Are Some Firms Still Making my Rookie Mistake?
As a rookie engineer, I didn’t understand the concept of marketing, but I have grown to have the utmost respect for marketing experts.
In the early years of my first professional job, I knew engineers who would blame sales and marketing for getting us technical and manufacturing types in over our heads. I’ll bet that marketing and sales (mysteriously similar and intertwined in my mind) were blaming us for unknown reasons, too.
My view changed after working with a number of companies and reading “Why Smart Executives Fail” (Finkelstein, 2003).
For example, I learned that Iridium’s key failure – the board never effectively updated their strategy to account for a decreasing market share – caused significant profit erosion and bankruptcy. Having worked at Motorola, Iridium’s primary owner, I had particular reverence for the Iridium portions of the book (see my earlier post Great innovation + poor strategy = Failure). If you’d rather read a synopsis of the Iridium failure, it’s available as a free download at http://www.rentcell.com/Iridium.pdf.
Today, I embrace the idea of keeping the marketing group in a continual conversation with engineers and manufacturing and I believe that marketing is an essential function for all companies.
At Pearson Strategy, marketing is one of the three metaphoric legs of the stool supporting most of our clients: technology, intellectual property and market. All are worthy of discussion during a client’s growth.
The dichotomy: Sales vs. marketing in a small company
So if these lessons are appropriate for all companies, why is it that many of the smaller companies I’ve worked with over the years have no Chief Marketing Officer? And for those that do have one, why are so many seemingly focused only on sales with marketing as a distant afterthought?
Several people I’ve talked with agree that these observations are correct. A recent article by Martin Roll, The Rebirth of the Chief Marketing Officer, supports that others see value of a CMO in the boardroom: “A successful CMO in today’s complex business environment is a key member and contributor to the board’s short-, medium- and long-term decisions. He or she is no longer an executioner of the board or CEO’s decisions.”
Why does marketing continue to take a backseat to sales?
Perhaps my vision is skewed because the bulk of our clients are technology or manufacturing-based? The C-Suite of these companies is mainly, sometimes exclusively, technologists, engineers and scientists. Perhaps, similar to my naive understanding as a rookie engineer, they too believe that having a Chief Marketing Officer at the table is at odds with their goals?
Jan, co-founder of the Business Resource Center, will argue that sales should drive business strategy. Her long career helping emerging companies and small businesses develop sales and marketing plans shapes her position.
On the other side of the table will be Francoise, co-owner of Business Finance Solutions, arguing that marketing should drive business strategy. She draws on her experience in marketing and sales for AT&T and NBC and Univision.
They plan to discuss:
• Who owns the customer?
• Who determines price?
• Who determines “the pitch”?
• Who “drives” in your organization and how is that working out?
What do you think? Why do many smaller companies not have CMOs? Should they? Is it fair that marketers in smaller companies are, instead, filling a sales role? Or, more importantly, is it good business sense?
Picture credit: Tomwsulcer (Wikimedia)