Leading a company’s marketing team is truly a balancing act. It often feels like we walk a tightrope between budgets and expectations, producing real-time results and planning for the future, building the right structure for today and for a year down the road. What’s more, other department leaders may not even understand marketing basics, meaning that as marketing leader you must educate colleagues in addition to actual work leading to new revenue.
The question of how to optimize global marketing is at the forefront of most discussions I have with company leaders. And if there were some magic formula for maximizing global marketing potential, we would all know it and I would be out of a job. Like in all strategy, the marketing function needs to be responsive to its company, industry. It must leverage any existing talents and assets, and compensate for deficits.
There are many factors to consider when assessing your marketing function’s effectiveness. Here are a few that I have found to be critical:
Overall Growth Rate – There are companies with steady client revenue streams who need very little, if any permanent marketing team. But this is rare. Most companies need to grow in order to give a higher return to their investors. The higher the required growth rate, the more marketing (and sales) resources are needed to retain current clients and acquire new ones.
Competitive Environment – Some industries look more like war zones as marketing/sales teams wage lengthy battles to win new clients against the competition. Other companies claim to be so innovative that they have no competition (that’s never actually true, by the way). Global markets open variances in the competitive landscape. Your home market might require heavy marketing investment to be competitive while a market halfway around the world may be relatively light in competitors.
Strength of Value Proposition (and Clarity of Messaging) – Some companies market products that actually save lives (ex. Defibrillators). That’s a very strong value proposition with a relatively simple message. I once worked with a bioscience company where it took the CEO and Founder literally 90 minutes to explain the value of his product line. Now if you had a PhD in biology that time dropped to 15 minutes, but needless to say large marketing investment was needed to gain and keep attention while explaining the value.
Relative Strength of the Sales Team – In my experience, marketing and sales are twin functions that both need to be high functioning to catapult a company into serious growth rates. No matter how great the sales force, they will never make up for poor marketing. And no matter how smart the CMO and his/her team, they can’t take the place of sales. Focus on shoring up weakness on either side.
Marketing Leadership Capabilities– Many companies throw money at marketing and receive poor results when marketing’s leadership does not have talent. Signs that this may be happening in your company include: high marketing staff turnover, several major changes in brand in a short time period, lots of excuses about why marketing results are not measurable, and a reactionary-driven project list. Fix the leadership at the top before investing any more into a poorly functioning department.
Upfront Investment vs. Long-Term Growth – While there are some companies with large reserves of cash from private equity or retained earnings, most firms are a bit more cash strapped. What’s more, adding marketing staff and other resources rarely break even as investments until much later. Organic growth requires a slower hiring plan. Hiring too fast can potentially jeopardize the company’s ability to stay solvent.
Given these factors, here are questions to help assess your global marketing team’s relative size compared with their effectiveness:
- Is your current marketing function driving qualified new leads into your sales process at rates that will help the company reach its growth goals?
- Would an additional hire in some area of the marketing team directly impact the ability to retain current clients or find and nurture new prospects?
- Does the marketing team provide valuable competitive and business environment insights to help drive future product design and market entry choices?
- Is your marketing leader able to communicate a clear vision of their team’s roles and expected outcomes, including budget compared with outcomes?
- Is the company brand not only well represented in the marketplace, but consistent across all interactions with the company?
- Does the marketing team take advantage of marketing industry insights and present-day tools to further lead creation, inbound marketing, lead nurturing, and establishing a clear market position?
- Does everyone in the marketing team have clearly defined roles that directly relate to revenue growth?
- Is the current marketing team able to effectively manage marketing branding and outreach in all of its current global markets?
For the next few weeks I will be writing about optimizing global marketing functions. Please stay tuned for more stories and insights!
Best wishes in all of your international business efforts,