I had a phone call with a previous client last week and during our talk she told me more than once how she felt like the role of her marketing department was being marginalized. Apparently, over the course of the last few years, various internal departments who relied on the marketing team to support their activities are now more or less telling them what they want said and how they wanted it represented in the various forms and channels. They’re playing Copywriter and Art Director. The reason why this has happened was summed up by what more and more people in organizations think: “Anyone can do Marketing.”
Unfortunately, there are people in C-suites around this country, self appointed ‘marketing experts’ on the web (who are generally selling something), etc., who believe that to be the case. In fact, the marketing department is also occasionally to blame. How’s that? Well, have you noticed any of the job postings for marketing people? Some of the position descriptions are impressive and ask for proficiency in a number of specialties like SEO, CRM, social media, Photoshop, along with more traditional marketing areas. And then comes the kicker: 2-4 years experience required. What??? Obviously, marketing management who wrote the job spec doesn’t view its role as that complicated or requiring suitable experience to do the job correctly. No wonder respect is hard to come by.
As we know, businesses depend on professional attorneys to oversee their legal affairs and experienced accountants to manage their finances. But some executive level business people don’t think twice about turning over their revenue-producing marketing efforts to someone who doesn’t have a clue what the 5 P’s of Marketing are. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “Troy, I know you’re a engineer by training but you took a class in junior college about law, didn’t you? Hey, would you mind doing some international patent registration for us?” Yet a very similar conversation happens with marketing.
Misguided companies everywhere assign the marketing role to anyone who they think is “creative” or can write. And people in your company know people outside of your organization who fit that bill. So why should they think that you’re different? What’s been done to offset that perception?
In the organization I mentioned, the marketing department first let some things go that they shouldn’t have and ultimately as a result they’ve abdicated their role as experts and brand stewards. They’re now seen as mere fulfillers. In their zeal to make people happy, they took the thoughts offered up by the internal stakeholders as the easy way out in order to get through the work in their queue. Having overseen a creative services team for a large financial services company, I know how this can happen and how tempting it can be when it “just needs to get done ASAP!” But you’re just opening up Pandora’s box when you go down that road. So what are a few ways for people to better understand the value that marketing offers? Here goes:
- Don’t accept work without setting up a meeting to discuss. If it’s important to get the work done, then it’s important for the time to be spent up front getting it right.
- Come to the meeting prepared with questions that need to be answered…thoughtfully, like, for starters, “Why does this need to be done? What should be the outcome?” Show the value of why these questions are being asked.
- Bring research that can help in addressing the issue but also ask for research as well (this stops a lot of opinion-giving). Talk about ways that the work could be repurposed.
- Set clear expectations on a timeline because some of these people think it can done in a day or so (remember, this is the group that believes “anyone can do marketing”).
- Bring insights into the equation…not just facts. Facts are “on the surface” while insights are “beneath the surface” and give birth to the type of emotional messaging that connects with your audience.
- When the time comes to present your ideas/creative, make sure they’re really good. Not sort of good but really good. Anyone can rely on clichés (“For all your ______ needs.”) or rip offs (“Got ____?”) or poorly executed puns.
- Should things not go splendidly when the work is presented, do not let yourself be pushed around in order to accept the ideas initially offered up by the internal stakeholder. If you do, you’re really not accomplishing anything and in fact, you’re seen as a roadblock to getting work done quicker.
- Make the process standard operating procedure and non-negotiable and stick to it.
- Distribute finished work to various internal departments for awareness purposes
At the end of day, the value of your department or specifically, your job, is more at stake than you might imagine. A so-so marketing plan, a mediocre tradeshow booth or ad or collateral piece, a ho-hum status quo “integrated” campaign…they all make you look more like a fulfiller of marketing needs and less like the marketing professional that the company is counting on to drive revenue, awareness, brand preference, etc. In fact, not showing value is the quickest way to have the work you do be discounted as nothing special.
So if your organization believes that “Anyone can do Marketing,” consider whether or not you have a role to play in that notion.