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Is It Time to Dismantle the Marketing Department?

I’ve worked with two very successful businesses recently and, in both cases, they came to me because they said “they just didn’t get marketing” and had to do something about it.

Now, mind you, both of these businesses were very profitable, employed hundreds of people and enjoyed very strong positions in their industry.

So I had to ask myself – is it possible they just don’t recognize what marketing is?

As it turned out, in both cases, the source of the anxiety was that they had somehow grown phenomenally successful businesses despite the absence of a traditional marketing department and chief marketing officer.

The truth is I am seeing this more and more often – businesses that treat everything as marketing have a hard time defining it as such and that just may be the secret to their success.

I’m a marketing person so no surprise that I’ve been saying this for years, but every business is a marketing business. When you try to corral marketing functions into one department or under one umbrella you unintentionally defuse, rather than amplify, the impact that every department has on the customer journey.

One of the businesses, a software company, had developed a field sales team and process as well as a critically important service and implementation team. While they did not define them as marketing, these two departments contributed mightily to their growth and success.

The part that was missing was the role of audience development. No one owned the vital aspect of creating media that could be shared to build thought leadership. The CEO, as is often the case, came the closest to filling this role when he wasn’t writing code (and by writing code I mean taking out the trash and getting the printer to work).

We recommended that they create a function that took control of content, media and thought leadership in the form of stakeholder audience development. This function would more formally direct the CEO’s contributions and build awareness with user groups as well as prospective clients.

The key to making this structure work was to tie the audience development, sales and service together to form a unified marketing integration function.

Some of this may seem like semantics, but I believe that moving marketing as a function into each of these areas highlights the reality that marketing is everyone’s job.

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