For those who have studied marketing, you’ll recall the 4 P’s:, Product, Price, Placement and Promotion. Today, however, three out of four of those P’s have often been usurped by other parts of the organization. Product is often managed by a research and development, or product development, group. Price is often set by the sales team, or in some cases by customers. Placement is within the purview of the distribution arm, which leaves marketers with Promotion.
Promotion is often interpreted by other departments as “making it pretty” or is at the service of the sales organization. To make matters worse, organizations are siloed so these different internal organs are not well coordinated or even on same page. With increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI metrics around Promotion, marketers are less empowered and less able to bring value to the organization.
At the same time, the context in which they are operating has become more complex. New technologies offer new communication channels, and has changed the dynamics of communication. Managing the marketing mix, and optimizing it, is increasingly complex. Many traditional marketers not only don’t get the new context, but are still trying to apply a broadcast framework when they need to adopt a conversational one. This reality has degraded marketing’s reputation within organizations. That said, we need marketing more than ever at this moment, and I believe it can bring significant value to companies.
First and foremost, marketing needs to be the voice of the customer within the company. In order to do this effectively, marketers must listen to customers and empathize with them. They must do this through dialogue and by building relationships. Relationships should start with a positive interactions which lead to a sense of consistency. This in turn leads to credibility, and hopefully a sense of authenticity. From there you can start building trust and loyalty. Finally, if you do everything right people will form an emotional connection with your brand that can last a lifetime. The rub is that it’s increasingly difficult to manage this process when organizations are siloed. This is the opportunity space for marketers. Here is a good representation of how relationships are built created by David Armano, whose Logic + Emotion blog is worth checking out …. the only thing I would add to this diagram is a measure of emotional connection that increases as you climb the stairs:
How can you do this when all you’ve got to work with is Promotion? You can’t. So how can marketers become empowered again and start building the relationships that drive business success? I think we have to start small and demonstrate the principles of what makes marketing powerful on a small scale. In the process, we need to repair relationships and open windows between siloes at the organizations we call home.
Optimization projects are often a good place to start, because they are seen as quality improvement rather than as new projects. A simple example might look at optimizing an online communications channel like a newsletter. If there is already something in place, work with the IT team to establish some baseline performance metrics. Talk with the sales team to understand what kinds of challenges they are facing and how the newsletter can support them. Identify some metrics that you could use to track the effect of potential changes. Talk with Human Resources to get access to the resources necessary to make changes, and to provide an incentive to participants. You might need to connect the Human Resources team with the IT team to create a system to track performance to compensation.
The next step is to start doing the work that only marketing can do. Go out and start talking to customers about what they want from the newsletter. You can conduct surveys, have in person interviews, talk with other industry experts, and more. You’ll obviously want to make sure that you can demonstrate that whatever tactical changes you are making tie back to your overall strategy as well. Take the intelligence and insights that you gather and represent them in your new design. If possible, include the stakeholders from other departments in the process to foster their investment in the results.
When the project gets implemented you’ll want to internally market your results back to the organization and to the customers. You’ve started building some relationships that you can take on to your next project, which will be bigger. In essence, internal marketing teams need to go up the same stairway they are trying to bring customers up.
UPDATE: Now you can listen to this post as a podcast: