From Reactive to Proactive: Change Your Marketing Department’s Approach

by Debra Andrews | December 8, 2014

Does this scenario sound familiar?  Your company’s marketing department seems really busy.  As the President / Managing Partner, you review the year-end expenses and find that your company spent more on marketing this year than ever before, with the biggest expense being marketing salaries. There’s certainly a lot of activity and plenty of money going out the door but the results are either not there or very difficult to measure. You begin to doubt whether “marketing works.” And you start thinking that maybe, just maybe, marketing is a luxury for the good times only.

As the leader, you have two choices:  (1) reduce the marketing expense or (2) identify what’s wrong with your marketing department and make changes.

Reducing the Expense = Short-Term Thinking 

Unless your company has a product or service that is unique and competition is extremely low, your growth options are limited and somewhat out of your control without marketing.  It’s possible that you could get new leads from word of mouth.  It has been shown, however, that even when customers are completely satisfied with a vendor’s work, they are not inclined to speak publicly about it.

Another option could be that market demand is growing rapidly and your firm will pick-up new business without much effort.  This is likely the case for technology-driven products and services. Otherwise, markets are typically mature and growing at less than 10% per year.  The last option is that you rely completely on direct sales.  But, unfortunately, trying to develop business in a cold environment – prospects are not aware of your firm and its reputation – is challenging especially if you have marketing savvy competitors.  For all these reasons, reducing your marketing expense might not be the best long-term solution.

Stop Reacting:  Fix Your Marketing Department for Long-Term Growth

While there could be many reasons why your marketing department is failing,  the most common culprit is that it’s operating in a reactive environment. Here’s a good analogy to explain what I mean by reactive.

Everyone’s hungry and your firm decides to cook something. There’s no one taking charge to say what you’re cooking or what recipe you should be using.  Your marketing department is standing in the kitchen with an over-sized pot.  Its role, in the reactive environment, is to take ingredients from members of the executive team, shareholders and sales professionals and throw them into the pot as instructed. Can you imagine how this concoction will taste?

Without strong marketing leadership and a proactive, clear marketing plan on how your firm will achieve growth and other high level company objectives, you will end up with a pot of goop! Reactive marketing, otherwise known as “spray and pray” or “scattershot” marketing, leads to a flurry of activity and very little to no positive or measurable results.  Proactive, strategically-focused marketing works!  Change your marketing approach and you will likely be back to being a believer in marketing and its immense power.

How to Build a Proactive Marketing Department

So now that we have identified one of the primary reasons that marketing and marketing departments fail, how can you fix the problem?  Here are a few steps you can take to move your marketing department from reactive to proactive:

  1. Harnessing Strategic Marketing Leadership:  You absolutely must have an experienced marketer on your team, either in-house or on an outsourced basis, capable of creating a comprehensive marketing plan to reach your company’s goals. Without a road map, you’ll continue to drive and never arrive at a destination.
  2. Gaining Executive Team Support: Even with a marketing plan in place, there is still a tendency for professionals within an organization to latch onto ideas that may not fit with driving long-term goals. Marketers, especially those at the Coordinator or Manager level, will not have the authority to say, “no.” A member of the executive needs to be designated as a figure of authority who will support the marketing department and speak up when an idea runs too far off the rails.
  3. Educating the Organization: Most of the time, contributions / ideas from non-marketers about how to market are well-intentioned but off-the-mark in terms of what’s necessary to drive results.  The marketing department needs to educate the organization on what marketing is and the fact that there is a proactive method to the madness.  That way, suggestions coming from non-marketers will be better informed and more likely to be aligned with the department’s proactive marketing effort.

There’s never a better time than the beginning of the year to make positive changes towards building long-term growth.  It’s within your power.  What are you waiting for?  Turn your marketing from reactive “goop” to a proactive, five course dining experience that gets the attention of prospects, engages current customers and delights you and your colleagues with measurable business results.

download the guide: the best way to structure your marketing department for B2B growth