There are many myths about the role of marketing. Some perceive marketers as customer champions, growth drivers and highly creative. Yet others see them as ‘fluffy’ and lacking in commercial nous. A glance at the back pages of many newspapers or online marketing posts also reveals a variety of different titles for the job of marketing director. Including customer, experience, digital, direct, brand, communications, commercial and so on. Thus it is no wonder there are differing and sometimes contradictory perceptions. All underlines that a successful marketing director requires a combination of skills and expertise.
It never surprises how few really understand marketing. Thus to win trust and influence your colleagues, don’t underestimate the need to explain what marketing is. In particular, how it works, and adds value.
At the same time, steer your colleagues, and business, to a more successful place. Success will follow not just from what you do, but also how you do it. So set the tempo for the business. In particular, articulate a bright and motivating future and work collaboratively with your colleagues to win friends and influence. Also manage the day-to-day, get what needs to be done, while looking to the future.
As Jack Welch once wrote in a letter to shareholders:
“In the old culture, managers got their power from secret knowledge: profit margins, market share, and all that… In the new culture, the role of the leader is to express a vision, get buy-in, and implement it. That calls for open, caring relations with every employee, and face-to-face communication. People who can’t convincingly articulate a vision won’t be successful. But those who can will become even more open – because success breeds self-confidence.”Jack Welch
No matter how sophisticated organisations might seem on the outside, it’s amazing how many hire and expect marketers to make decisions based on their own ‘gut-feel’. However, history suggests that the most successful are those that best understand their customers. As a result this is not something just to pay lip-service to.
You’ll also make better decisions based on facts – who customers are, their needs, attitudes and behaviour. This is particularly true in our increasingly digital world. A world with more and more data, yet that is sadly lacking in insight.
Thus accurate and comprehensive understanding on customers and their needs is vital to optimise products or services, and communications. Specifically this means understanding the ‘why’s’ behind that ‘what’s’?
This also means investing in processes and people to do this. In addition, you should do this yourself, and encourage colleagues to do likewise.
The nature of customers, markets, and technology, also means that new opportunities and threats are emerging all of the time. Yet history is littered with organisations that failed to adapt or change to new threats. Thus they died an untimely death.
It is also easy to become ‘blinkered’ by corporate cultures, and trapped by a ‘flimsy’ job specification. Someone in the company therefore needs to look outwards, and challenge and reinvent the ‘wheel’ before threats appear.
Marketers can and should play a key role in being the eyes, ears and ‘early warning radar’ of the organisation. This fits perfectly with helping everyone understand and focus on customers. However, don’t do this on your own, nor view this as a power grab. Moreover, an exercise to empower your team’s eyes and ears to feedback to the organisation’s brain.
By knowing most, and what’s going on first, gives a competitive advantage. Some also call this foresight.
Attracting customers and making money are common business goals. This is where marketing makes its most important contribution. However, only marketing directly fuels growth. Other functions fuel efficiency. So combining both leads to more profit, and better stakeholder returns.
Effective management is only possible by measuring ‘key performance indicators (KPIs). So as you have growth objectives, and responsibility for marketing initiatives, it is natural that you measure and manage the numbers. Simply so that any deviation can be understood and addressed.
In managing the numbers, also understand the relationship between customer and financial outcomes. Thus the ability to justify where to invest in, or fine-tune, your marketing activities.
So get your CFO onside and to help. The more heads on the case, the better the ‘measurement’ solution.
A quick win is to work with your CFO to establish a marketing and financial dash-board. This will also boost your Boardroom credibility.
If your colleagues do not understand marketing, you can be sure they do not understand brands. So this challenge also starts by helping them understand. And in particular, to establish ‘why bother with your brand?‘
First, to simplify and drive customer choice and purchase. Second, to enhance value (brands command premiums) and shareholder value. Also, to align hearts and minds and deliver consistently over time.
While the management function to boost brand stand-out and appeal is marketing, you’ll also need help from other functions to deliver your brand.
In particular in service companies, where the good work of an advert in raising expectations is sometimes undermined by a surly customer service agent, or poor system. It therefore requires effective management of the customer touch-points or underlying processes to deliver a great brand experience.
Influencing brand delivery also requires you to influence in parts of the organisation beyond your responsibility. So work with your colleagues to identify issues, and deliver a more distinctive and appealing offer to your customers.
In highly competitive markets, both strategy and execution make a big difference to the results. Misplaced or poorly articulated words in a strategy also risk confusion or mistakes in product development or marketing communication. Sub-optimal products, positioning or communication also risk missing the ‘target’ or ‘need’. All risks wasted marketing investment.
The devil is therefore in the marketing implementation detail. Even a tiny improvement in response could add millions to revenue or your bottom line.
So set up processes, tools and techniques to make sure that both strategic and executional decisions are of the highest order. And then test and test again from low to high investment.
Through your great advertising and promotion work thus far you’ll build a reputation for being creative. So use this strength to help colleagues and the business as a whole. Also think about it this way. If the CEO’s role is to manage the big picture and the financial director’s is to manage the numbers, then the task of creating ideas lies with you.
So take the lead to solve problems that your business faces. Even if the problem lies outside of your functional area, the health of the business remains your prime responsibility.
Also bring colleagues together to this end. With the right skills, resources and creative tools no problem is insurmountable. And if bravery does not come naturally, remember that it is a just state of mind. So go for it! If needed, also bring in some external help. An even more objective approach could also help you unite and align your colleagues.
1. In short, you want to be a great marketing director not just a good marketing director. Greatness comes through business success. Then, as a result personal success will follow.
3. So put yourself in the customer’s shoes (and thus understand him or her) to make the best decisions.
4. Success will also follow through your ability to persuade others. In other words through your personal skills and relationships. Sometimes this is more important than technical excellence.
5. If in doubt, sleep on it.
6. If still in doubt, then ask round and about.
7. While it is lonely at the top, remember you are not alone, and don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask for help when needed.
The Marketing Director’s Handbook is the definitive guide to successful marketing. It is unique in covering both the marketing and management aspects of the role. It is also a ‘must-read’ for all business owners, directors and a ‘must-keep by your side’ for all marketers. So to be a great marketing director, read the FREE introductory chapter, reviews, and then order your copy.
It’s available at all good bookshops. These include Foyles, Waterstones, Blackwells, WHSmith, the Chartered Institute of Marketing bookshop, JS Group, university bookshops, Amazon, The Book Depository, The Marketing Director’s bookshop and many more.
Recent OFCOM Research (1) highlighted that 71% of the UK receive 9 nuisance calls a month. Also that telephone is the #4 culprit. This questions whether this quantitative research survey mode has had its day? But while online has grown in share, is this top dog? We’ve looked closely at the merits of online, telephone (random direct dialling) and face-to-face (ftf). Several insights emerged. So if you are about to brief in a quantitative research survey, this article summarises our findings. It also spotlights ideas to help you make the most of your research investment.
Costs vary by sample size, ease of reaching an audience or ‘incidence’, the length of survey, mode, and also complexity of fieldwork and analysis. Some costs such as coding for online research, computer aided telephone interviewing (CATI) and computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) are similar. Compared with online (index =100) fieldwork costs are typically higher for face-to-face (index 250-300) than telephone (index 250-300) due to the greater human time involved.
Online presently reaches 87% of the UK (1) though many online surveys run via panels which cover just 5% of the population. Thus sample carefully to cover geographic gaps and bear in mind that respondents are also usually more ‘Internet experienced’. Conversely, nearly all homes have access to at least one phone though telephone databases cover just 60% UK (and we suspect even fewer are opted-in to research). Within this fixed line telephone reaches 79% (with greater penetration among older respondents) and mobiles reach 96% (with greater penetration of younger respondents) (1). Face-to-face also reaches most places (though at a cost).
Online response depends on the nature of the panel, and how responsive and interested respondents are; expect between 5-30%. Conversely, response from links on websites or emails depend on the nature of the source. Telephone responses have also fallen over the last decade and responses are now around 10-15%. Face-to-face response, by contrast, is around 15-20%.
The self-selection nature of online means there is a greater risk of respondents opting-in to surveys that interest them. This is called avidy bias. Typically online respondents are younger, more familiar with the online world and spend more time on it. They are also more informed, more opinionated and more politically activist. (2) Panels also contain more early technology adopters though it remains possible to discern other types on the diffusion of innovation spectrum.
Research (3, 4) observes that those responding by telephone present more socially desirable responses more often than face-to-face (FTF). This is particularly the case with those with lower intellectual ability/fewer years of formal education (i.e. C2DEs). Research also shows that respondents are more comfortable discussing sensitive subjects face-to-face as they can see. This they have greater trust in the interviewer. Conversely, FTF interviews conducted in the respondent’s home eliminate anonymity, making socially desirable responses more pronounced. Overall however, interpersonal trust between the interviewer and the respondent has a greater influence resulting in more honest responses. FTF also shows similar results to online (where there is no interviewer effect). However some research (5) has observed directionally higher valuation responses to some ‘willingness to pay’ questions. For example, when there is a perceived ‘civic virtue’ in being seen to contribute to a common good.
Satisficing (combining the words satisfy and sacrifice) involves short-cutting the response process, settling on a solution that is ‘good enough’ but could be ‘optimised’.
Telephone poses an increased cognitive burden. The increased difficulty to fully comprehend questions, reduces the effort to cooperate, search the memory and process information. Perceived time pressure also fatigues and demotivates. As a result, questions are less considered, giving rise to higher acquiescence (answering affirmatively regardless of the question), having no opinions, choosing mid-points or only extremes in rating scales, easier to defend answers and reduced disclosure. Again this is more evident with those with lower intellectual ability. Further research (3, 4, 5) suggests FTF researchers are better able to judge confusion, waning motivation, distraction (via watching a tv, eating etc.), Thus also be better able motivate and make it easier for the respondent to understand questions and improve cooperation on complex tasks. Conversely, with online, respondents go at their own pace.
(1) Great research starts with a great marketing research brief. Decide your target and what’s most important. Beyond feasibility and answers to questions, what’s the relative importance of cost, speed, precision etc.
(2) There are many pitfalls in conducting quantitative research. Even more if you would like to repeat a survey or set up a tracker. So use larger samples to give greater reliability; a sample in excess of 1000 will give more reliability than a sample of 500. This means that repeating a survey 100 times means that in 95 instances, responses (confidence interval) will be within +/- 1%. Also make sure data is comparable from wave to wave, and design shorter surveys to cut the risk of satisficing.
(3) Take care to make sure samples are not biased and give reliable findings. Nationally representative samples are essential to measure awareness, usage and market share. Also make sure your sample eliminates any demographic, subject affinity, usage or other bias.
(4) Buyer beware. Remember the Whiskas advert that famously told us that ‘8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas’. This was eventually changed to ‘8 out of 10 owners that expressed a preference said their cats preferred Whiskas’. However, what we still don’t know is the sample size, how many said ‘don’t know’, and how many expressed a preference. So whatever the survey mode, be clear what is statistically significant or merely directional, and make the context clear. This will help you avoid being duped and make better decisions! Meoww, yum!
(1) OFCOM (2019).
(2) Duffy Bobby, Smith Kate, Terhanian George, Bremer John. Comparing Data from Online and Face-to-face Surveys. International Journal of Market Research Vol 47 Issue 6. (2005)
(3) Holbrook Allyson L, Green Melanie C, Krosnick Jon A. Telephone versus Face-to-face interviewing of National Probability Samples with Long Questionnaires. Public Opinion Quarterly, Volume 67:79–125 (2003).
(4) Szolnoki G, Hoffman D. Online, face-to-face and telephone surveys – Comparing different sampling methods in wine consumer research. Wine Economics and Policy 2 (2013) 57-66.
(5) Lindhjema Henrik, Navrudb Ståle. Are Internet surveys an alternative to face-to-face interviews in contingent valuation? Ecological Economics 70(9): 1628-1637 (2011).
The Marketing Directors and The Market Researchers have no vested interest in promoting one quantitative research survey mode over another. Thus, we work in partnership with the world’s leading online, telephone and face-to-face fieldwork companies to deliver the best solution for you. So just get in touch for help.
‘Stay with me baby’ – from the Walker Brothers to Leanne Jarvis (1966+)
Staying contemporary and relevant is essential for successful marketing. Especially in the ever-changing digital world. However the basics of marketing, consumer and brand remain constant. So does the marketing director’s main function – to stimulate demand through great products and communication.
However, by examining these factors individually, a pattern emerges which helps improve marketing effectiveness.
Firstly, the almost obvious point is that ‘digital marketing’ is no longer separate from ‘marketing’. The popularity of the smart phone (now in 78% penetration in the UK) (1) and the ongoing march of the tablets (now with 58% UK penetration) combined with the ubiquitous Internet and ever faster access speeds mean that ‘mobile marketing’ is all around us. Appreciating that mobile is digital, then the term ‘digital’ is no longer as isolationist as the term implies. Everything we do is created, managed, recorded and also reported digitally. So now the starting point is to think digitally, from the outset. Particularly in planning and selecting media, and using the right platforms.
The demand to monetise, for Google, Facebook, Twitter et al, means growing advertising revenue. Further, this means making themselves more relevant to brands – to deliver relevant communication to consumers that brands wish to target. Google’s algorithmic heart beats faster as the metaphoric Hummingbird’s wings beat faster and faster to seek out the nectar in search behaviour. And thus sell it to us. That ‘nectar’ is message relevance to the search. As a result, this means that the irrelevant, from a search marketing perspective, activity of link building, creating pages of lists i.e. keywords, for the sake of a high Google search ranking is now redundant. In turn this also means that ‘content for contents sake’ is dead too. Distinctive, credible and relevant messages are taking its place. So the growing range of social media from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, require understanding. So understand customers, and their behaviour, before mining.
Recognising that these new offers are simply new media channels means that marketing thinking is more important than ever. To rise above the operational hum-drum and relegation of content to a handful of keywords. Content has to become creative. In that simple sentence is a dilemma for the marketing director as the agencies providing ‘search’ marketing be it ‘pay-per-click ‘, ‘search engine optimisation’ and now ‘social media’ are all ill-equipped to be ‘creative’. The challenge for the marketing director is to embrace all these media and thus design and ‘brand’ platforms and pages to cut-through and appeal.
Specialist digital marketing agencies offer technical platform expertise but not necessarily strategic and message proficiency. However, they are in danger of being left behind, limited in their appreciation of how what they do fits in and inter-relates to marketing world. In particular, this is compounded by zero appreciation of the brand and the differentiation required. Consequently, the marketing director must recognise the shifts in media platforms and where agency technical limitations lie. The marketing director must therefore fill the gap, champion creativity and lead the brand in all that (s)he does.
It is not only in the message and media platform that the digital world has changed. Let us think about media planning. At the Marketing Society conference 2013, Chairman of WPP Group, Martin Sorrell gave the best rational for his giant agency group yet… ‘We remain committed to being ‘media neutral’ (2). The aim of media neutrality is to select the most cost-effective media to deliver the relevant message to the specific audience at the right time. While this is a vital function of marketing, it is also more relevant than ever.
In selling their media platforms to advertisers, agencies and media alike are not unnaturally using data, big data. However, big data only make it doable as long as it is the right data. So now with a customer relationship management platform like Marketo (3), the right data can be captured and marketing communications integrated.
The customer continues to drives all we do in marketing. The fact that media is in customers’ hands, not the hands of media owners, also means more complex cause and effect relationships. So marketers must understand these morays and react accordingly. From apps for specific brand and product messages: activities to interact and engage social communities: the blending of blog, forum, network, web site. All amplified by text and tweet. All thus puts renewed emphasis on planning. As a result, media planning should take place in the context of all marketing, not in isolation. In order to build a media matrix that meets the needs of your brands, and only your brands, disavowing the numbers of each individual medium.
The challenge for the marketing director is therefore to understand all customer groups. Also the customer’s journey to discover and build strong brand relationships. This means being aware of how they discover, and use brands, and in particular, their thoughts and feelings at each stage. This is not a phrase we in marketing should ever forget! Through ALL channels. Phones, iPads and screens. From adaptive responsive web sites, viral this or that, to commercials that recognise fast forwarding, to multi-tasking using a phone or tablet whilst watching TV, to …. you name it. As a result you can choose the most cost-effective combination of messages and media. And thus better persuade and boost sales and profitability.
Managing Digital Marketing, new Chapter 31 of The Marketing Director’s Handbook is available in digital form.
(1). A decade of digital dependency, OFCOM August 2018
(2). Martin Sorrell, Speech to the Marketing Society 2013
What enables some businesses to weather the changing economic climate and the cold wind of market forces, while others wither? The most successful grow income and budgets steadily, while the weakest are left with diminishing income and budgets. Or none at all. Just as Darwin observed, the fittest survive or thrive, and the weak die. While research by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (1) revealed the benefit of an ambitious, engaging business strategy, however, the role of marketing has received less attention.
Business strategy, and marketing, were first recognised as important in the middle of the twentieth century.
The role of marketing is also best understood by leading consumer goods companies. It is most influential in the most successful businesses, such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever. By contrast the discipline plays second or third fiddle in companies in sectors such as business-to-business (b2b) and utilities.
The effects of marketing communication campaigns are also well documented. Some show positive results, yet some, negative. Though it is difficult to find empirical evidence to prove how or what aspects of marketing drive business success. Or explain what businesses should do strategically. So we’ve done some research and thus, here, we summarise some ‘hard’ evidence to spotlight the role of marketing.
In 2006 Booz & Company (2) identified that businesses with ‘healthy marketing DNA’ were almost 60% more profitable than their competitors. Further, that those with ‘super DNA’, some 9% of the sample, were 20% more likely to show superior growth. But what is ‘healthy marketing DNA’ and how can it be ‘bottled’?
Here’s a summary of three marketing functional characteristics that correlate with business success:
In 1955, Peter Drucker wrote ‘what gets measured gets managed’ (3). Yet in 2005, a CMO Council study of US CMOs (4) revealed that over 80% of organisations had yet to develop meaningful and comprehensive organisational measures or metrics. However, the 20% introducing useful measures substantially outperformed their competitors in terms of revenue growth, market share and profit. Thus, around two-thirds now believe that measuring marketing ROI will be the most important measure of success in the next few years (5).
Yet, many organisations hire marketers with lots of experience in a business sector and then rely on them to ‘judge’ what to do and where to invest. This compounds a perception that marketers are ‘fluffy’. It also compounds that they are unworthy of a seat at the board-room table. While far from easy, success requires measuring and proving marketing activities drive sales and profits.
In some organisations, marketing operates solely as a communication or promotion department. In others, as a management ‘gopher’, responsible for tactical initiatives, and also reactive to management demands. Organisations with marketing functions that work closely with the CEO, work across the organisation, and also assume broader strategic responsibility, are more successful. Their roles include business analysis and development, product innovation, and also approving large investments. In particular, grasping customer insights quickly, and communicating and making decisions based on those insights across organisation boundaries. Thus better engaging management and employees also enables out-performance.
Successful business development requires deep business, customer and strategic understanding to design, promote and deliver experiences that customers want. Outperforming organisations also invest much more effort in capturing and using customer information to make decisions and foster customer relationships. A further CMO study confirms that market research is the single most important source of information influencing strategy decisions (cited as important by 82% CMOs). It is therefore reassuring that 63% of CMOs believe they can grow their influence by being the voice of the consumer (5). According to CIM, marketers’ influence is also greater when competition is intense and the market turbulent (6).
So what to do? Unlike the DNA of living organisms, organisational DNA can change. So start your business strategy process by understanding where the business and marketing capability is now, and should be in the future. From The Marketing Directors’ research (7), there are just 14 executive marketing directors on the main boards of the UK FTSE 100 companies. This therefore suggests that the role of marketing is relatively unimportant in 86 of those companies, or that competition is benign. Yet the ability and role of marketing to drive business growth is widely misunderstood.
Effective and superior marketing involves understanding customers and accumulating facts. Also using facts to influence colleagues and make better decisions to advance growth and profitability. Marketers should therefore view themselves as the voice of customers and directors of growth. They should also explain what marketing is, and measure and report on how it drives business growth. Successful marketing simply justifies a marketers’ place in the boardroom.
(1) Porras Jerry and Collins Jim I, Built to Last, 1994, based on research and analysis of pairs of companies in 18 industries.
(2) Landry Edward, Tipping Andrew, Dixon Brodie, Six Types of Marketing, Booz & Company and the Association of National Advertisers, 200, based on an online survey with 30,000 responses.
(3) Drucker Peter F, The Practice of Management, 1955.
(4) The CMO Council, Assessing Marketing’s Value and Impact, 2004.
(5) Korsten Peter, Heller Baird Carolyn, et al, From Stretched to Strengthened, Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study, IBM, 2011, based on face-to-face conversations with 1,734 CMOs in 64 countries.
(6) Argyriou Dr. Evmorfia, Leeflang Prof. Peter, Saunders Prof. John, Verhoef Prof. Peter, Paper: The Future of Marketing, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2009.
(7) Arnold Tim, Tomlinson Guy, The Marketing Director’s Handbook, 2008.
Arnold and Tomlinson’s book, The Marketing Director’s Handbook, fully delivers on its subtitle’s promise: “The definitive guide to superior marketing for business and boardroom success. Comprehensive, yet written in a lively, jargon-free style, the Handbook offers practical advice on topics ranging from setting objectives, planning for the year ahead, measuring marketing performance, managing teams to building brands and succeeding at new product and service development.
In writing a reader-friendly book, Arnold and Tomlinson practice what they preach. Chapters are amply illustrated with useful charts and tables that succinctly highlight key points made or that explain ideas visually. These tables and charts relieve the reader of wading through lengthy explanatory text. Page graphics help this book truly function as a handbook. Icons appear in front of topics through out the text. For example, an auto key symbolises “Where to start” topics. And a wrench appears when a chapter discusses “tools and techniques,” and a star graphic always accompanies “best practices” or examples.
I recall a feeling of total paralysis during my first week on the job as marketing director for an international accountancy firm. The marketing discipline was new to the organisation and I was the firm’s first CMO. There was so much to do and I didn’t know where to start. The authors acknowledge this paralytic feeling in Chapter 1, “Starting Out.” Their experience-driven advice and counsel will help newly appointed CMOs start out on the right foot. This first chapter defines the CMO’s role and offers concrete advice about what to do first. Whom to know in the organisation and how to build the right team to get the job done.
Chapter 10, “Structuring the Function” builds on this advice and further defines key marketing roles and relationships. Another chapter, “Day to Day Management” offers insights based on organisational dynamics and describes best practice processes and protocols. For new marketing directors, these chapters are among the most valuable in the book. They could well justify the book’s purchase price alone.
The authors have both client-side and marketing agency experience in brand planning and services marketing. This know-how is clear when they discuss the essentials and nuances of brand management and positioning. And also well as when they address the marketing and organisational issues related to new product and service development.
When it comes to corporate branding or repositioning, Arnold and Tomlinson offer a nugget of advice that sounds a bit simplistic and a bit hackneyed. Yet, nevertheless, represents a key challenge for CMOs, “Ensure top-team management and buy-in so that brand strategy weaves into organisational strategy.” Although it is left unsaid, without buy-in, even the most talented CMO will hit his or her head against a brick wall. The authors make sure that readers learn both strategies and tactics for achieving top management buy-in for their plans. These chapters are also useful for both seasoned marketers and researchers who wish to quickly refresh their branding and product innovation knowledge. Overall, the authors provide exhaustive detail on branding and product and service development.
The marketing research discussion focuses, as it should, on issues such as selecting and managing marketing research agencies. Also how to prepare proper briefs so that everyone involved in the project understands the study’s objectives and research questions.
As a qualie, I was particularly interested in how the authors address and explain various qualitative methods. I was happy to see a useful chart that provides an overview of the pros and cons of the full range of the qualitative methods for marketing. They include a similar, handy chart for quantitative methods. Ethnography, pre-task diary homework assignments and semiotics are absent from the pro’s and con’s chart and, instead, appear on a different chart called “Qualitative research strategies and methods.”
For better or worse, Chapter 26, “Rationalisation or Downsizing” will be useful to CMOs charged with the unpleasant task of laying employees due to downsizing. This chapter outlines pitfalls to avoid and stresses the importance of being compassionate to both survivors and leavers. This chapter also discusses downsizing strategies in-depth as well as morale-building approaches for employees who survive staff cutbacks. The massive layoffs associated with today’s global economic recession make this chapter required reading for both practicing and aspiring CMOs – and for anyone else in the organization involved in staff lay-off decisions such as HR and operations executives.
The Marketing Director’s Handbook is a “must have” for those who care about best practices. Also those who want to learn how to succeed as managers and change-makers in their organisations.
Sharon Wolf is Managing Director at QualiData Research Inc., of New York and San Francisco. An expert ethnographer, moderator and workshop leader, Sharon translates research-based insights into powerful marketing, branding and product innovation strategies for QualiData’s global clients. Her sector specialties include personal care, fragrances, food, cosmetics, electronic media and mobility. Previously she was a Marketing Director in professional services.
Sharon launched and served for three years as voluntary Editor-in-Chief for QRCA Views magazine, an award-winning quarterly publication for the marketing research community. She also served as Program Co-Chair for ESOMAR’s 2002 Global Qualitative Conference.
here. Copies are available at Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones, good local book stores as well as this website.
Marketing agencies can transform the performance of your brand, your business and yourself. They will be the bane and boon of your life. Thus to get the most out of them, start by researching, and briefing marketing agencies. In so doing be clear about your objectives and needs, go out of your way to understand your agency, and also work at the relationship.
When briefing marketing agencies be as open as you can. The more an agency understands your needs and issues the more they should be able to help you. Start by preparing a written marketing agency brief; the process of doing so will help you clarify issues and opportunities and engage and gain agreement and support from your colleagues. A common problem is to write fuzzy objectives. So pay attention to both your marketing and brand objectives. Consider, for example, whether you wish to attract more customers, increase sales per customer. Consider also whether you wish to raise awareness, change perceptions, or …. It often helps to reflect on your current situation, weaknesses or problems that you wish to address, and then redefine these as future goals.
The agency landscape is constantly changing. At one end of the spectrum, there are the agency groups owned by the likes of WPP and Omnicom. At the other, there is an ever-changing mix of independent and up and coming agencies. Keep abreast of the changes.
Monitor the people moves especially if it is happening in one of your agencies. Check out the odd new agency that catches your eye. The nature of the profession means that there are good people to be found in many places and those that are most vigilant stand to benefit the most.
In terms of cost, understand how remuneration works. The more intellectual or consulting agencies work on a mainly time cost basis. Database marketing and campaign communication agencies tend to be time and/or cost-plus. Marketing implementation services are more price list driven, for example, pay-per-click plus fixed fee. Overall, expect to pay more for those with London offices and less in the suburbs or rural areas. Expect to pay more for a heavy duty management team, those with an overseas management structure and those that belong to a quoted group. Fewer layers and complexity means less cost.
Assessing marketing agencies starts with your brief. So include your selection criteria in the brief. This helps agencies marshall the best resources to meet your needs and demonstrate they can meet your needs (or choose not to). Then seek multiple and diverse responses to your brief, and make sure you meet the team. When you do meet the team, ask who does the work, and be wary of agencies who just use front-men for the pitch and who you risk never seeing again. Finally give clear, comprehensive and timely feedback to all. To do otherwise is disrespectful and lessens your good name.
Developing creative and truly integrated marketing campaigns requires strong agency management. Campaigns fail for either strategic or executional reasons and a poor brief is often seen as a reason to reinvent your strategy. Great communications emanate from a clear and compelling brand strategy underpinned by robust insights. All agencies say they have planners to do this – but brand strategy is a specialist skill that most agencies have little of. And it is not something to be considered lightly or dealt with in a ‘black-box’. Seek specialist strategic help when needed and if you are working across multiple media, use your management skills to ensure collaborative working, set the tone and define and manage demarcation lines.
Having seen the world from both sides of the fence, if you are paying an agency to help you, never be in doubt that they are on your side. But also remember that agency people are human – they’ll work harder for you if they like you. So build good relationships; let your agency know that you are on their side – and if the work is deserving, say proper ‘thank-yous’. Building good relationships will benefit you in many ways, for example in terms of profile and career advancement!
It all starts with a clear brief. So use our handy one-page marketing brief for briefing marketing agencies, or your in-house team. Then make yourself available to answer questions verbally.