I once met the very unhappy MD of an office and stationary supplies business. I asked him why he was so unhappy. He explained that he had just been invited to the opening of the new offices of one of his key clients.
I didn't understand why he was upset about that. He explained that, in addition to stationary supplies, they also sold office furniture and he'd missed out on a massive order because he didn't know about their expansion. To make matters worse, when he mentioned it to the delivery driver who regularly delivered to that customer, the driver explained that he knew all about it as he'd been shown round it some months earlier!
"Why didn't you tell me?" asked the MD.
"Me? That's marketing! Marketing's nothing to do with me, I'm just a driver", came the reply.
Who's responsible for marketing in your business? That's one of those questions that can create endless discussion and debate, and very often, lots, lots more questions! However, I'm going to put forward the case that there is only one simple answer.
Before that, let's start with a definition for 'marketing'. Having dug out my old MBA notes and researched the web, I found all sorts of words, phrases that meant absolutely nothing to me. So, this is not the definition of marketing, it's my definition:
"Marketing: finding, attracting and keeping the customers you want while maximising your profitability"
It's everything that you do to find the right customers, get them to come to you and then make sure that they keep coming back, hopefully buy more, and tell others. It's also about getting them to pay for your products and services at a rate that allows you to make a profit. I would argue therefore that EVERYONE in your business is responsible for marketing.
There can't be one single person in your business who does not have some impact on at least one part of that process. Show me someone in your business who doesn't contribute to at least one of these areas in one way or another, and I'll show you someone you don't need.
It's not just the sales people, it's the receptionists, it's the delivery drivers, it's the guys in the production area producing quality products, it's even the accounts department dealing with customer accounting queries (hey, this is radical stuff!).
My point is that 'marketing' isn't something that should be separated from the day to day running of the business. In fact, I would argue that marketing cannot be separated from the day to day running of the business.
A truly customer-focused business recognises that marketing involves everybody. What's more, everyone is engaged in the process. A natural consequence of this is that all individuals understand the impact that they can and do have on their customers, even indirectly.
How aware are your people of the impact that they have, positively or negatively on the customer experience in your business?
So rather than ask 'who's responsible for 'marketing'?' why not ask them these questions instead?
How do you contribute to our marketing?
If individuals do not recognise how they contribute to marketing then your job is to educate and engage them – it's not about 4ps, Ansoff's matrix or highly sophisticated marketing models, it's about getting them to understand the impact that they can and do have on customers by what they do (or don't do).
Highlight great examples and things that are working well, provide feedback from customers (particularly stuff that reinforces the role that they play), and champion your champions – that means recognising (and rewarding) those that are doing it well.
How could we do it better?
Its fair to say that in many businesses, asking for marketing ideas will result in suggestions for advertising campaigns and hype. That's not what this is about. Its crucial that you explain the definition above and explore the issues raised in your business.
My experience suggests that you'll find your people have lots of ideas to improve the customer experience and your marketing. Get their thoughts on the things that they think irritate and annoy customers, identify the barriers to great service that they see each day, ask for their ideas on missed opportunities with existing and potential customers. Find out what they think needs to happen to improve your marketing.
How could we help you do it better?
Find out what information they need to help them be more marketing focused, establish what training and support that they need to find, attract and keep customers. Are there people in your team doing it well? Could they share their knowledge and experience? Could you help (incentivise and reward?) them to do that (better)?
Just to show you that this stuff can work for all aspects of marketing as I defined it. A couple of years ago a small business client of mine explained the way he found his new prospects. The business provided portable lavatories for building sites and so he drove into work a different way each day looking out for new sites. Simple stuff, but it worked for him. I asked whether he got his team to do the same thing. His eyes lit up! He'd never thought of asking them!
So he vowed to sit his team down and offer them five pounds for any sites that they spotted, and more if turned into an order. I saw him about three weeks later and he was ecstatic! His 16 year old apprentice had spent the weekend with his two mates using their free bus passes to tour the length and breadth of the area and had identified over 40 new sites!
Marketing is NOT about hype and shouting loudly, it's about finding, attracting and keeping the customers you want. It involves EVERYONE, and crucially, it involves EVERYONE understanding their role in making a positive contribution to it, regardless of their position in the business.
So, I'll ask you again. Who is responsible for marketing in your business?