Article in Brief: This article gives you one of the most important questions you can ask to aim your business’s marketing strategy: What job are you hiring marketing to do? Let’s go deeper…
by Keith Reynold Jennings
When it comes to marketing strategy, one question seems to never go away: “Is our marketing working or not?”
Have you been asked this? Have you tried to answer it?
To answer this question with clarity and authority, you need to first ask and answer a much bigger question:
What job are we hiring marketing to do?”
Don’t get fooled by the simplicity of this question. It’s a doozy! And once you bring two or more stakeholders together to answer this question, you’ll witness first hand the tensions and divisions this question can quickly surface.
Let’s spend the rest of this article applying this question, so you can know how to ask and use it to your business’s and clients’ advantage.
Get Clear About Marketing’s Core Job
Marketing can do many jobs:
- Understand customers across markets
- Segment customers within markets
- Generate awareness
- Position a brand
- Drive leads
- Convert leads
- Fill in the blank
The root marketing problem in most organizations is a combination of mal-alignment and magical thinking.
- Mal-alignment: Different people define marketing’s job differently. Which means there isn’t internal alignment around what marketing’s primary or core job should be.
- Magical thinking: Leaders mistakenly believe “the folks in marketing” can do all of the above jobs equally well, despite limited staff, tools and budget. Not bloody likely!
Asking this “marketing job” question stimulates discussions that move stakeholders toward alignment. It also helps marketers overcome the causal fallacies that lead many non-marketing leaders to believe that certain outputs magically guarantee certain outcomes.
Let’s use an example to bring this marketing strategy to life.
Imagine You and I Have Been Hired To Do An Alignment Audit
Our job is to ask key stakeholders throughout the organization:
- “What primary job is the organization hiring marketing to do?”
- “How could you be certain marketing did that job well?”
We start with the CEO, who tells us the primary job of marketing is “to position the brand.” When we ask how he would measure success, he says, “advertising and PR reach.”
Then we chat with the VP of Sales, a very influential and powerful player in the organization, who strongly believes marketing’s job is to drive quality leads to the sales teams. When asked about measuring marketing success, he says, “it’s easy — a consistent, weekly flow of qualified leads.”
While we’re on our listening tour, a board member catches wind of us and lets us know that “despite what others may say, marketing’s real job is to generate awareness.” When asked how to measure success, she says, “a feel-good video that goes viral on social media.”
There’s no way marketing can win this game! Yet it pervades so many organizations — large and small — today.
By asking the question, “What job are we hiring marketing to do?” we begin to surface these competing expectations and definitions so we can begin to achieve alignment around one or two strategically important jobs.
Align Stakeholders Around Marketing’s Core Job
Once the various “jobs of marketing” have been collected, it is strategically important that the head of marketing and the core senior team (CEO, president, COO, etc.) meet to narrow the job of marketing down to one or two levers that drive the business.
A good question to guide this discussion is this: “If we can only do one of these jobs well, which one matters most to the business?”
Is it lead gen? Unaided brand awareness? Real-time sales support?
Once the organization is clear about marketing’s primary job, you can begin making strategic and tactical decisions about how to get that job done with the highest quality and impact.
And once the key stakeholders in your company are clear about marketing’s primary job, you can begin collecting and reporting data that answers the question, “Is our marketing working or not?”
How This Approach to Marketing Strategy Works in the Real World
Last year, when I stepped into my current role as head of corporate marketing for a national healthcare staffing company, I spent my first quarter listening to people throughout our organization respond to the question, “What job are we hiring marketing to do?”
My rounds included our chairman and CEO, president, corporate executives, company presidents, marketers, sales leaders and board members.
In addition to nearly all the jobs on the list above, I also heard things like, “protect our organizational culture,” and “communicate our values.”
Following that first quarter of listening rounds, I spend the second quarter working with our chairman/CEO, president and chief of operations to hone in on the core job of marketing.
A couple of important notes:
- When you try this approach in your business, answering the “job” question isn’t something you can do in a single work session. It takes discussion, debate, contemplation, vetting and validation over time.
- There is no “right” or “wrong” job for marketing. It’s whatever core job your business needs to scale, sustain and serve your clients.
We landed on “lift.” The job of marketing in our organization is to lift our brand, culture and companies. That may sound a bit abstract to you. But, for us, we have clarity and alignment on what that means and how to measure it. And we’re continuing to hone it month by month, quarter by quarter.
These days, I’m starting to turn this question onto our operating company leaders to help them get clarity around their marketing strategy.
So…Is your marketing working or not?
Whether or not your marketing is working depends on what job you’re hiring your marketing to do. Right?
Too many leaders — marketing and otherwise — are unclear and unaligned about the core job marketing should do in their organization. My hope, through introducing this question, is to give you and others a tool that can lift your marketing strategy.
Let me know how this goes as you try it out!
(Stick around. In my next article, we’ll turn this question toward your customers.)
Image from Pexels.
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