The (LINEAR) Process of Marketing

The two most important roles at a company are those of innovation and marketing.

That’s so important we’re going to state it again: the two most important roles at a company are innovation and marketing.

Innovation is the lifeblood of an organization. If you’re not innovating something new then you are following a downward curve and are on your way to extinction. Yet innovation is not enough… at least not long-term. You need the people to market that innovation. That’s right you have to generate the activity that creates the customer and that means you have to market the innovation you’ve created.

Peter Drucker said: “the enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions; marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

Hold the phone… So how exactly did the marketing department get associated with the cost center label then? Why is it always so easy to make cuts in the marketing organization?

“The enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions; marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

The data indicates that an infinitely small number of chief/executive marketers ever find their way as integral members of their company boards. Time spent in the lead chair is borrowed (often less than 3.5 years).  And one thing seems clear: the marketing role just isn’t taken seriously.

What’s more likely to be true are marketers being described as the:

  • Arts and crafts department
  • Team that colors all day
  • People that put pretty bows on packages
  • Group that puts lipstick on a pig

We could go on...

Art and Science

To be sure there is plenty of creativity and art. But it’s a lot less gut feel and emotion than most think.

At least it should be.

The magic is when outside observers realize that those things that feel creative or risky or innovative are actually shown to be the most true thing that company could have done… because they saw an insight that others didn’t.

As marketers, we have to own responsibility for the perception our business peers have:

  1. We haven’t simplified our business language; too often when we speak people get confused (and they don’t always tell us they don’t understand)
  2. We ARE enamored with the idea… or the technology… or the tactic… and don’t take the time to make the connections about why we’ve come to that position.
  3. We jump five steps ahead to the “answer,” highlighting the tangible visual, when the real magic is the process and approach.

What We Have Here, is a Failure to Communicate

Most people don’t credit the finance and IT teams as being the departments with barrels of personality. While not immune to cuts and down-sizing, those teams nevertheless carry a lot of value and weight inside the organization. They’re seen as credible. Trusted. Believed.

And they operate by processes.

This has to happen à that leads to this next thing à and then that à and ultimately the desired outcome. But here’s the kicker: CEOs, COOs and CFOs understand process.

Marketers don’t speak from process and that makes us more difficult to understand.

We often gain the reputation of being emotion-led, fun, creative, even visionary. And while that may be fun to hang out with, that skillset is hard to quantify. But that’s on us.

The fact is, marketing is process-driven too. The predictably successful marketer will follow a linear path toward positive outcomes. That path while simple is work. Hard work.

It looks (and sounds) like this:

Insights --> Strategy --> Execution

Just as the accountant or engineer lives and dies by the process, marketing has a process that it adheres to as well. AND WHEN THAT PROCESS IS DISRUPTED THAT’S WHEN THE WHEELS FALL OFF. Yet that’s what is allowed to happen in conference rooms day in and day out.

Far too often the marketing department gets called in at the 11th hour and asked to “do something.” Told to make a last stand to create some momentum in the market. Do the something (that someone else did) because THAT must be the silver bullet…

When it comes to marketing, the conversation almost immediately goes to execution. We’re asked to execute, but without the benefit of the first two process components. That’s a mistake.

But the bigger mistake and the greater disservice has been not aligning ourselves with the process and earning a reputation for needing to work our process toward successful outcome.

We must have an insight that manifests into a strategy and ultimately drives toward some sort of tactical execution. In that order.

The Business Needs Our Skillset

There are two critical functions in an enterprise, and marketing is one of them.

The challenge is to do what we do better. To do our work so well that they never forget just how valuable we are.

It’s up to us to communicate the process… to follow the process… and show campaigns and creative executions through the lens of the process.  As we do, marketing just might begin to get the recognition as being more valuable than people give it credit for.