The marketing department has a marketing problem

Only 13% of non-marketers within US companies believe marketing drives business strategy, writes the svp of research at Research Now

The world of marketing is awash with stereotypes. The Mad Men-type workaholics in sharp suits, throwing out catchy taglines and asking graphic designers to make things "pop." But these clichés don’t even get close to reality.  The art and science of marketing is the cornerstone of any successful business.

The art of marketing is highly visible in the seductive creations like advertising, websites, brochures and other collateral. They are the obvious responsibilities of marketers. But there’s also the science, the customer insight, brand strategy and competitor analysis that shapes both a company’s marketing and overall business strategy. These are equally important, but it appears that they are the less well-known purviews of marketers. Or are they?

To learn what non-marketers understood about marketing and the contribution it makes to business success, we surveyed 1,376 non-marketing employees of US companies across several internal teams and industry sectors to explore the perception and understanding of roles and responsibilities of the marketing team. The results were positive…to a degree. 84% of those surveyed said that marketing is essential to their business. But, even more people said sales (92%), customer service (92%), operations (86%) and IT (86%) were essential.

However, the survey did find that the role of the marketer was seen as more executional than strategic. 53% of respondents considered advertising and promotion as one of the top five marketing activities, followed by 43% for brand management, and 39% saw social media as one of those key roles. Interestingly, only 18% saw customer data analysis as a top marketing activity, and just 11% saw the provision of customer insight as a top activity. Finally, only 13% thought the marketing team had a role in driving business strategy and 10% thought they drove product development and innovation.

This is understandable to a degree; websites, social media accounts and marketing collateral are often the only touchpoints for both a company’s clients and the marketing team’s colleagues. However, the low understanding of the role the marketing team plays in brand strategy, and the use of customer data to drive that strategy, is a cause for concern. Most marketers understand the vital need for brand to run through an entire business from beginning to end, and that internal brand buy-in throughout the company adds to a seamless branded customer experience. This process should be driven by the marketing team, the department that has the best understanding of how to implement the brand across all departments and externally. When fewer than half of respondents consider brand management to be a core activity and only 13% see the team as driving business strategy, we need to ask ourselves about the success of our internal brand work.

The problem is that in the drive to support short-term growth, marketing teams are very consumer focused. They sometimes neglect internal communication and broader companywide buy-in, outside of key stakeholders. However, marketers need to apply the skills they use externally to internal audiences. This issue is evident when you talk to other teams about how effectively the marketing team collaborates with them. As expected, collaboration with the sales team is most effective, but only 55% of respondents said that the marketing team collaborates effectively with R&D, while even fewer (53%) said the marketing team collaborated effectively with the customer service team.

These figures should be a lot higher. And our data shows that there is a desire for more effective collaboration with the marketing team across all departments. 80% of respondents felt the marketing team should be effectively collaborating with the customer service team and 81% felt the marketing team should be effectively collaborating with R&D. That’s a huge difference. We may find that with the rise of real-time customer experience programs, the boundaries between customer service and marketing break down. However, the lack of collaboration in product development and R&D can be seen as a cause for concern for marketers. That’s an area where marketers, who are driving strategy through customer insight and market knowledge, can really add value.

I don’t think that marketers are failing as effective communicators. But there is a tendency for teams to be siloed in larger companies. This, without doubt, effects the perceptions of every team, not just marketing. Marketers need to start treating internal communications as a higher priority. In fact, they need to market themselves. If marketers can better communicate both the strategic and executional value of their work, other departments will see that their contributions are essential. This has the potential to not only increase marketing budgets for insights and strategy, but can also lead to a more holistic brand experience for the consumer. In the long run, isn’t that the primary aim of any good marketing team?

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