You may not know Jacob Rodney Cohen, but you probably do know his stage name, Rodney Dangerfield. There are some days I know that manufacturing marketers feel his pain. Many days, the lament of Marketing in a manufacturing company is the same as Rodney's lament, "I don't get no respect!" This post is meant to inspire marketers. Respect is not given, it is earned. It's time for us marketers working in manufacturing to take a stand, make our voices heard, prove our high value, and claim our places as crucial, strategic contributors to the business.
Based on anecdotal experience and evidence, I feel confident in saying that the vast majority of B2B manufacturing companies do not respect their marketing team or marketing as a discipline.
Marketing respect must be earned. Just look at the advertisements put out by manufacturing companies. They are usually terribly done both in content and design. I don't blame the marketers. If there happens to be a professional marketer on staff, they want to be better and want to do better. In many cases, the ‘powers’ within the manufacturing organization (sales, product or executive) don’t support marketing with resources and, even worse, force bad ideas on the marketing professionals. Advertisements, trade show booth graphics, brochures, et al are typically the brainchild of an executive who has no idea about what constitutes good marketing. Marketing is getting no respect in either case.
Why does marketing not have respect?
Let's explore the reason why marketing is the Rodney Dangerfield of the manufacturing organization. When manufacturing was in its glory days during the post World War II boom, there was really no need for marketing. The product was king and all they had to do was invent or produce a product and people would buy it if they had the money. If a product manager or a sales manager decided they wanted to run an ad, it was usually a seat of the pants decision and the nearest secretary (remember, we're talking about the 1950s) was tasked to 'put together an ad' based on a sketch on the back of a napkin. There was no strategy or coherent go-to-market plan in place beyond the sales team, an occasional advertisement and the regular trade show. Note how the manufacturing culture is beginning to define the role of marketing during this time. Marketing was being defined as a service to the sales or product team and it was just not important enough to support with any type of resources.
Cultures don't change easily. Even today, in our so called modern era of digital marketing, the culture in most manufacturing companies is dominated by either the sales organization or the product/R&D organization. Marketing is seen as an admin function, subservient to most other functions. Marketing is under funded, under appreciated and under utilized. Marketers in a manufacturing organization "don't get no respect".
Strategic marketing is usually formulated (and I use this term loosely) by the big boys and girls at the leadership table. Typically, the ‘Marketing’ leader does not belong to this group. So we have a group of executives who know nothing about practical marketing strategy or marketing tactics making decisions which are usually based on the latest sales persons shallow insight or the latest product under development. For lack of understanding, the leadership team will try to bring their own personal experiences of being 'marketed to' into the discussion. The leadership team will likely include the CEO, CFO, HR, and business segment leaders. None of whom will have had any practical marketing experience. As a reference, feel free to check out my last post, “Help, My CEO Hates Marketing”. Strategic marketing will usually be reduced to a few catch phrases like, "we have to be more customer focused" or "we have to use more digital marketing". It is from these types of meetings where strategic decisions about social media are born. It sounds something like this from the CEO, "Hey, my daughter spends all of her time on Facebook. Did you know there are more than a billion users on Facebook?" Then the head of HR pipes up and says, "yeah, my son is on Twitter and he loves it. He's majoring in marketing at State U this year. He says social media really boosts a company's SEO too." The CFO says, "What's SEO?" They all have a good laugh, assign someone to tell Rita the marketing manager to get the company up on Facebook and Twitter as they move on to the quarterly income statement. Sadly, but alas, typically, that type of conversation serves as the marketing strategy discussion with the leadership team.
In the meantime, a low level marketer takes care of the tactical marketing which includes the daily things called marketing such as trade shows, advertisements, email blasts, etc. Typically these disrespected marketing team members react to the sales team, product team or some other "respected" function. In many manufacturing companies, the engineering team leads marketing. Ask any manufacturing marketer about what engineers think of marketing and you’ll see the marketer’s eyes roll around and their head shake back and forth. Terms like "smoke and mirrors", "fluff and nonsense", or "a bunch of lies" come to mind when an engineer ponders marketing.
True story; I was working with a large manufacturing company last Fall where the Vice President of Engineering was given the joint title and role as Vice President of Marketing. In one meeting, he revealed his idea about what was needed from Marketing. He wanted to see "pizzazz" and “flamboyance” from the marketing team. He was completely clueless about marketing strategy, tactics or what a marketing team should be doing for a manufacturing organization. Clearly, there is no respect for Marketing at that firm.
What is a marketer to do to gain respect?
Marketing can and should be a powerful, revenue generating force within all manufacturing companies. Marketing should be leading the entire revenue team, including sales, marketing, inside sales and product. A modern, smart, adept marketing leader and organization has much to offer. We marketers must take it upon ourselves to earn respect. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Start tracking revenue metrics. For some ideas about what metrics to track, see this post.
- Start talking about the revenue metrics.
- Stop talking about marketing metrics (ctr, opens, likes, followers, impressions) outside of the marketing team.
- Discuss marketing strategy in terms of revenue generation, not expense or cost.
- Say "no" once in a while backed up by real data.
- Develop a proper marketing plan in collaboration with your stakeholders.
The upside is that there is a HUGE opportunity for the manufacturing business and its executives who are willing to change this culture of ‘no respect’ for marketing. Marketing leaders and professionals are ready, willing and able to step up to the demand for growth. Professional marketers know how to drive engagement, fill the top of the funnel, create TOMA (top of mind awareness) and, most importantly, generate revenue.
Most manufacturing leaders embrace innovation and creativity as a cornerstone of their business. There is no more innovative and creative group of people than the modern marketer. There is not a more exciting opportunity to innovate than embracing, respecting and creating a revenue driving marketing team. Yes, I am a professional marketer and I’m proud of my profession. As marketers, we have the technology, tools and the knowledge to contribute at the leadership table. We, the professional marketers, are ready to earn the respect of the manufacturing organization.