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Lessons to be learnt

Sitting in a meeting a couple of weeks ago a jovial sales chap began to rib the marketing director about the extent of his role.

‘You marketing lot just stick a few pictures in PowerPoints and brochures don’t you?’

How we giggled.

While these views are clearly archaic, it does highlight an on-going issue that we marketers face – ‘how do we show the real value we add to the business?’

For the majority of other departments this job is easy.

Sales guys can show directly where they are adding to the bottom line. Tech guys can launch new products on a yearly basis with a big bang. But marketing? It’s all slightly less tangible.

But, there is no doubt that things are beginning to change.

CMOs are increasingly respected by the board (on which many now sit). Innovative campaigns, branding and marketing programmes have helped companies across the world pull themselves through the ‘sticky patch’ some refer to as a global recession.

Despite this, there is still work to do for marketers to get the respect and love they indeed deserve.

And there’s good news. There’s still a big gap in most organisations. It’s a marketing shaped hole that desperately needs filling.

What is it? The educator within the business.

Why? Well the clue is in the name. Marketing’s primary role is too know the market better than anyone else in the company, and to have to use this insight to help drive the business strategy.

As buyer habits develop and prospects spend increasing amount of time researching products, the market and their business issues– the insatiable thirst for knowledge and insight needs to be fed.

They are looking for more information online, asking more demanding questions from sales and being far more testing when it comes to finding out if their potential supplier really knows their onions.

So how does marketing successfully fulfil this role as the educator within the business?

First up – start to build your own knowledge base.

The internal education process rests on the marketing team putting their ears to the ground to know what’s going on out there.

Make use of all the brilliant blogs, tweets, articles and discussions relevant to your industry that are out there and take to soak up the reams of content that’s available (and free!).

Where to start? Set up your Hootsuite account, sign up to relevant RSS feeds, follow key words through Google alerts and get reading.

 Turn your knowledge into educational content

There is nothing quite as frustrating (or wasteful) as tacit knowledge. While getting your head around your industry and customer issues is great, if it isn’t effectively passed on to the rest of the business the task is largely useless.

Develop content that clearly and easily explains what you believe is fundamental for everyone in the business to understand. Whether it’s customer pain points, upcoming legislation or changing marketing trends – this stuff is important, and valuable to every person in the organisation.

One of Earnest’s favourite examples of this is the 8 minute expert – a short guide for the sales team to get into the head of the customer while over a quick coffee or while they are waiting in reception before a meeting.

Simple. Yet effective.

Get your face out there

It’s about time marketing started getting their face out into the business. The reason for the pig headed quips from the cynic in the corner is because they simply aren’t shouting about what they are doing and how they can help.

Time for this to change.

Our advice? Set up a series of internal briefings on different topics (one a week if you can), invite everyone along and turn it into a bit of a discussion session (or knowledge share for our more corporate audience)

Most importantly have a real open door policy. Marketing should be flooded with visits from every department hunting for the answer to the question that means they can understand the business a little bit better and do their job a lot better.

Develop your internal social network

To encourage a culture of learning within the organisation – marketing should be owning the show in developing a platform the foster this.

Whether it’s a simple intranet system or the more socially focused yammer site – online is the ideal way for individuals across the business to share what they have learned, what’s on their customers minds at the moment and hot topics to look out for.

Stay in it for the long term – keep blogging and enjoying the quick wins

A lot can be said for keeping your own networks flowing with content relevant for your business peers. The simple wins are often the best when it comes to educating internally.

Create a personal blog and write every week, tweet about what interests you and share interesting content with your peers through LinkedIn.

All you have to make sure to do everyone internally is listening. Simple.

And there is no time like the present. It’s time to read the next blog. Do a bit of delving into what’s going on out there. And tweet about this one. And share it with your colleagues of course.

You are now the educator. Don’t take the role lightly.