By Katrina Olson
You’ve probably been busy working on your marketing plan for 2017—or maybe you’re already done! If so, good for you! If not, don’t worry—it’s only January. And if you haven’t started planning yet… why not?
Speaking of planning… this year tED magazine Editor Misty Byers andI plan to focus the Marketing 101 column on marketing management issues. Look for topics like finding and hiring good employees, organizing and managing your marketing department, outsourcing to fill gaps, and improving communication to keep everyone in the loop.
Before you get too busy, check in with your marketing staff to make sure they’re prepared to face the year’s challenges. Start by asking these five questions:
- “Do you have the resources (staff, budget, time) you need to do the work required of you?”
If you’ve been asking more from your marketing department every year but haven’t given them more resources, you’re setting them up for failure. In the last few years, have you asked your marketing team to use more social media, develop more content, create more materials and start measuring and evaluating success? Have you added staff or increased the budget to cover freelancers or consultants? If you haven’t, can your marketing team say “no” to requests they feel are unreasonable?
Consider taking a hard look at your department’s staff, responsibilities and skills. You may need to add new staff, outsource some tasks, and possibly streamline or eliminate some tasks or projects.
- “Do you feel you have the skills and training you need to do what’s necessary to effectively perform your job?”
Given the rapid development of new marketing technologies and media, your staff may not be equipped to embrace these tools. Does the company have an employee training and development plan for marketing staff? If not, are you hiring new people with skills in content development, database management, data analysis and information technology?
If you’re not investing in training or adding new staff, you may need to consider hiring outside service providers to provide that expertise.
- What other departments would you like to work with more closely?
Of course, the marketing department can learn a great deal about customers, the sales process and the company’s products from the sales department. Armed with that knowledge, they can better support the sales department and generate revenue.
Further, as electrical distributors are generating leads through digital media, digging into database marketing, and exploring automated marketing functions, they’ll need to work more closely with IT.
If your departments aren’t communicating regularly, you may need to “de-silo” your organization. Consider creating cross-functional teams or appointing representatives to attend each other’s departmental meetings. This will encourage information sharing, facilitate coordination, and allow staff members to see opportunities for cross promotion. And along the way, it may even foster a spirit of teamwork and shared responsibility.
- Do you feel you have a voice in the strategic direction of the company and its marketing?
The part of marketing we usually see is the communications—ads, websites, videos—the physical and visual output. The half you don’t see—strategy—is the most important part. Marketing people are best equipped to advise on strategy in products, names, pricing, distribution, as well as supporting the sales team with strong branding, persuasive messaging and professional sales materials.
If your marketing doesn’t have a seat at the management table, you’re cheating your company out of a valuable perspective. Experienced marketers can evaluate strategy from the customer’s point of view, providing critical input that can mean the difference between success and failure. According to management guru Peter Drucker, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well, the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
- What other challenges do you face or what changes would you like to see happen this year?
Maybe your marketing staff feels unappreciated, overworked or understaffed. On the other hand, they might want more responsibility or input. (Even if they don’t ask, your marketing VP, director or manager should be involved in business planning; and the marketing staff should be involved in marketing planning.) Perhaps they have suggestions for a new branding or content marketing campaign. Or they’d like to test a new marketing strategy or technology.
Ask your marketing team what they need to support your company’s goals in the coming year. You may find they’re willing to do more than you expected; or they may have some hidden, untapped talent or expertise that could benefit your company.
Here’s The Bottom Line
Too often, marketing is considered an expense when it can (and should) be a revenue generator. With the right staff in place, an integrated marketing plan and support from other departments, marketing can play a vital role in your business’s growth strategy for 2017.
Tagged with 2017, marketing