While I agree with a lot of what Barbara Walters Price posts on her blog, this week she had a post that I don't agree with at face value: "Marketing Directors: Great Advice for Your Career"
Ms Price says Eric Gagnon is "right on target' with an article he wrote entitled Two Big Things: How to Achieve Lifetime Job Security in Your Marketing Career.
I don't dispute the potential validity of the points in typical B2B companies, but I challenge the "job security wisdom" for CPA and law firm marketers. It seems to me that Mr Gagnon has probably not personally worked in-house in these unusual environments.
The first point the article makes--
Job Security Tip #1: Marketing is Mostly Tactical
Sure, the high-concept elements of marketing strategy are important - positioning, trends, pricing, distribution, etc., but once they're set in your marketing program, the rest is all tactical: The process of marketing execution that drives all of the deliverables and activities of your marketing program. Tactical marketing execution is where the game of marketing is won or lost.
My concern with this point centers around the simple fact that most firms don't adequately (if at all) address "positioning, trends, pricing, distribution, etc." That "once they're set in your marketing program" assumes it is a given. In professional services, I think that's a dangerous assumption. PS firms tend to shortcut that essential marketing strategy part.
Many firms' tactical goals are based either on gut instinct or copycatting tactics used by other firms, perhaps touted as "best practices."
The advice, above, puts the bulk of responsibility on tactics. Fine. But, without strategy, the tactics may be all wrong.
Ms. Price summarizes:
It's all about execution. Don't give your partners fancy talk about branding, instead, do those things every day that make the phone ring.
I counter that with all the buzz about branding (and other popular concepts) over the past decade or so, it is often the PARTNERS wanting to pursue branding and other such trends, not necessarily the marketers.
Marketing IS about execution. But it's about execution of the RIGHT things.
Partners are more aware of marketing than ever, but can have preconceived notions of what they must or should do. Since marketing is not one-size-fits-all between firms, so-called "best practices" should be viewed with some caution.
Even when firms have knowledgeable marketing people, there can be a strong tendency to "override" the marketer's advice with partner opinions (see my recent post "Hire a Marketing Director and Substitute Your Opinion for Theirs. Not.").
Marketers, for your job security (and measurable marketing success), don't quietly accept it when management suggests curtailing critical planning and research steps in order to have you instead work through the standing "wishlist" of marketing tasks partners compiled in a partner meeting or collected from other firms over time.
Don't dismiss the wishlist, but work to prove or disprove the wisdom of pursuing each item on its own merit and in accordance with the firm's strengths, weaknesses, capacity and marketplace.
The second point in the article--
Job Security Tip #2: Never Forget that Marketing is Accountable to Sales...
When a marketing manager is working with their sales VP to develop ads, mailings, and deliverables that effectively sell their company's product, and these marketing activities are keeping the company's sales team supplied with a steady stream of high-quality leads, and the marketing manager is out in front, looking for ways to open new business opportunities in the marketing program, the marketing department is never asked to justify itself.
Note the final words [my emphasis]. (Ha! Clearly Mr Gagnon has not worked in-house in a CPA firm...)
Marketing departments are asked to justify themselves continuously whether there is a sales person/team or not. Further, the "sales people" are usually the partners...often with little or no specific sales training and the first to admit their closing rates should be much higher.
It is true that marketing, when good strategies drive the initiatives, facilitates the delivery of leads. But it must be remembered that a core responsibility also lies with the "closers" to do pre-sale due diligence on the prospect (a step usually skipped) and conduct themselves effectively in the sales process.
Where marketing is accountable to sales, "sales" should also be fully accountable to the firm and marketing, too, ensuring an effective process is in place when marketing turns over its leads.