Does Your Marketing Engine Need a Tune-Up?

If you nodded to yourself when you read the headline of this article, you’re not alone. Marketing, like any business process, requires people and departments to work in synch to be productive. For most companies, the marketing organization is not a single group of individuals, but an integrated set of departments, vendors, and teams. They are spark plugs, pistons, and belts that make the marketing engine go.

Which leads us to ask, “Is your marketing function a powerful yet fuel-efficient engine? Or a gas-guzzling, rattletrap badly in need of an overhaul?”

If you’re missing deadlines, getting poor productivity out of resources, or generally failing to get payback from your marketing efforts, it’s not a sign of lost creativity or innovation. Quite simply, your marketing process could use a tune-up.

Take Palm Inc. for example. The company’s m505 launch was not exactly a textbook example of how you should introduce a new product to market. Was it because of poor product design or failed marketing research? No. It came down to faulty timing. Not every spark plug involved in the marketing process fired at the proper moment.

Since then, Palm must have tuned its marketing engine. January’s i705 launch was ahead of schedule and has been widely hailed as a success. Retailers are happy, customers are picking up new devices, and the company has renewed momentum.

So, what are some signs a tune-up is needed?

  • Missed product opportunities. Are you watching the competition capitalize on new categories or market spaces?
  • Rehashed marketing concepts. Have you been presented plans that didn’t work in the past and probably won’t work today?
  • Declining return on investment (ROI). Do you find yourself spending more to acquire a customer or gain market share?
  • Lost productivity. Are you finding it takes greater effort, resources, or time to execute your strategies?

The Mechanics

Leading consulting companies such as McKinsey and Bain have a strong reputation of optimizing marketing processes. However, signing up with this type of firm is akin to shipping your BMW to Hamburg for an oil change. It’s just not practical.

If outsourcing strategic recommendations is cost-prohibitive for your organization, try some of these do-it-yourself suggestions:

  • Check the contact points. Quite often, marketing productivity fails because of poor interaction between departments or teams. For example, manufacturing fails to communicate with marketing. Marketing fails to communicate with sales. Sales fails to communicate with channel partners… and so on.
  • Check your rear view mirror. Doing the same work twice is another root cause of lost marketing productivity. Companies that leverage prior successes tend to get to market much faster than those driving without knowledge of their institutional history.
  • Check your gauges. What’s your market share? How happy are your customers? What did last year’s plan produce? The lack any quantitative and timely measure of your marketing effort is like driving a car without a speedometer or gas gauge.

Off-the-Shelf Additives

New systems and technology that can enable marketing and sales teams to run more effectively have received a lot of buzz. In fact, the entire CRM, or ’71 Plymouth with jet fuel. You’re probably not going to get the boost in productivity you expect.

Bottom line: Think carefully before making wholesale investments into these complex and expensive systems. Quite often, ironing out a single inefficiency in a marketing process can result in cost savings or accelerated time to market.

Smooth Running Engines

The basic principles of marketing dictate that first movers hold an advantage over their competitors. They can command greater premiums, dictate pricing structures, secure better channel relationships, and own higher market share. Speed is everything.

If you’re looking to gain some acceleration or have example of how your company is getting into the marketing fast lane, I’d like to hear about it.

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