One of the most common complaints among marketing professionals is the lack of respect they receive from the rest of their company. This is especially true in technology- and science-based companies.
The decisions made by the sales force, engineers, finance and accounting folks all seem to carry more weight than the marketing department. As a consequence, it can be difficult for marketing to have much influence on strategy, product development, operations and other key business decisions.
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
First, and perhaps most importantly, marketers are typically perceived to lack technical expertise and analytical thinking skills. While engineers, computer scientists, and other technical people take well-known logical approaches to problems, marketers are perceived to do only creative thinking devoid of analysis.
As a result, many non-marketers in a company mistakenly feel that the research done by marketing is useless. They often believe such work is biased, easily manipulated, and incapable of understanding what customers really want. Even worse, they reason, research is useless for a technology product that people don't want until they see it.
In addition, many non-marketing decision makers feel that marketing should just be marketing communications. Instead of doing the analytical work of segmenting customers and positioning products, for instance, marketers are often relegated to the work of communication specialists. Communication is important to be sure, but it is only one aspect of marketing.
CULTURE AND MYTHS
There is a second reason marketers suffer a lack of respect in the organization. Many of the offending companies have an R&D-driven culture. Such environments often focus on creating a cutting-edge technology that customers will have to be taught to like. This incorrect thinking - firms are supposed to satisfy needs, not create them - that more often than not leads to poor sales. When this happens, marketing unjustifiably shoulders the blame.
Company history harbors a third reason why marketers don't get respect: Old marketing mishaps often become exaggerated in a company. People can often tell you about an infamous marketing mistake that occurred several years ago in the company. It could be a product that bombed, or a bad advertising campaign, but it usually happened several years ago and nobody can remember precisely who did it. Nonetheless, it is now a myth pinned on marketing. As a result, it often deeply influences non-marketers' views.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If this sounds familiar to you, there are things you (and the marketing group) can do to enhance your respect with non-marketing people in your company. Among these are the following:
Establish accepted procedures for marketing. Construct templates for how marketing is practiced. Make templates for how to segment markets properly, how to determine advertising objectives, how to do proper competitive analysis, and other issues. Make sure everyone knows what those procedures are, and use them consistently.
Be logical and analytical when presenting to non-marketing professionals. Marketing analysis is very logical and analytical, so use the techniques accordingly. This both demonstrates marketing's truly analytical nature, and also helps convey your message in a language your audience best understands.
Read up on statistics and research methods. Becoming an expert on statistical methods not only gives you a powerful way to view data, but also gives you the ability to defend your data in front of people who deeply understand and value logical reasoning. Also, understand what makes for good research methods. They do exist and biases that many people think are in the data can be controlled. Our Books section has suggestions for reading up on this.
Agree on a common language for marketing. Consistency is a hallmark of the more scientific and analytical disciplines; if you bring it to your marketing department, it'll go a long way. Make sure your marketing professionals speak consistently across all issues. Otherwise, you'll look sloppy and illogical.
Translate your marketing ideas into dollars. Ok, the business runs on money and most people understand hard cash because it's tangible - just like a lot of scientific facts. A lot of marketing, admittedly, isn't tangible or easily translated into hard currency (brand equity, advertising awareness, etc.) - but look for ways to do just that. If not money brought in, money saved!
In short, develop a scientific way of doing marketing. Not only will you approach marketing in a more powerful way, science-based professionals will also perceive you as more scientific. And that is a key way of gaining more respect when technology and science dominates your company.
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