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With daily pressures for instant results, deadlines and executive demands for a six- to nine-month return on investment, most marketing executives are challenged to think strategically. A key question confronting marketers is, "Should marketing and the marketing budget be managed for the long-term or the short term?" Your answer probably depends on whether you view marketing as a wedding or a marriage.

Recently on the MPDailyFix, Jennifer Jones posted that she's seeing a trend of marketing executives choosing a more tactical approach to budgeting and market planning. Jennifer's post caused me to chew on a fundamental question, "should marketing be more strategically or tactically focused?" Sure it can and should be both, but which category should dominate a marketer's agenda?

Don't be too quick to answer this question. Simply take a look at how most companies manage their marketing resources. I think you would be hard pressed to find many "progressive" companies with marketing managed as a strategic function.

I recently encountered a company that seems to be using a hybrid approach. This company approaches marketing on a one-year, calendar basis. They have a marketing plan (mapped back to business goals), but really don't plan past one calendar year.

In fact, most of the marketing spend at this company rallies around their big user conference every October. For this firm, marketing activities are focused on securing speakers, building content, planning customer activities, and entertaining customers at a single event.

There are other activities throughout the year but the lion's share of the budget goes to planning the user conference. Once the calendar year ends, all marketing activities begin again with a single focus toward generating attention and awareness regarding next year's large "user" conference.

I really don't have enough data points to firmly criticize this approach, although on paper it doesn't sound too wise. It's almost akin to organizing a wedding each year; finding the right site, culling the guest list, sending out invitations, finding the right musical band etc.

Which leads me to my next thought; in my experience, marketing is most effective when it is treated more like a marriage than a wedding. Conceptually, here are a few things that make a marriage work:

* Committed to the long haul (hopefully)!
* Focused on planning for the future (allocating resources to fund different priorities)
* Allows for conflict and cooperation (give and take–working towards a win/win situation)
* Constant communication is the norm
Driving the analogy home, it has been my experience that marketing is more effective when, like a marriage, it is focused on:
* Building stronger, and long term relationships (with our customers, internal customers, partners, sales teams etc–)
* Constant communication (with the parties above)
* Driving a deeper understanding (in this case, of customers and competitors)
* Seeking to influence the "bigger picture"--not boxed into the "day-to-day" minutiae
* A continual process–a journey of improvement, as opposed to marching towards various destinations

I had a wedding and it was fun, but anyone who is married knows–the hard work begins after the wedding. Does the same thing hold true for strategic marketing?

Are some marketers avoiding the "hard work"–the process, the long term focus, the constant communication, the deeper understanding, the bigger picture etc because it's easier and more fun just to open up an excel spreadsheet and move dollar amounts around to the different columns?

When presented with a budget of say, $500K, I've seen many marketers quickly approach it this way: A dash of industry associations, a pinch of direct marketing, maybe a tradeshow or two? How about a couple of display ads in the national IT publication?

Where's the groundwork? The plan to meet business goals? The multi-year plan to expand to new markets? The portfolio review? And how much investment is it going to take to get there?

I propose that marketing should be run more like a marriage than a series of weddings. Not to say execution of events and marketing deliverables isn't important, but marketing should seek to influence the direction of the business, not just plan for the latest display advertising campaign.

Is marketing in your organization, more like a marriage or a series of one-off weddings? Should marketing be treated more like a marriage? I'd love to hear your opinions–

Continue reading "Marketing Utopia: Wedding or a Marriage?" ... Read the full article

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Paul Barsch directs services marketing programs for Teradata, the world's largest data warehousing and analytics company. Previously, Paul was marketing director for HP Enterprise Services $1.3 billion healthcare industry and a senior marketing manager at global consultancy, BearingPoint. Paul is a senior contributor to MarketingProfs, a frequent columnist for MarketingProfs DailyFix, and has published over fifteen articles in marketing, management, technology and healthcare publications. Paul earned his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He and his family reside in San Diego, CA.