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Marketing Is (Not) Solely the Responsibility of the Marketing Team

Marketing is (not) solely the responsibility of the marketing team

When David Packard, Co-Founder of Hewlett Packard said, “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”, it indicates that he was way ahead of many other business leaders.

Marketing is often seen by c-suite executives as a tactical discipline with channels such as TV, radio, direct mail, print advertising, websites and social media, being utilized by creatives who reside in a specific department, and whose targets are to promote the company’s products and services. While these activities are part of the marketing mix, they barely touch the surface of what marketing is truly about.

Peter Drucker, one of the most influential figures on business theory wrote in The Practice of Management, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two - and only two - basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

If Peter Drucker is correct and marketing truly is, “the distinguishing, unique function of a business” he could not possibly have been referring to the communications team in one part of the organization. Rather, he understood that at its core, marketing is a strategic discipline that goes to the very foundation of business activity.

Marketing is the process of determining, communicating and delivering value in order to obtain and retain customers. If, as Peter Drucker suggests, the purpose of business is to ‘create a customer’ then one can identify that both the objective of a business and the focus of marketing are completely aligned.

Referring to our definition of marketing, this customer creation is achieved in three distinct ways:

  1. Determining

Deciding the scope of the products and services that an enterprise will provide is a marketing discipline. When creating products and services, considering ‘who’ they are being provided for is vital to ensure that the proposition is both viable and suitable. For a company to stay relevant, offerings must also evolve over time. This is the point at which marketing and innovation converge.

The initial ideas and judgements regarding a company’s offering are made even before a business is established. These deliberations are undertaken by owners and founders who would most likely not consider this a marketing activity at all. Once commercially successful, keeping a company relevant and, therefore, innovating and updating the offering, is a strategic discipline that goes to the heart of the business. The ultimate responsibility for this is at board level not in a company department.

  1. Communicating

While the tactical execution of certain communications such as direct mail, print advertising, content for online media and posting on social networks etc., might be carried out in a specific department, there are also many strategic considerations.

The entire ethos of the business, how the company is positioned in the market and the audience whom it chooses to serve, will fundamentally affect the brand, tone of voice and the channels it uses. While experienced communications practitioners might advise on some of these areas, many of these decisions are strategic and will be made by the most senior personnel within the organization.

  1. Delivering Value

How the products or services are accessed by customers is a marketing decision. This will affect the ‘value’ offered which will be equally shaped by the price that is charged. Whether a company delivers its offering entirely online, directly with customers face to face, through distributors, retail outlets, or a combination of several mediums, the convenience, accessibility and costs involved will directly influence the success of a proposition and, in turn, the enterprise itself.

Similarly, pricing strategy will affect the perception of value, the positioning of an offering from budget to mid-market to luxury, and consequently the target audience. All these strategic judgements are marketing decisions that the most senior personnel within a business will be charged with deciding.

Consequently, most marketing decisions taken within a business are happening at senior management and board level. While there may be a Chief Marketing Officer heading up ‘marketing’, who may well be involved in many of the strategic decisions, they will not come under the sole remit of the marketing department.

Evolving marketing communications

When people refer to a marketing department, what they normally mean is the marketing communications team who are focused on the tactical promotions of the company’s offering. However, with the proliferation of digital media, even the communications themselves no longer reside solely within these teams.

For example, an increasing number of customer service personnel are utilizing social media as a way of servicing their clientele in an efficient and timely manner. The public nature of these communications, together with the accessibility that the general population have to them, means that they can impact brand perception and reputation in a much more powerful way than was traditionally the case.

Similarly, while salespeople tended to previously keep their communications to telephone calls, face to face meetings and letters or emails addressed to individuals, they are increasingly using social media accounts to reach and communicate with prospects and customers. As with customer service teams, the public nature of these messages can potentially have much more impact on the perception of a business or brand than in previous times.

Consequently, not only has strategic marketing never been the sole responsibility of the marketing department, but now, more than ever, the engagement, opportunity and culpability for the communications of a business, which was their specific remit, has today been spread much wider throughout many organizations.

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