Monday, February 26, 2007

Marketing Management - 5 Things To Get Right - From The Start

Minimizing Confusion, Frustration, And Second-Guessing

During a Q&A session after speaking to an Executive MBA class, I was asked a familiar question from one of the candidates. Of course, all of these bright men and women had day jobs, some in the marketing discipline. The question was asked with some obvious frustration stemming from his current work environment. He asked, "I find myself continually frustrated in working on various marketing initiatives. We can't seem to consistently get our act together. If it's not one thing, it's another. Sometimes we don't have enough funding. Sometimes we aren't provided the necessary support or access to company resources. Sometimes we don't have the right people on the project. Sometime we don't even know where we're going. Is there a better way or should I change careers?"

No, don't change careers.

It's a familiar question that I hear frequently. The problem is primarily due to management not appreciating the dynamic process that is involved and what must be done to enable people to be successful. It is not enough to say "Here is what we need to do. You people are smart. Let's get it done." Of course, I am simplying, but typically people are sent off on marketing quests assuming they will figure it out. That's what they get paid for. This is usually not the case. In the majority of cases when post mortems are conducted on unsuccessful marketing initiatives, the problem is identified with a bad beginning. The adage, "things that start badly, end badly" fits well here.

In order for a marketing initiative to be successfully executed for optimum results, five key elements need to be aligned and working in concert. These include a strong and clear vision, a team with strong and appropriate skill sets, performance incentives, the resources or funding necessary to implement the initiative, and a concise action plan specifying the who, how, when, and what to do including performance benchmarks and expected results.

The attached chart illustrates what can happen when one or more of these key elements is missing or lacking.

  • Without a clear vision, confusion is more than likely to percolate.
  • Without the proper skills, team anxiety can occur, i.e. "do we have the right talent?"
  • Without performance incentives, things progress with less gusto and more gradually
  • Without the necessary resources and funding, frustration will set in.
  • Without a clear action plan, there is likely to be many false starts.
In summary, it is critical for marketing initiatives to get off on the right foot. Understand the importance of the five elements working in concert or be prepared to deal with consequences.

And as for the Executive MBA candidate, I told him that marketing needs people like him who ask questions. Keep asking and don't let school interfere with your education.