Is marketing too important to sit in the marketing department?

3 September 2016 by Sandra Lawler

Is marketing too important to sit in the marketing department?


Sandra Lawler Marketing, career, Marketing management...

The customer is now truly in charge and is driving the agenda. The role of Marketing is to create mutual value for both customers and the enterprise. It should be the voice of the customer and the market for the organisation. Marketing should drive an insight-led strategy, with brands and propositions and that really connect and engage the customer at all touchpoints… It’s a critical role.


So who should own the customer agenda…and is it now too important to leave to the marketers?


In our experience, and to over-simplify, we see 2 broad, opposing scenarios happening:


Scenario 1: Marketing department as comms- and trade support –where Marketing focuses primarily on comms. It’s evolved to bring digital communications under its remit, but actually, it’s happy not to be managing product people or data crunchers. It’s operating within its more creative comfort zone.


In this scenario product management will sit outside the marketing department, in often unconnected functions. Proposition development is often led by teams with little consumer insight or strategic training. Data analytics and CRM often reports into IT or standalone functions, with little input into marketing. Customer experience heads are given the “customer” remit, operating without input from marketing.


And it’s a valid option, as long as its remit as a comms and support function is clear and expectations are set. And someone else drives the fuller customer and marketing agenda.


Scenario 2: Marketing as the customer department –where the CMO leads most or all aspects of the customer and market facing agenda and whose influence is truly cross functional.


We’ve recently seen how one great marketer joined a business where marketing had a great reputation-but as a comms department. We have admired him as he has brought data analytics and insights under his remit. Product propositions followed. Customer experience too. And comms and digital-to include the full e-commerce remit- also followed suit. With strong cross functional influence and a strong marketing as customer ethos, a recent appointment to the board, this CMO is really driving the customer and marketing agenda. It’s the ideal scenario, but one that has taken focus, determination and time.


The reality is that most Marketing Directors and their departments are somewhere in the middle, with an ambition to achieve the broader and more influential customer remit. They want to create value, build understanding, shape and drive business plans, shape propositions, build and support channels, build engaging brands.


Marketing as the customer department

So what can be done to achieve it?


1. We need to redefine or re-position marketing. Whether we choose to re-brand the marketing department the “customer” department or not, and there’s a case for both, we must reposition marketing through our day to day focus and delivery, amongst all key stakeholders. Focus on the customers –and indeed on the numbers-and the rest will follow.



2. We need to be relentlessly customer focused. Marketing must put the customer into every conversation and drive answers to the important questions: Who is our customer and who isn’t? Why? What do they need today and tomorrow? Where do they want it? How do they want to interact with us and when? What can they afford? What value do we add? How can we engage and connect with them? Where?



3. We need to build our team’s comfort with both the scientific and the creative and align team skills to the broader customer agenda. Accessing training/experts on the evolving areas of marketing or bringing in contractor or consultant expert resource to work on live projects with the team allows us to build skills through others.



4. We need to get out of our ivory tower. We need to spend time in the market, in our call centres, tracking our customer conversations online, working in our retail outlets, working with our sales teams. We need to know our customers intimately, better than anyone else.



5. Where some elements of marketing sit outside our remit, ensure we help bring strategic marketing principles to them. So if product management reports into an actuarial or retail function, ensure that the product team are exposed to marketing and strategic planning best practice. That there are continuous communication loops feeding customer insight into proposition development and in-life product management, as well as feedback to close the loop. Help the data analytics team with critical storytelling and ensuring key insights are shared across the organisation.



6. Marketing needs to lead new, connected, cross-functional ways of working. We are externally focused and innovative. Let’s also be experts in stakeholder management and in project management, staying apace of collaborative working technologies so we can drive new way of working in our organisations, for optimal customer insight and output.



7. We need to be brave. Marketers must fully embrace an evolved marketing role. Learn from customer experts, access the right talent from Ireland and abroad as needed, flexibly or full-time. But build and connect with teams structured around a deep understanding of and delivery to the customer.


As I said, the customer is now truly in charge and is driving the agenda. Let us be the team that is in charge of the customer.


Sandra Lawler, Co-founder & Director of Alternatives