Marketing has two distinct, if overlapping, missions.
Mission #1 is to drive immediate revenue and support sales.
This is the function that most people think about when they think of marketing. And this is the function that makes far too many people think that marketing and sales are the same thing. They are not, of course.
Marketing’s job here is to facilitate a transaction between the company and a prospect that sales drives to closure and puts on the corporate books. By creating compelling messages, for example, marketing should be engaging the prospect before sales walks in the door. By clearly and consistently articulating the “why” a buyer should buy (the “value proposition”), sales can spend more of its time personalizing the product/service’s value to the prospect. And so on.
Done properly, on a transactional level, sales and marketing are joined at the hip. Marketing has a support role in the sales process; but a critical one. Done right, marketing makes it easier for the best salespeople to spend less time per sale and allows the rest of the sales force to have a better closing ratio.
Mission # 2 is to ensure that the enterprise has sustainable revenues and is positioned to capitalize on emerging market trends.
This is a strategic function. It is forward-looking, past this quarter’s revenues and goals towards next year’s and the success of the company in three or four or five years.
It is strategic marketing that helps set an organization’s course. Strategic marketing’s job is to assess how the marketplace will change, what kinds of products/services should be under development, where new potential threats might emerge, and where new opportunities might be lurking.
At the strategic level, marketing doesn’t work with sales. At this level, the CMO should be working with the CEO and the CFO to set long-term business strategy.
If marketing’s mission # 1 is to facilitate sales, its mission # 2 is to be a practical visionary.
And it is this dual role that makes marketing at once so important and so misunderstood.
When marketing is in its support role, it gets very little credit for revenues generated; that goes to sales. (To be fair, however, when revenues are down, sales also often gets the blame.) Marketing people are turning themselves inside out trying to show their value to the bottom-line, with the number of hits, likes, and follows generated or directly attributable revenue from their campaigns. They get no recognition, however, for their facilitating role – in customer/prospect awareness and in sales force productivity.
When marketing is in its strategic role, revenues are in the future. Yet new product development costs, market research costs, the cost of employee time and energy necessary to create a viable, sustainable strategy are all booked as current costs. (For reasons that pass understanding, these costs are never booked as investments on a balance sheet.)
Thus, it is easy to talk about marketing as a cost-center, not a revenue generator.
But I wonder: Given marketing’s missions, is this a problem with marketing? Or is this a problem with how we do our accounting?