Marketing Professionals ... A Key Industry Commodity in Critically Short SupplyBy: Andy Marken
It had been a long, exhausting two-day session of hearing CEOs and CFOs of company after company tell marketing research, venture capital, and financial analysts why their organizations deserved to receive infusions of capital and "make it" in the marketplace. Each assured the attendees at the American Electronics Association's (AEA) financial conference that they were not only different from the previous speaker but that they had a sound handle on the technology and market.
"You know you could replace the gene splitter with the system developer, the drive guy with the instrument person, the portal producer with the e-commerce solution, or the software lady with the dotcom person and hardly miss a beat," one of the people at our table commented. "Very few of the people making the presentations are good marketers. Fewer yet are great marketers. Unfortunately, the great ones are the exception rather than the rule."
A grumble of agreement circled the table.
There was unanimous agreement for the most part selling was being confused with marketing by the vast majority of companies making presentations. Most felt this was especially true when we were talking about the fast moving, fast changing Internet driven communications industries.
In some organizations it seemed that the most outgoing engineer, programmer or MBA had been given the title and responsibility of vice president of marketing. But for the most part, the job of marketing had fallen to a glorified salesperson.
There is nothing wrong with selling. In fact, without good salespeople to close the loop, nothing is going to happen for an organization. But selling is just that...selling. Marketing, on the other hand, knows where the total industry is going, what is being developed in the industry, and what products/services are going to be wanted and needed in specific market segments.
Today, we can identify we have several types of "marketing professionals" running today's companies.
First is the true marketing manager. In my more than 25 years of developing and carrying out communications programs in the industry, true marketing managers are as few as natural pearls in a bed of irritated oysters.
Next is the sales/marketing manager. People in this broad group can be broken down into four categories. They include:
Marketing people really have the responsibility of managing the day-to-day business of the firm. With the right people in place, staff groups should look to marketing for leadership and direction.
The reasons are simple. These people are results-oriented. They understand (or should understand) finance, economics, selling, R & D, and how to determine what the next generation of products/services will be. They are concerned about not just having new, additional products/services to sell, but how to fit these into market segments and how to package them so they are appealing to the people in those segments.
They do not think in terms of taking what engineering has developed, going on the road to make a few calls, and selling some product. They want to "sell some product", but they want to sell that product to the same target audiences again, and again, and again.
The new wave of choosing heads of marketing for business and industrial organizations is to tap MBAs fresh out of grad school or pick up consumer packaged goods people rather than business-to-business marketeers.
When we are discussing such product areas as game software, Internet communications, cable-based communications and home computers, perhaps it is a good move. The key is do they understand how to grasp, develop, mold and build the intangible solution satisfaction in the prospects minds.
Both consumer and business marketing executives have the ability to recognize needs and mobilize resources. However, instead of heavily relying on advertising and sales promotion as package goods people do, business marketers contend with complex products, tricky interrelationships and sophisticated tools. These tools include such areas as leasing, sales financing, information systems, capital goods pricing, market stratification/ segmentation, and project bidding.
In actuality, these are the areas that are growing the fastest in business and industry. Business marketers have, or should have, a grasp of sales management as well as customer service and support. These people need to know customers on a one-to-one basis rather than simply dealing with demographics and population concept/profiles.
As a result, the good business marketers are in a better position to approach business and industrial buyers and buying influences from a strategic point of view. Since these "tools of the trade" are used daily, business marketers should have a decided advantage over their consumer goods or grad school counterparts...for most of the firms in our industry.
The Marketer's Functions
All of this requires planning -- and planning in an area that is often glossed over or done in a very superficial manner. Some people even mistake their advertising, public relations, and sales promotion/literature programs as being their marketing plan for the coming year.
It is vital to have written corporate or business unit objectives. Management must then set down strategies it will use to achieve those objectives as well as the tactics or actions needed to implement those strategies. These are the guidelines for R&D, finance, production, and marketing.
Marketing now has to analyze all of the pertinent aspects of the company's business as well as the competition's activities. This includes a comprehensive understanding of market factors, customer needs, competition, product/service features/benefits, etcetera. These can then be translated into marketing-related elements of corporate strategy and tactics.
Once this is completed, marketing has to establish the objectives for its individual depart- ments/areas...sales and communications. Marketing's tactical plans will ultimately be the objectives for communications and sales. These departments then establish their own objectives (which are measurable and have a time dimension), strategies, and tactics.
What Lies Ahead
There is still selling and there will always be a need for the person who closes the sale. Everything else including the Internet -- is designed to bring two people together.
However, even better, even stronger marketing is needed to reach and satisfy those consumers' needs.
That means the marketing strategy has to change or become more professional if the organization is to survive.
Before a single figure is gathered or a report is made there must first be a commitment to total marketing by management because marketing is the name of the game. This means that every member of management has to understand it, be involved with it, and be devoted to making it work.
Total marketing is an attitude as well as a management tool.
Management should demand a marketing plan that states reasonable marketing objectives and spells out the programs needed to realize those objectives. The action of writing the plan forces all concerned to be specific--and be selective. The frills and nonessentials are stripped away and the work ahead for the company is disclosed for everyone to see. This exposure provides the opportunity for everyone to agree on objectives, action and timing.
By thinking in integrated and coordinated marketing terms, with a plan that is written down and circulated, something strange might happen in your company...products (hardware, service and software) may be available when they are advertised, not six months to a year later. Unfortunately, no firm today can get away with perpetual product/service pre-announcement efforts.
The most time-consuming element in marketing decision-making is the process of converting the plans or decisions into effective actions. This means assigning specific parts of the plan to individuals, teams, or departments so they can be measured as they proceed.
If people have participated in the development of the plan and have read and understand it, they can then be committed to making it succeed.
Fortunately or unfortunately, as rapidly as our industries are changing, it is impossible to write a plan at the beginning of the year and live by it until the following year. It has to be evaluated monthly with variances noted and explained.
The annual marketing plan should never get away from marketing management. It is essential to stay in control of the plan and be ready to modify it immediately if necessary.
All of the computer, communications and Internet industry prophets exclaim that there will be a combination consolidation and shakeout in the industry. Every organization we have talked with agrees. But, it is going to be the other guys...not them. The only way this will be possible is by having a strong, aggressive, seasoned, and highly professional marketing person at the helm. One who can develop total marketing strategy based on thoughtful, creative, and innovative planning.
Unfortunately there is a critical shortage of these people in the industry. Having an MBA on their resume is no assurance they are going to be able to do the job at hand. It may be helpful but it is far from necessary.
It may be risky to try to make the future happen, but it is far less risky than assuming nothing is going to change. And that demands marketing people, not recycled programmers, engineers or sales reps.
© Copyright 2000, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.