Everyones a Marketing Expert

Envision these scenarios: Your CFO presents a spreadsheet, and no one in the room says, “Gee, if you only moved the numbers around this way.” Your product manager outlines product features, and no one in the room says, “Hey, I just don’t get it.” Your sales team presents their sales targets, and no one says, “This is the wrong audience.”

But advertising now that’s a different story. No matter what a person’s background or role in the organization, we all have opinions and are ready to share them at a moment’s notice. Maybe, because of the pervasiveness of media and commercialism, everyone perceives themselves to be experts.

Ralph Cummins, founder of San Francisco’s Tacklebox ad agency, summed it up best: “I’ve seen companies spend $100,000 on creative fees and let an administrative assistant help break the tie on creative decisions.”

This isn’t to say that opinions within any organization should not be valued. A company’s marketing campaign, in many cases, is its biggest representation to the outside world, so employees have a vested interest in how it looks and feels. It’s not just a reflection of the company, but of themselves. So having buy-in from coworkers is a good thing.

That said, marketers must maintain control of their product and process and not let them be overly influenced by armchair marketing experts throughout the organization. Here are some tips on how to leverage input to the advantage of the marketing program, giving key company stakeholders ownership in the final product.

Have a Clear Process From the beginning, there needs to be a process in place for how the marketing program will be developed, including responsibilities, timelines, milestones, and deliverables. Most important, one person needs to be given ultimate authority in making the final decisions for the content and direction of the program. Remember, if everyone’s responsible, no one is responsible.

Canvas the Troops One of the biggest bugaboos you hear about after a campaign is launched is the sense that it doesn’t represent the true personality and feel of the organization. A fun way to get everyone involved in the company is to get broad input on what people feel that personality is and develop a consensus that most people can work with. (You will never please everyone, so don’t try.) Watch the smiles when the new campaign is launched and it correctly reflects the company’s “attitude.”

Create a Multidepartment Review Group One way to get buy-in from the group (and create buzz within the organization) is to create a multidepartment review committee that can help you in the early (and I emphasize early) stages of creative development. In many ways, this group can help you eliminate obvious weaklings while providing buy-in for the solutions and programs that get voted to the next wave of development.

Prebrief the Executive Team It’s critical to have executive buy-in for any marketing campaign. The more you keep that team in the loop on the process and content in advance of any formal presentation, the better. I suggest taking the one-on-one approach so you can divide and conquer. It’s much easier to overcome objections or explain strategic direction to one person at a time than to a full team. When you finally get them all in the room together for a final presentation, the final answer should be predetermined.

Keep Investors in the Loop Not having your investors on board can derail a campaign as fast as you can say “purse strings.” Money has a way of changing people’s minds, even after you have pitched and sold a campaign to your executive team. So my advice here is to do a little PR work with your VCs and angels where and when applicable.

Certainly, all of these efforts won’t silence all the critics. Then again, you can always bone up on your engineering and let it fly at your CTO’s next meeting.

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