This is a guest post. We welcome guest posts about helping manufacturers increase sales and/or advance their marketing function. Send in your idea and you too could be a guest blogger at MMG.
Guest blogger - Andrea Olson, MSC and CEO of Prag’madik
What is Marketing? More importantly, what is Marketing's role in your organization? Does Marketing have a seat at the executive table, or is it tucked inside some other function, such as Sales or Operations? Is it made up of 3-4 people, including a "graphics person," "writing person," "trade show coordinator" and a "manager"? Does it function more like a production team than a strategy leading department?
The definition of Marketing's role varies from industry to industry, and even more from organization to organization. But whether you are a passionate believer in Marketing or feel it's a waste of time/money/resources, it's essential to understand how it can serve your organization better.
Take for comparison your accounting/finance department. You have to have them for crunching the numbers, right? They keep documentation in order, process payroll, manage payables, etc., etc. All the tactical, administrative stuff. Important, but it doesn't build your business, right? It's just one of those costs you have to eat.
But what if they could do and be more? What if they could impact cash flow by designing and implementing a strategy to reduce the number of days outstanding of accounts receivable? Or if they could reduce operating costs and overhead by redesigning the billing process? What about finding new and creative ways to reduce your tax burden through R&D credits? (hint: they can.)
If you don't understand the more significant and broader role of Marketing's function, it's likely under-serving your company.
If you're not investing and pushing Marketing beyond their superficial capacities to functionally and strategically impact the advancement of the company, you might as well outsource those activities. Too many organizations view their Marketing departments as a tactical function and leave the "strategic thinking" to the Sales team.
(Real) case in point: a Midwest tool manufacturer was facing continued declining sales over the last three quarters. To counter this trend, the organization's top priority was to increase sales. The CEO and the Sales leader sat down in an all-day meeting to discuss the health of the sales pipeline. Digging through reams of spreadsheets, they prioritized leads and examined new areas of opportunity.
The CEO pushed to identify the core problem, asking "What's the biggest impediment we have?" The VP of Sales was quick to respond. "The team continually tells me that we don't effectively tell our story. If we can get Marketing to update our overview brochure and presentation, that would make a big difference."
"There's no harm in that," the CEO states. "Get that moving and let's discuss a few other ideas for generating sales. Maybe an email campaign would be a good thing - we haven't done one in a while."
While there are many issues wrapped up in this scenario, one of the biggest is the oversimplification of the Marketing function. If a new brochure were really going to save the day, freelance graphic designers would be millionaires. The gap comes from not understanding the more prominent role Marketing can play to identify and address the real problems. For example:
1) Marketing can help determine where prospects and leads are dropping from the Sales/Marketing Funnel and design a strategic approach to address the most significant leaks
2) Marketing can examine the Customer Experience, both online and offline, and determine if customer attrition is fueling the sales decline, and why
3) Marketing can assess the company's brand reputation in the marketplace, and design a strategic approach to re-shape perceptions in targeted markets and customer segments where there are shortcomings
4) Marketing can examine customer behavior and identify new ways to reach and connect with prospects based on how they seek solutions, whether online or offline
Important Note: While you might have a hard-working Marketing team in-house, it is essential to have the right skill sets in place. You can't expect a copywriter to become a marketing strategist magically.
Whether you love it or hate it, Marketing has a more strategic role to play in every organization. The question is how much you want to utilize and leverage that investment to grow your business. Otherwise, you might as well use that excess graphic design and copywriting capacity to make some more brochures.