Not too long ago, a friend posed the following questions to me: What should a marketing department do? And, what should they be responsible for?
After reflecting upon the query, I came to the realization that my friend had asked quite interesting and thought-provoking questions for which there are not simple answers. To begin, the responsibilities of a Marketing Department vary based on several factors including business size, industry, corporate structure, and more. To complicate the matter, a Marketing Department’s role will undoubtedly be different for organizations where the department is considered to be a “cost center” vs. a “revenue center.”
While understanding that “it depends” is not a suitable answer for any direct question, the following are my thoughts on 9 core activities / responsibilities a Marketing Department must handle. They are not listed in any particular order, as they all should be accomplished if an organization wants to grow the value of its business.
1. Focus on the Customer. Marketers should spend time listening to their customers (and prospective customers) in order to understand their needs and wants regarding a particular product or service. Soliciting thoughts and input from internal stakeholders such as the Sales and Customer Service groups is also appropriate, as these departments are typically closest to the customer.
2. Monitor the Competition. Learning about and understanding the competitive landscape is also an important function of the Marketing Department. Marketers should be the “go to people” within an organization capable of answering the following types of questions: Who is the competition (both direct and indirect)? What do they communicate? Which customers do they serve? Why do customers choose the competitor versus you?
3. Own the Brand. The perceptions and feelings formed about an organization, its products / services, and its performance is what is known as its “brand.” The Marketing Department is responsible for creating meaningful messages through words, ideas, images, and names that deliver upon the promises / benefits an organization wishes to provide for its customers. Furthermore, the Marketing Department is responsible for ensuring that messages and images are delivered consistently by every member of the organization.
4. Find Direct Outside Vendors. Internal Marketing Departments do not create magic alone. Therefore, Marketing needs to source and oversee a group of outside resources (a.k.a. “partners”) such as copywriters, graphic designers, web designers, database specialists, and printers so that a company can get the most “bang” for its marketing efforts.
5. Create New Ideas. Whether it’s customer acquisition campaigns, keep-in-touch programs, new product promotions, retention efforts, or something in between, the Marketing Department should ultimately be responsible for developing new ideas that generate revenue for the company. This does not mean that the Marketers have to come up with every idea on their own; however, they need to identify, cultivate, and work with others (see point #4) to execute programs that will create revenue.
6. Communicate Internally. It is important that the Marketing Department communicates with all departments inside an organization. Since any employee (regardless of position) can support (or damage) a brand, value proposition or even specific program initiatives, the Marketing Department needs to take responsibility for disseminating information throughout the organization (this includes internal education and training when appropriate).
7. Manage a Budget. Establishing and communicating messages to the marketplace costs money. Therefore, Marketing Departments should be responsible for estimating the anticipated expenditures associated with marketing activities. Once set, Marketers should be held responsible for meeting all budget projections.
8. Understand the ROI. Since marketing activities are an investment — an investment in time, money, and effort — they should be monitored and measured against specific concrete goals and objectives. Marketing Departments should constantly ask themselves…”What’s my expected return?” Answering this simple, yet often overlooked question will result in better, more accountable decisions.
9. Set the Strategy, Plan the Attack, and Execute. One of the key activities for a Marketing Department is to integrate an organization’s goals, strengths, channels of distribution, competitive environment, target markets, pricing, core messages, and products into one cohesive document known as the Marketing Strategy. As part of the strategy, the Marketing Department should also develop a list of tactical ideas such as direct mail, print advertising, and search engine optimization that will enable the organization to communicate its message to customers and prospects. With a strategy and tactical ideas in hand, the Marketing Department is now ready to take on the responsibility of executing the programs and initiatives to drive sales and revenue for the organization.
Whether you are part of a Fortune 500 corporation, a regional manufacturer, a local distributor, an independent professional service provider, or somewhere in between, marketing is a critical component necessary to increase the value of your business. Take a look at your Marketing Department. How many of the 9 activities above do they handle? If something is missing, it is a sure sign that your marketing efforts are not as effective as they could be; therefore, your company is leaving money and valuable resources on the table.
Please feel free to contact me at 847-945-7573 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or wish to discuss your organization’s marketing challenges.
P.S. For more marketing and business growth ideas, please check out Zen 2 Wow — the podcast at http://www.zen2wow.com.