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David Harkins

Dr. David L. Harkins is a social scientist researching the human experience in systems and culture. He is an experienced executive coach and consultant, passionate educator, and keynote speaker. Through his teachings, inspiration, and guidance, he helps individuals and organizations identify and connect with their potential to make a meaningful difference in their communities.

How to keep your job in marketing

The notion that “Marketing isn’t Sales” is an old, but a somewhat untrue statement in the real world. We marketers have learned the hard way that marketing’s number one priority is to drive revenue for the organization. I think we now realize that long-gone are the days when marketing produced pretty pictures, glossy brochures, gimmicky promotions and brand advertising that don’t drive short-term sales. Those days are but a memory for marketers–up in smoke like many of the firms that promoted such frivolity and spending with reckless abandon.

Today’s environment requires marketing that’s effective. And to be effective, marketing must improve the top-line with new sales, and the bottom-line by improving efficiencies in marketing operation. If marketing can’t do both–deliver a large number of qualified customers, cost-effectively–then doesn’t provide tangible value to the organization.

In most organizations these days–regardless of if you’re selling to consumers or to businesses–marketing’s primary job is to support new sales in an anxious push for increased revenue. Certainly, driving new sales can generate new revenue. However, blindly focusing on the acquisition can wreak havoc on an unprepared organization in terms of insufficient capacity to handle front-line sales or merchandising, sales fulfillment, customer service or technical support. Worst of all, with the organization concentrating on bringing in new customers in the front door, no one is watching the back door as existing customers stroll out. We would all agree, I think, that watching the back door is perhaps more important for long-term business success.

Balancing the organization’s desire for new customers with its desire for new revenue can be tricky. Somewhere, somehow, someone got the idea that new customers are better for producing revenue. While it may be true with some commodities, it’s mostly an untrue generalization. The best source for new revenue is the existing customer and not the new ones. The challenge is that growing business from an existing customer base is a relationship sell–something that’s longer-term for the organization–and not something that usually can be leveraged to create an immediate impact on business revenue.

Relationship selling is what marketing is about, so changing a marketer’s mindset to focus on more immediate needs of sales can be a difficult thing to do–all marketers reading this raise your hand if you’ve ever said, “That’s a sales problem, not a marketing problem.” I’ll bet at least 75% of us raised our hand and of that number, another 50% has at some point lost his or her job because our boss thought we weren’t demonstrating a tangible contribution to the sales efforts.

Marketers are generally good at relationship building efforts, but let’s examine a few other ways to improve marketing effectiveness (read: drive sales) in the near term:

  • Do what works not what is pretty: It doesn’t have to cost a lot, nor does it have to be pretty to generate sales. Creative-types always strive for a clever ad or marketing collateral, but the most important thing to get across is benefits of the product or services that you’re selling. Some of the most effective marketing campaigns were four-page direct mail pieces filled with nothing but text if it works and doesn’t degrade the overall image of the company, who cares what it looks like. In direct response, it’s about the offer, the audience, and then creative. That’s not a bad approach to take for all marketing efforts.
  • Analyze and measure activities: Track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Are your programs driving people to your stores? What’s the increase in average daily sales volume during the promotion? Alternatively, are you successful in generating leads for the sales force? What’s the quality of those leads? How many of those leads have turned into sales? What was the duration of those leads in the sales pipeline? Except for those in database or direct marketing, most marketers don’t track the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. Doing so is critical to gaining ongoing corporate support for marketing. Figure out how you can track and measure everything you do with your marketing dollars.
  • Create a dialog with sales, merchandising, and other departments: Communicate with sales, customer service, tech support, and all other customer-facing departments. The people on the front lines deal with prospects and customers on a daily basis and can tell you more about a customer and market needs than any market research study or survey. Gain input from individuals in these areas to develop such things as message strategies, collateral pieces, promotional ideas, and mailing lists to ensure that your marketing efforts are truly in line with prospect and customer needs, values and expectations.
  • Listen to customers: Once in a while, pick up the phone and call a few customers. See what they like and what they don’t like about your advertising, marketing, services, sales, and products. Do it randomly and periodically, and you gain tremendous insights into the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
  • Create opportunities to generate sales: Figure out how to help the sales and merchandising teams gain immediate sales. Working with them, you may find a simple, easy-to-do promotion will fill an urgent need that will drive short-term sales. This will ensure additional cooperation from the front-line and gain recognition with your management for driving revenue.

There are many other ways to improve marketing effectiveness, and while the points listed here may seem most obvious now, we often forget about these when going about our daily work. But above all, if you can remember that your job in marketing is genuinely about sales–getting people to the door so that products are sold and the cash register rings–you will be more effective marketing and may never need to worry about job security.


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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