At the risk of appearing to be even more of an unrepentant pseudo-intellectual than I actually am, I'm going to begin this article by quoting from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
What better description for the enterprise perception of Marketing's value to that enterprise.
Ancillary. Secondary. Helpful but hardly central.
And we perpetuate that perception.
Masters of segmentation, we've segmented ourselves into Lead Generators. Message Makers. Brand Stewards. Useful, of course—in fact, indispensable. But indispensable the way facilities management is indispensable. Or travel management. Or any other organization that an enterprise relies on, but cannot be easily shown to have direct impact on revenue.
And if you don't have direct impact on revenue, you don't directly impact profit. And if you don't do that, you're second in line for everything—except maybe workforce reductions.
Now, of course, we find all manner of ways to connect the dots from advertising to revenue or segmentation to revenue or pricing strategies to revenue. But it never seems to work, does it? It never seems to create the convincing argument. It never seems to propel us to the kind of influential role within the enterprise that we so consistently strive for. And deserve.
No matter how hard we ride that bike, we just don't seem to make up any ground.
The solution to the problem is not to pedal harder. The solution is to ride a different vehicle.
And for Marketing to become one of the hubs of that vehicle, not just one of the spokes.
And to do that we have to redefine our real function. First to ourselves. And then to the rest of the enterprise. In the coming articles, I'm going to do that. First, here, by constructing that new functional description. Then, in the next article, by describing how to turn that description into an actual job. And, in the final article, outlining how to achieve buy in for that job across the enterprise.
We'll build that new functional description with four components:
- Redefine our primary work activity
- Finding something to do with it
- Making that something useful
- Establishing its purpose
First Component: Redefine Our Primary Work Activity
What is it we, as marketers, do most often? What is our primary work activity?
Advertising? Promotion? Web site creation? Segmentation analysis? Lead generation?
Yes, we do those things—but is any one of them the thing we do most of all? The thing we spend most of our time on?
For me, the thing we do most of all is gather knowledge. In fact, we are (in my experience, anyway), the largest gatherer of knowledge within the enterprise. Knowledge about industries (that's how we decide on segments). Knowledge about buyer profiles (that's how we create messages). Knowledge about the competition (that's what we use to create collateral). Knowledge about analyst opinion and press focus (that's how we control our buzz). And so on.
And we gather that knowledge daily... if we're doing our jobs. Through RSS feeds and traditional trade press, and continually reviewing competitive moves and networking and analyst reports... well, you know how much knowledge you actually gather each day and from where. For every logo-review minute and for every slide-deck minute, there are many minutes you spend reading, researching, viewing, clicking... many minutes spent gathering knowledge about your business.
So the first component of our new job description:
Marketing gathers knowledge.
Second Component: Finding Something to Do with it
If we agree that we spend most of our time gathering knowledge, it's time to ask another question.
What do we do with it?
We use it to determine messages and design (market demographics). We use it to help guide product development (competitive activity and market trends). We use it to build segmentation strategies (market structures). We use it to determine pricing. And so on.
We analyze that knowledge, we reach rational conclusions from it, we use it to justify those conclusions to our bosses, and we take action based on it.
And we share it. Not as often as we should, and maybe not as well as we should, but we do share it. Even if it's only in a "throw it over the fence" kind of way. We might email a report to someone (with subject lines like FYI Interesting Analyst Report). Or we might upload it to a CRM or portal repository.
And then (at greater or lesser degrees of operational excellence and organization of course) we store it away—like the ark at the end of the first Raiders movie. Knowledge hidden not exploited, and knowledge that fades from memory as each day passes.
But we do share it.
So the second piece of our new job description:
Marketing gathers and shares knowledge.
Third Component: Making That Something Useful
Loading knowledge into repositories or passing it on as unstructured information to specific distribution lists turns that knowledge into a resource. But resources are only as useful as the ability of each individual to find, access, and put them to good use.
One individual might be able to quickly dig through a list of links and find just what she's looking for, while another may not. And it's not just a question of ability. There are other factors as well: for instance, time. A hustling sales rep, whose day is crammed with lead mining and deal structuring and proposal creation, may not have the time to read every FYI email that comes across her desk. Another, less ambitious, less active rep might have all the time in the world to read.
So resource delivery—even if it were consistent and well organized (which, again, it's usually not)—just won't cut it. We have to do more.
We have to turn those resources into tools that can be used right out of the gate.
So now we have the third element in our job description:
Marketing gathers and shares knowledge in the form of tools the company can use.
Fourth Component: Establishing Its Purpose
And that purpose is simple, and single-focused.
Not brand awareness. Not lead generation. Not positioning. Not any of the things that we traditionally cite as our core value. I'm not making a case that we are going to give up that work: far from it—it's still part of our workload (and, besides, it's fun).
But I am making the case that profit growth is our core purpose. And if that's the case, and if we succeed at it, we will finally elevate ourselves out of the lunchroom and into the boardroom.
Where we belong.
So we have the final element of our new job description:
Marketing gathers and shares knowledge in the form of tools their company can use to increase profitability.
* * *
Oh, that sounds so nice doesn't it?
But how do we do that?
As marketers, we know exactly how to answer that question.
And I'll talk about it next time.