As we marketers know all too well, marketing is often the Rodney Dangerfield of business—it gets no respect… or at least not as much as it deserves. So what can we do about it?

The road to respect is through managing marketing as a brand with a promise of value to the organization that is…

  1. Unique by virtue of its focus on customers—the critical success factor today

  2. Relevant by virtue of its revenue and growth results—what all top managers care about most

  3. Sustainable by virtue of its ability to detect external changes emerging on the horizon and lead the way to new opportunities—ensuring that the organization thrives

Our promise is nothing short of the potential to be the engine of our organizations. However, to earn the respect we deserve within our organizations, we marketers must deliver on our powerful promise. But how?

Successful marketers adopt 10 practices to build the marketing brand within the organization as a promise of value that is unique, relevant and sustainable. Here, I briefly describe each of the 10 key practices, sometimes with just a quote from a marketing expert.

Manage for Unique Value

1. Lead the way in customer focus. For example, call top management's attention to the standard of excellence in the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program. The Award focuses on two goals, “delivering ever improving value to customers and overall organization performance.” To achieve outstanding results in this work, marketing plays a lead role, as reported in the Application Summary of a 2002 Baldrige Award winner: “The Global Marketing Organization…facilitates monthly, quarterly and bi-annual meetings with the regional business units and Engineering to develop/review market segment priorities and plans, aligning the necessary resources.” Top management will be impressed that the stock prices of award recipients have outperformed the S&P index by as much as six-to-one in some years.

2. Practice marketing as science to identify and seize opportunities. Marketing as science requires strong analytical skills to turn the vast quantity of information available in all organizations today into insights about customers and market trends. Armed with hard evidence, marketing will become powerful, especially when working closely with IT to ensure that the emphasis is on the “I” (information that is meaningful for decision making) and not on the “T” (technology).

3. Practice marketing as art in connecting with customers. Studies have shown that the vast majority of consumers do not trust companies. Salespeople admit to being dishonest to targets and objectives set by management. It's up to marketers to take responsibility for building customer relationships, often based on emotional needs—including confidence and reassurance—creatively met. And marketing must make sure the organization consistently delivers on its promises.

Manage for Relevant Value

4. Communicate engaging and inspiring views of the market and customers. As Jerry Noonan of Spencer Stuart explains, “A good marketing partner will create a well-understood story about the marketplace. I use the word ‘story' because it has to be factual, and logical, and structured, but engaging and interesting enough so that people can instinctively embrace it. And sometimes marketers get very complicated with graphs, and charts, and data, and the story is gone. All the facts may be right, but the story is gone.”

5. Produce programs that generate earnings. That's often the bottom line, especially in tight or recessionary markets and when top management is focused on Wall Street's interest in short-term results.

6. Lead and participate in growth initiatives Not merely product line extensions—the vast majority of which fail soon after introduction—but products and services that represent significantly new directions, often with technological breakthroughs or in response to changes in market trends. Some successful organizations call these initiatives “venture marketing organizations,” signifying their similarity to entrepreneurial ventures that are fast and externally focused. Marketers are often the best suited for the challenge of these interdisciplinary teams.

Manage for Sustainable Value

7. Establish professional credibility with top management. Professional status requires transparency of methods and processes used to make decisions and produce outputs. Top management must be clear that marketers apply formidable skills and experience—both analytical and creative—to help the organization understand, attract and keep customers. Marketing must use meaningful and future-oriented measures to assess performance. Most companies measure themselves looking backward and inward, and those are not good measures. Benchmark against competitors, and develop forward-looking performance measures that are predictive of future results.

8. Build relationships across functions for organization-wide customer focus. Marketers must get out of the marketing silo, so common in large, hierarchical organizations. Success today requires agility and flexibility, and that means working with all functions throughout an organization.

9. Be accountable and measure results. No longer is it acceptable to excuse marketing from accountability. Lots of new tools can reliably measure effectiveness to help you optimize marketing investments. If you have not yet investigated available options, it's time to get serious.

10. Lead in organizational change initiatives. Matt Strain, formerly Director of Strategic Marketing for Overture, points out the critical contribution of marketing: “In a world where business models, partners and products change rapidly, it's important to be able to access expertise and perspectives from many different areas. Related to this, I try to stay close to the customer without letting technology get in the way of the people who are at the other end of the Web site or who are buying my product.”

Marketers may want to focus on as few as one or two of these 10 practices to enhance their brands, or they may use most or all of the practices to structure an actual marketing plan to build marketing's promise of value within the organization. Either way, let's all work to shed our Rodney Dangerfield identity!

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image of Roy Young
Roy Young is coauthor of Marketing Champions: Practical Strategies for Improving Marketing's Power, Influence and Business Impact.