So your boss thinks marketing is a waste of time?

by / Tuesday, 31 January 2012 / Published in Blog

As copywriters, we are sometimes approached by marketing professionals who see the need for revitalised marketing collateral – although their bosses do not.

Marketing executives can find themselves fighting board-level misconceptions about the value of the marketing function itself. If you are a marketing person and you are trying to reinvigorate your company’s messaging, here are some of the (unspoken) assumptions you may face, along with suggested responses for tackling them.

“We’ve never needed marketing before.”

Sales-driven organisations with significant revenue and repeat business can be reluctant to relinquish budget to marketers. But in a blog-fuelled, Adwords-driven market, even well-heeled companies could find themselves fighting off nimble young competitors who are using the web to quickly build a reputation and convey an air of credibility. It’s best for your organisation to get its own blog/brochure/e-zine/LinkedIn group into shape now, so you’re better able to step up to the fight if you need to defend your market share.

You’d be surprised how easily a determined start-up can use marketing, especially online and social media marketing techniques, to pose a competitive threat to you, even if they lack your decade-plus of experience or turnover in the millions.

“We can measure sales, but how do we know if marketing is working?”

Actually, today’s marketing communications vehicles (like e-zines, blogs and electronic direct mail) make it easy to see who’s reading what you send and whether that awareness is converting to sales. The best e-zine platforms have on-board analytics, and don’t forget you can put unique web addresses into your digital communications to see which route prospects took to reach you.

“Our budget would be better spent on new salespeople, not on ‘touchy-feely’ stuff.”

New York-based PR specialist Helena Bouchez put it brilliantly when she defined the marketing/sales divide in musical terms: a company needs a drumbeat to lay down the rhythm (salespeople) but it also needs the bass line to make everything feel groovy (marketing people).

The fact is, grooviness matters: marketing creates the mood music, the environment, in which the sales conversation can take place. Your salespeople can talk product and benefits, but customers also base their buying decisions on criteria like whether they believe that you are a credible, established, service-focused vendor who understands their business – it’s touchy-feely, but it’s what helps close sales. (See also our blog post on ‘Putting emotion into online marketing‘.)

“Our biggest customers are totally loyal; we don’t need to market to them.”

But could you be communicating better with them? It’s shocking how often a company’s customers – even their best customers – are unaware of their supplier’s fuller service portfolio. Don’t lose these upselling opportunities. Those loyal customers are already sold on you as a supplier. Why not make sure they know about everything you have to offer? A series of focused brochures or an e-zine gives the perfect vehicle to help with that education process.

“Why should we pay a copywriter/PR person/branding expert; can’t we do this ourselves?”

Don’t underestimate the power of the fresh perspective an outsider can bring. Whether you use a copywriter or another communications specialist, their newness to the topic can be an asset to you because it helps you focus and simplify your message. The outsider’s probing questions, even if they are at times simplistic, force you to clarify your thinking, and clear writing begins with clear thinking.

And don’t even think about trying to write customer case studies yourself. Your customers simply don’t talk as freely with you as they would with an outside writer, to whom they might reveal secrets or offer powerful testimonials they would never give to your face. (For more on this, see our posts on ‘How to write great case studies’, part one and part two).

“A copywriter would just get in the way.”

On the contrary, in many cases a communications professional can bridge the divide between different parts of your own organisation. As a copywriter, I’ve been in meetings where the marketing team gets the first in-depth business update it’s had in months (on things like customer-facing developments and product enhancements) because we’re all sitting around brainstorming content for the next issue of the newsletter.

For e-zines in particular, an approach that works well is to create an Editorial Board drawn from sales, marketing, solutions, technology and PR, both to create these opportunities for dialogue and to give other stakeholders a sense of ownership of the final publication.

Sales people and marketing people move to a different beat, and that’s a good thing. A skilled manager, like an experienced conductor, can merge the sales and marketing teams, with input from customer service, finance and human resources, to create harmonies that work for your customers and your bottom line.


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