadership of a seasoned marketing and sales professional who is not only a consummate leader but is also a technology aficionado. Within this revenue team, the roles would be defined according to how they contribute to generating revenue. Possible functions would include:

  • Customer care
  • Field liaison
  • New business
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Customer support
  • Technology operations
If you look closely, you will notice that these roles are a mix of what was once known as sales and marketing roles. The personnel would also be integrated physically within the office space, if possible. They would strive to achieve the same goals and objectives as one team. Leadership would be unified and treated evenly, regardless of the role. Consolidating the old sales and marketing roles and eliminating the old-school jargon would go a long way toward aligning these different parts of the revenue-generation engine. What better industry to build a structure called a revenue team than the industry that makes things? 


Takeaway Actions:

  1. Determine how the sales and marketing functions are perceived at your company. Are sales regarded as the revenue-producing group and marketing are seen as the subservient, expensive brochure-creating group? It might be hard to get an honest answer, but be persistent. Ask your senior leadership if you get a chance.
  2. If you like the idea of one revenue team led by a marketing professional, write down a vision for your company. Describe the details of the group mission, job descriptions, hierarchy, numbers, etc.
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