It’s Time for Marketing to Prove Itself

by Jason Ocker
Apr 08, 2020

Marketers everywhere are doing a lot of soul searching right now. What should be the tone of their marketing? What kind of content is relevant? How much should they even do? And then, of course, they’re struggling with that nape-of-the-neck fear that their position and department are vulnerable during this unsteady time.

So what should marketers be doing right now?

What they do. Marketing. Sure, we should all be ensuring that our content and tactics are relevant and sensitive, but right now is when your company needs you the most. Because your sales team is hurting.

They’re grounded. They’re not at their best. They should be at restaurants and in meeting rooms. They should be engaging face-to-face, glass-to-glass. Solidifying and maintaining relationships. Networking. Finding new partners.

But now they’re sitting in their homes. Making calls. Zooming. But being tied to a chair is tying their hands behind their backs. It’s not how they do their jobs.

In sales-driven organizations, Marketing can be relegated to providing communication aids to sales people as they’re out in the field—a website to send clients and prospective clients to. A presentation to present them with. A leave behind for them to leave behind. A booth to point them at. But now that field is a vacant lot.

So if that’s all Marketing does, then, yes, it’s vulnerable and its value during extreme times like these is questionable and cuttable. But here’s the thing. That vulnerability and value-questioning is also true during “normal” times. According to Gartner’s 2019-2020 CMO Spend Survey—which came out months before any of us cared about virus half-life on pizza box cardboard—marketing spend as a percentage of the company revenue was already dropping to 10.5%, the lowest it’s been since 2014.

That means Marketing isn’t strategic enough to the business. It’s not driving business like it should. And, now, nobody’s driving it. It’s time for Marketing to take the wheel.

But it can’t rely on old tricks like event planning and screaming advertisements into the void. Marketing should be leading the business forward in terms of vision, services, content, and relationship-building. Both in extreme times and always.

How does it do that? By focusing on the product at one end and the content surrounding that product on the other.

Making the product better is what everyone in the company should be focused on, sure. But Marketing should know…the market. We should know what “better” actually means. We have the data. We have the research. We know what our audience wants from us, what they’re willing to buy, and where they’re going if they’re not going to us. We are on the front line of content and communications with our audience.

And that’s the other part of what makes the marketer’s job ever-essential. We should be creating that digital marketing engine where we are serving our audience the content they are looking for, whether they’re Googling from a makeshift office in their bedroom or back at their desk when office buildings open again. We create and warm the leads and form relationships through the materials we serve to them. Marketing should always be doing the work of Sales. And we don’t need an Admirals Club to do it.

Marketing needs to automate sales at both ends. Make the product that can sell itself through its world-class experience. Create the content that clients want and returns the data we need to better serve them.

In other words, this time of unfortunate lull for many roles in the business should be the busiest time for marketers.  

Eventually, your sales team will be at full power again. They’ll be making their deals across the polished wood of bars and the manicured green of golf courses. They’ll be, to steal a tagline, free to move about the country.

The real question is, will your marketing be at full power?

Jason writes. Tells stories. Develops strategies. He oversees a wide range of creative and technical projects. He’s also an award-winning author of half a dozen books and has been featured on or in CNN, The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The New York Times, and TIME.

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