I was having coffee with a couple of weeks ago with a high level marketing manager. He works for a major corporation based here in the Phoenix area. We occasionally talk meet to catch up and invariably, we trade marketing stories. Let’s call him Steve.
Shortly after we settle in Steve says, “You’re never going to believe what happened at the budget review. I’m an hour into it and the Boss stops me right in the middle of a key point and says, “What if you just cut out all the marketing expenses? I mean unless you can show us how all these expenses translate to new customers showing up at our branches, why do we need to spend all this money?”
I heard the rest of the story, we lamented, laughed it off and chalked it up to another key executive who can’t or won’t follow the plan.
This meeting really happened. The boss meant the question he asked. And it happens all the time.
This Is Why It Happens
Fear is the main culprit. People are afraid to commit. Period. Ask even the greatest people in the world to commit to a single plan of action and focus on it and you’re going to get non compliance and worst of all, outright resistance or sabotage. The most extreme cases of this lead to great marketing managers (and consultants) getting their asses fired for doing their job; plan, focus, execute and get results we can see.
People don’t like to change. Technology freaks a lot of us out. And marketing has become much more confusing than it ever used to be. When the Internet transformed the way sales and marketing works, millions of unsuspecting, working and otherwise really intelligent people got completely left behind by the Digital Marketing Bus (Internet.) Or they got run over by the bus and took another job, perhaps customer service.
It’s no fun being a marketing manager or leader and not getting buy in from the leaders above you. It’s no fun being a big shot and not knowing squat about marketing, or paying attention to the plan, especially when it comes to finishing website projects, marketing automation campaigns and all the other elements it takes to succeed online. Nobody likes to feel stupid, especially at work. And nobody who likes to wing it will love the best plan any talented marketing manager can present.
What To Do
What are you supposed to do if you’re the marketing manager in a situation like this? Be vigilant, focus on the plan, sell your higher ups and do what it takes to get them to see the value of your plan. If they won’t play with you, at least get the green light to run with your plan, budget included. This way you’re less likely to feel hamstrung getting the job done.
It’s not enough to say you’re marketing and doing it well. A big part of a marketing managers job is to be able to prove their plan, supported by data, to the higher ups. If not, it could cost a great marketing manager their job. It happens all the time because of the gap in understanding of a clear plan.
What if you’re the owner of the company, a division head, and you just happened to see this post and now you’re thinking to yourself, “Ouch. This guy is describing me.” Commit to a plan, hire the best, ditch the rest and get the hell out of the way so you can do what you do best.
What do you do best? Do that. Make sure it’s part of the marketing and sales action plan, especially if you’re a small business owner having to do a bunch of the grunt work yourself until you can afford to hire and pay someone else.
A word of caution: If you own a paper clip company, don’t try to build your own website. Don’t do what you stink at doing. Again, find a way to hire someone good who you can afford to get you closer to the next step being customers, cash flow and profit. After that’s normally the point when it comes to investing in sales and marketing.
The solution for both marketing manager, a division head or company owner is to understand the business goal and agree on a plan of action. Define how the goals are being measured, and make sure the marketing plan reveals a clear path to the goal based on what you have learned from the past. If you don’t have sound data or a working history that has revealed marketing improvements, the key is to build data and create a culture of measuring, learning and adapting with agility.
This means your approach to sales, marketing and business planning needs to be agile and your key players need to be on the same page. In Steve’s case, he had a marketing plan and a history. But the big guys didn’t pay attention enough or understand it well enough to ask better questions so they could make an informed decision on the marketing plan that would prove effective. Steve was able to pull it off but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Being Agile, Strategy & Plan
How agile are you and is your team when it comes to sales and marketing planning and execution? How do you feel about your strategy? If you’re unclear and lack confidence, when will it be time to actually do something about it?
These are some of the tough questions we ask of any business owner or leader seeking better sales and marketing results. “When can we review you current plan?” And “How committed are you to focusing on the plan once we craft it and agree to attack?
Steve got his budget approved that day because he’s confident, organized and willing to put up with the endless questions that seem insane, at best like, ” … cut out all the marketing expenses?” (Yeah, see how that works out for the branch managers and their sales crew when their pipelines died because the traffic to their website died.)
Sales and marketing, especially with all the tech involved these days, is a team sport. You must be agile, stick with your strategy when it’s working and adapt your plan when it’s not. Ideally, your entire team needs to contribute to and commit to their part in executing the plan. This is how all championship teams win. Everyone on the team is part of the plan and accountable for their part.
If you don’t have the sales and marketing leadership in place to plan and execute, why not?
We always appreciate your questions, inquiries and comments here on the CME blog.