The everyday dialogue between an industrial marketing agency and most of its clients tends to emphasize campaign performance, lead quality, and ROI — rather than bigger-picture strategic marketing questions. Rarely do we get to ask, “What is the current and future role of marketing in your business?”
Needless to say, when this question is actually asked, the answers are diverse.
On one hand, some leaders give an industrial marketer’s dream answer, one that conforms to Peter Drucker’s view: “[T]he business enterprise has two — and only two — basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
Now that’s an answer that inspires confidence in a strategically minded industrial marketer. It recognizes the critical role marketing plays in a business’s future.
The CEO or CMO who gives this sort of answer sees marketing as being at least as important as innovation; she understands that a business without strong research and development (i.e., innovation) cannot deliver new and improved products and services. And the same goes for marketing.
But more often than not, the answer is that marketing is a cost — that it doesn’t really have any inherent value for the organization but is rather a necessary expenditure.
This scenario is not just unfortunate for those who want to practice strategic marketing, it also penalizes the business because it removes a core business function. CEOs who see marketing as mainly tactical, fulfillment and/or only end result–focused activities misperceive the role of marketing in a business. Reductively, this view sees marketing as sales support.
Those who take this stance can certainly succeed at marketing on some level but they are likely not organizationally ready for truly strategic marketing.
As a founder and CEO of a strategic marketing agency, I have had the pleasure of working and interacting with over a thousand industrial brands. I see it as my job to help the organizations I come into contact with challenge their thinking on marketing and determine if they are ready, willing, and able to elevate marketing to an essential business function in their organization — or, as we like to say at our agency, “to make marketing the strength of their business.”
If you’re interested in learning more about what I consider strategic marketing and want to find out if your business is ready, here are a few exercises you can do to determine if you and your company are there yet.
1) Brand Clarity
Brand clarity must be the undercurrent of any downstream marketing activity.
In other words, before a single line of copy or code is ever written, everyone from the leaders down to the marketers should be on the same page about the company’s identity.
If this is not the case, you are not ready for strategic marketing because you don’t yet speak with one voice.
2) Time and Attention
Leaders — and anyone responsible for the success of marketing — must give marketing their full attention.
Leaders clearly cannot think about marketing exclusively, but marketing should command their undivided attention for at least a few minutes a week.
Also, marketing efforts are never confined to a department or to an outside marketing agency. They require contributions from finance, sales, IT, and leadership at various times and for different reasons.
If leaders and other organizational stakeholders classify time for marketing as “not important” or “not urgent,” the company simply isn’t ready for strategic marketing.
3) Access and Resources
As noted above, marketers require support from a variety of internal and external resources to succeed. These can include anything from subject matter experts that inform content, to business and data systems for contact management, to sales and finance for proving ROI.
Marketing is unique in that it is a business function that comes into contact with customers throughout their lives with a company. Being able to measure the results of these perpetual points of customer contact requires access to data across the entire customer journey — right down to accounts receivable.
To this day, many organizations refuse to provide marketers with access to internal systems and data which not only obscures the value of marketing — it also prevents marketing from making a difference in the areas where it could be most effective in engaging customers.
Companies that do not provide access to the resources necessary for high-level marketing are not ready for strategic marketing.
4) The Right People in the Right Seats
Often, internal marketing leadership roles at industrial companies are combined with other areas of responsibility.
For example, many smaller industrial companies have a single sales and marketing vice president. In situations like this, sales support usually ends up consuming the majority of the time, resources, attention, and expertise devoted to “marketing.”
If your organization doesn’t have an established marketing leader, you are not yet ready for strategic marketing.
Getting Ready for Strategic Marketing
Take some time to think about the role you’d like marketing to play in your business. Using marketing exclusively for lead generation or sales support is certainly one possibility, but to unlock the transformative potential of marketing for your business, you’ll need a more strategic approach.
The criteria discussed in this article should help you develop an idea of whether or not you’re ready for truly strategic marketing. If you identify any gaps as you consider these questions, try to think about what it might take to get your business ready for a strategic approach. And if you need any help with the process, you can always contact us at Industrial Strength Marketing.
A version of this article previously appeared on HubSpot’s Marketing Blog.