Marketing – Stop The Trend Toward Sales Support

I am beginning to sense a trend, most likely caused by the economy, to position the Marketing function in a sales support role…nothing more.

I feel those companies that are doing this are making a terrible mistake and will do irreparable harm to their organizations.

If Marketing’s role is limited to lead generation and supporting the sales force, then the important work of acting as a hub is lost.  Once lost, it will take the right person a long time to re-establish the culture necessary to be successful.

The classic Product Manager (Not a Product Marketing Manager, whose view is generally 0-12 months) acts as the hub of the wheel.  He/she has the vision of the product today and tomorrow and communicates this via the product roadmap.  More importantly he/she conveys this unwavering vision to the other functions:

To Finance:  The PM defines the selling price, discounts and margin generated by the product.  He also provides unit forecasts for the next 12 and 24 months.

To Marketing: The PM provides relevant content, direction, and approval of promotional literature/collateral.  If he/she is not the spokesperson on the product for the company he trains that person.

To Sales: The PM provides competitive knowledge, trains the sales force on significant differentiation and assists in closing large deals…when the customer wants to see someone other than a salesperson.

To Development: The PM is defines the product to Development through Market Requirements Documents and by approving Functional Specifications.  He/she is always there for the necessary trade-offs between feature inclusion and time of delivery.

To Management: The PM is the “go-to” person when something good or bad happens; able to provide an interpretation of what it means and its impact.

To R & D: The PM provides direction via the product roadmap and information regarding competitive capabilities and features.

To PR/AR/IR: The PM provides relevant content, information, and messaging.

To Customer Service: The PM provides support both on a pre and post sale basis.

The key point is that there is a hub which communicates a consistent message to the different functions causing them to be aligned in a common goal. If this hub is removed, the wheel stops turning.  Development may end up making what Sales wants…unfiltered.  Sales doesn’t have a credible backstop from HQ.  Finance extrapolates from past numbers, etc. etc.

Those companies that view Marketing’s role as that of an inside Advertising agency or limited to lead generation activities may see a short term boost in sales due to the increased application of resources.  However, as the product cycle turns, the lack of focus and a common presentation of the next product(s) will cause the organization to scramble and fall behind.

A well constructed Marketing function includes the lead generation/sales support activities as well as the Product Management role.  Does your company have a “hub” who clearly communicates the vision of his/her products, or are you trapped in an organization that feels that Marketing exists to support sales?  If the latter, leave now.

RHM 12/16/2010

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