SyncShow B2B Marketing Blog

What Is The Role of Marketing?

Over the past decade, marketing has changed significantly. What used to be arts and crafts is now scientific and data-driven. Advancements in technology have fostered ever-increasing capabilities for marketers to track, engage, and monitor their efforts. Due to these advancements, new marketing channels have risen, including inbound marketing, direct marketing, account-based marketing, and ROI-driven marketing. 

With all of these changes, the role of marketing has taken on new accountabilities and expectations from executive leadership. Unfortunately, executives often do not clearly define expectations, and marketers are left to guess where their focus and efforts should lie. Sometimes, this is to the detriment of the marketer's mental health as they scramble to keep up with mixed direction and whack-a-mole execution as they respond to multiple departmental requests.

The role of marketing

So, what is the role of marketing? The answer to this question is: It depends. The role of marketing depends on many factors, including but not limited to:

  • Your organization's current state of marketing health:

    • Where do your organization’s current marketing efforts stand? Nonexistent? Have the right idea but not sure how to best execute it? No matter where they lie, it’s crucial to make this assessment before any further action is taken. You can’t measure eventual growth and success without knowing where you started.

  • Your organization's most critical goals and challenges:

    • Is your organization looking to attain more website traffic? Gain a larger social media following? Rebrand altogether? Defining your goals and the challenges you might face in achieving them are essential steps in determining the role of marketing for your organization.

  • Your marketing team’s bandwidth:

    • Does your organization have a team of marketers working together, or rather one individual driving a multitude of marketing efforts? Your marketing team’s bandwidth has a large impact on your organization’s marketing priorities and what can be done with your available resources. You can read more about what I have found to be the best strategy for creating a successful marketing team structure in Chapter 9 of my book, The Great 8 Pillars: ROI-Driven Marketing for Manufacturing Companies. 

  • Your marketing budget:

    • Your marketing budget also largely determines how many and which efforts your organization can focus on. For example, a larger budget allows for a broader scope of initiatives, including extensive advertising, comprehensive market research, and the exploration of new channels. While a smaller budget may entail more focused efforts on essential tasks. There are plenty of marketing tactics that require no monetary budget at all, such as organic social media, but this goes hand-in-hand with your marketing team’s bandwidth and what their time allows for. If your organization does not have a formal budget for each department defined, you can use the outline also found in my book, The Great 8 Pillars: ROI-Driven Marketing for Manufacturing Companies, to build a budget for ROI analysis purposes. 

  • The customer journey of your organization’s audience:

    • Different marketing efforts contribute to various stages of the customer’s decision-making process and can’t contribute at other times. From awareness to conversion to retention, your marketing efforts need to align with each stage of the buyer’s lifecycle. For example, your marketing efforts in the awareness phase will likely focus more on content marketing to attract, whereas your marketing efforts in the retention phase will focus more on building continued engagement, perhaps through email marketing or customer loyalty programs. 

Marketing can take on many roles. The key is to keep marketing focused on a select handful to drive enhanced marketing performance.

Common marketing accountabilities:

  • Brand awareness
  • Value proposition development and messaging
  • Branding and standards
  • Website development and maintenance
  • Lead generation
  • Association and membership marketing
  • Dealer and distribution marketing
  • Lead nurturing
  • Internal employee communications
  • Culture and recruiting support
  • Customer communications
  • Upselling/cross-selling communications
  • Sales collateral development
  • Sales enablement and support
  • Marketing automation
  • Marketing reporting and analytics
  • Marketing strategy

Within these accountabilities, marketing is often responsible for the following:

  • Graphic Design
  • Research
  • Project management
  • Content creation and publishing
  • Videography, photography
  • Blogs, articles, thought leadership
  • Search engine optimization
  • User experience and design
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Advertising and paid media
  • Sponsorships
  • Tradeshow support
  • Awards
  • Analytics & reporting
  • Conversion rate optimization

The above lists illustrate the most common marketing accountabilities and responsibilities, there are many more. 

What should your marketing team be accountable for?

This question is a bit easier to answer. As a whole, marketing should be accountable for delivering a return on investment from its efforts. To showcase this return on investment (ROI) to executives, it’s essential to continuously track where you are investing your organization’s resources and the outcomes these investments are providing. Marketers who consistently measure their ROI are 1.6 times more likely to obtain additional budget allocations for their marketing initiatives. The overall efforts of the marketing department should generate enough value to support its existence. Otherwise, marketing would largely be an expense on the P&L unworthy of justification.

Now that we have stated that marketing should be accountable for delivering an ROI, you can choose which marketing accountabilities from the list above should be your marketing team's focus.

If marketing should deliver a return on investment, how does one gauge marketing's value to the organization?

In its simplest form, value can be derived from tracking a marketing effort to closed new business revenue. An example of this is a marketing tactic that drives brand awareness, which drives sales leads that become new sales revenues. 

Where it gets tough is that not all marketing efforts are trackable to actual sales dollars. In fact, many marketing efforts, by themselves, are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to tie to revenue.

Just this morning, I was asked by a prospect if they should engage in social media to grow their product brand. They asked, "Can you really get an ROI from social media?". Not all marketing is or should be ROI-focused. While social media can deliver an ROI, the point is that as a business leader, you should not determine which marketing tactics are embraced solely on the ROI equation.

Should some marketing be ROI-focused? YES! In fact, I wrote a book on it, The Great 8 Pillars of ROI-Driven Marketing. However, not all marketing can or should be executed for the sole purpose of a return on investment.

Take, for example, the hard work, time, and investment it takes to develop a strong value proposition, messaging, and branding for your company. There’s no way to definitively illustrate that such an effort was 100% responsible for business growth or sales revenue. However, businesses that make such an investment often experience stronger growth. Take, for instance, the social media example I referenced above. Not all social media efforts are designed exclusively for ROI. Yet, companies with a strong social media presence often grow faster than those that do not.

I could go on and on with examples of marketing that is extremely valuable yet cannot be tied to an ROI. Are you thoroughly confused yet? I wouldn't blame you if you were. Marketing is a complicated thing. So, let's wrap this up and summarize.

in summary

So, what is the role of marketing?

  • Marketing's role largely depends on your organization's needs, current state, and growth objectives, as well as the audience’s customer journey.

  • Marketing should be accountable for delivering a return on investment from its cumulative efforts.

  • More importantly, marketing should provide value to your organization and its growth. Value comes in many forms beyond direct financial (ROI) measurements.

As you consider the role of marketing in your organization, I encourage you to look at the bigger picture of what marketing brings to the table. Marketing can and should have a positive impact on a variety of business communications, and these communications all have an impact on your business' success. Marketing is no longer arts and crafts. It is a multifaceted business process that requires continuous learning and adaptability and encompasses a massive range of activities, all of which can enable sales if performed correctly. If you feel like your organization is at a loss when it comes to determining the appropriate role of marketing, reach out today. 

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