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Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department

November 15, 2010

Many years ago at a Cranfield presentation I listened intently to a speech by Professor Malcolm McDonald (author of more marketing planning books than my dog’s had hot dinners). One of the most striking things he said that day was this: “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department“. What did he mean? Why was he writing his own suicide  note? Because he knew something that many companies still don’t get – marketing is not a departmental function, it’s a way of life.

Over the years I’ve witnessed many marketing outrages whether within publishing or without. Take the customer services executive at a well known “professional” publisher who asked a customer how much they earned, before telling him that if he earned that much he could afford the company’s prices. Or take the marketing executive who unilaterally decided to reduce prices to generate orders, irrespective of profit impact. Or the bookselling webpage that leads you to an error link. Or the marketing executive with too much to do and not enough time to do it…

Marketing is nothing to do with one department. It’s to do with the customer’s experience, strategically managed. When they view the website, order a book, contact customer services, read about you in the press, speak to reception, attend a book launch, have a complaint. So it is that marketing management is less about functional departmental delivery and more about strategic brand management.

Marketing jargon calls this the management of brand “touch points”. Such hideous neologism does disservice to the output of such an approach: the satisfaction of all stakeholders (customers or otherwise) when they come into contact with you. Practised well, a brand management strategy delivers warmth and loyalty far beyond the company’s investment in the process. Good business, after all, is where customers are not only attracted but also retained by the consistent delivery of excellence. And, as we saw in a recent Brand Day Out post, failure to deliver leads to value migration.

Of course, brand strategies are one thing, time and resource another. Recently, some authors, weary beyond testing of the inefficiencies of marketing functionality within publishing companies, have taken the bull by the horns and started to do their own marketing using social media. We know about people such as Seth Godin but it’s not just the “big boys” who are at it. The Internet Writing Journal has produced a list of the best author blogs – revealing that authors who tire of publisher indolence simply go out there and do it for themselves.

Does this say to publishers that they need to get their act together? In some ways yes but, in other ways, it shows us that the best authors are those who are also excited enough about their work as to shout about it. Publishers are simply not profitable enough to hire the number of people that would be necessary to promote and market their entire portfolio. But they can create the right environment to promote profitable interaction between publishing company, authors and consumers; this interaction should be focus of their marketing functionality.

This is not a new discipline of course. Indeed, in the Thirteenth Century Song of Lewes, its author writes “True liberty is not lost by wholesome restraint, true power does not disappear under regulated compulsion … Mutual dependence is right. Let a prince so reign that he may never find it necessary to avoid depending on his subjects … Law is like fire, for it lights as truth, warms as charity, burns as zeal; with these virtues as his guides, the king will rule well“.

And so will the publisher (well, maybe not rule, but at least operate). Create a collaborative environment and your business will flourish. Restrain it by dogma and old logic and it will surely die. Marketing is indeed too important to be left to the marketing department. But it is also to powerful to be left un-managed. It’s a dangerous beast!


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