Lately, I’ve had many discussions with marketing people in various companies, but also with entrepreneurs or top managers of larger companies. Though different in size or field, no matter the topics discussed, I have come to observe a series of problems which seem to be recurrent here on our native lands (in fact, I am sure that also in other parts of the world, but here I just got to study them better). Marketing has become a complex position within the last years, with multiple possibilities and fitting traps, so it is only natural that it confronts some specific issues, out of which I spotted here a few (Disclaimer: any resemblance with real persons and companies is purely incidental, what you will read below is just a scan on a relatively representative sample):
- Lack of structure of the marketing position – it is the first and probably the most important and prevailing problem I have encountered (and which has determined me, for instance, to direct my services also towards the mentoring / external coordination areas as of some departments suffering due to this deficiency). Multiple tasks, unclear responsibilities, undefined expectations, overlapping roles on several persons. Though Marketing should be a strategic position with the role to smell the last trends and technological innovations and to have that holistic perspective to take a business to the future, there are still companies in which the marketing people get the „tasks which cannot be placed elsewhere”, including administrative and support tasks for other positions. The extreme of this situations is when a company looks for one person to do it all and, surprise!, that person is very hard to find.
- Prioritizing channels above value– when the speech usually goes around „where we communicate” and possibly „what”, before discussing „to whom” and „why”. Media digitalization has actually meant the „democratization” of all communication channels, as the costs to use them have decreased to such a level, that it made them accessible to almost anybody. Most of those communicating now on these channels yet forget that many people are similar to them and they are all struggling for the same bit of attention of a potential buyer. One works very little on defining the true value that a business brings to its clients, on differentiation and relevance. Yet everybody knows how to send a newsletter, how to make a Facebook or Adwords campaign and „digital marketing” courses abound – I have nothing against them, as long as they refer also to clients, not only technicalities. And it is very good that we are natural born talents in IT and programming, but it would be great if we developed a little our attention to others, especially if we want them to buy something from us.
- Lack of strategy and vision– there are many who have landed in an avalanche of tasks and no longer manage to connect them all in a future perspective, to get an arm’s length distance to things and form a real overview. The model „we work, we do not think” – because this is what we have been doing for so long and because this is what others do, too – is more present than I would have thought, and this race of urgent tasks which had to be done yesterday is also connected to:
- Lack of evaluation and follow up: many of those very busy marketing people do not manage to streamline their activity because they simply do not measure it; the hardest trap of being „overloaded” is getting so busy that you no longer have time to measure anything, though through such a measurement you could realize that half of the work you do is useless; there is an old marketing saying which states that „half of the marketing budget is wasted, the problem is we do not know which half” and it seems it is still very contemporary, though today the quantity and quality of the data which can make the evaluation possible are much bigger than back to when this „proverb” appeared.
- Lack of planning and consistency: one way or another, even in big companies it seems that the system „I got an idea today which should have been ready yesterday” is still working and even with success, I might add, if I did not observe the consumption of the marketing people, where the ideas to be executed, incoherence of actions and lack of certainty that what it is done has a real contribution are all gathered and spread; which also leads to:
- Not recognizing the importance and contribution of the marketing position in a business, which has a connection to all the above and with the propagation of the vicious circle „we work hard – we do not measure – we do not know if what we do is right and helps the business, thus we are insecure and accept more pointless tasks, so we work even harder – the others do not understand what we do and neither what our role is, so they look at us with suspicion and put even more pressure on us”.
- Not understanding the brand concept – I almost forgot it, myself caught in the flurry of the elements above; the brand itself as philosophy and business concept transcending communication and visual expression; which yet possibly traced and steered by the marketing position, is lived, expressed and developed by the entire company and it is not just a flat notion related to a colorful logo and inspiring „creative” debates seen as relaxation pills among those in charge with hard and „serious” duties in the company. It is a yet long road to understanding the fact that the brand, no matter if it is worked on or not, is in fact the deepest and authentic expression of the relation between a business and its clients; it is a dynamic organism growing, transforming or regressing along with this relationship.
The good news is yet that there are still a lot of companies starting to realize the existence of these problems and either try to solve them from within or they ask for specialized support, fact which makes me happy and gives me hope that marketing is on the right path, even though with moderate steps. As it is one of the most complex and fantastic fields, so it is only normal not to be that easy.