Strategic Planning

The Problem with Marketing Departments

problem with marketing departmentsFifty years ago, Peter Drucker said that “any business enterprise has two – and only these two – basic functions: innovation and marketing.”

Yet even today, industry leaders are still lamenting that the marketing function is broken.

Issue #1: Companies have vastly different definitions of “marketing.”  To some it’s a creative function that develops slick websites, glossy brochures and expensive campaigns.  To others, it’s an MBA crunching numbers on market share.  And to many small-to-midsize B2B companies, it’s an expense that delivers questionable results.

In his Unconventional Thinking blog, Mark Stevens makes a great point about defining marketing and its role in business:

“The most dangerous term in business – marketing department – sounds harmless enough on the surface. In fact, it may even sound like a good thing. The company has a function dedicated to marketing the business.”

Yet creating a marketing department “balkanizes” the marketing function, Mark explains.  It creates an environment where marketing is viewed as a solitary team – and usually one that focuses on campaigns and creative materials.  An expense that gets cut in tough times.  A fiefdom.

Overcoming the Problem with Marketing Departments

“Marketing is the process of growing a business,” he continues.  And when you stick marketing into a department, it’s easy to end up with a narrow, independent function that isn’t involved in business strategy.  As a result, you’re “effectively diminishing the impact marketing can have on the company.”

We agree. Marketing isn’t a budget line item or a collection of creative materials and campaigns that provide questionable results.  Marketing is the entire strategic revenue-generation process:

  • Developing your business strategy,
  • Creating the tools and processes to deliver that strategy and
  • Generating and managing customers.

Savvy companies treat marketing as a strategic process that involves many functions beyond the marketing department:

  • Senior management
  • Finance
  • Sales
  • Product management
  • Customer service
  • Human resources
  • Technology

In savvy companies, these teams work together to develop business strategies, create tools and processes, and build (and retain!) a strong customer base.

If you’re not happy with your company’s marketing function, look at the way you’ve structured that team.  Are they involved in strategy or are they primarily focused on tactical campaigns and materials?  Do all of your teams truly work closely together toward a common goal or are you dealing with infighting, competition and finger-pointing?

Sound familiar?  You’re not alone.  But if you have ambitious goals, don’t let your company treat marketing as a line item expense.

Remember Peter Drucker’s advice – your company has two things on your plate.  The first is innovation.  The second is marketing.  It’s a group effort, a process should be driving your business forward rather than sitting alone on an island.



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