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Monday, April 21, 2008

Bare-knuckling Marketing

What started as a comment on Go Big Always got long enough to turn into a post. Thanks for the thought-provoking topic.

I've been thinking about integrated communications recently because after signing up 2 different events and an online training course, I've continued to receive notices and offers enticing me to register. The publicity and fulfillment arms are out of alignment and it doesn't serve either party. It doesn't serve the company to keep sending me offers when I've already acted. And it doesn't serve me to be bombarded with advertising that is irrelevant.

But, enough about me, I do want to talk about the bigger picture. And, for the moment, I'm going to confine myself to more of a B2B perspective which is what I do and am more familiar with.

I was reading a eBook produced by InTouch about lead generation for complex sales cycles. They have an image on page 7 (PDF ) of a funnel. (With apologies to Sam for re-constructing his blown-up funnel proposition.) The point that sticks out to me is that much of Advertising, PR, and Marketing are all fighting in the same space at the very top of the funnel -- Raising awareness and Identifying Need.

In fact, the goal for many marketing campaigns is have a targeted person express enough interest to qualify as a Lead, we then pass the buck and continue our silo-ed pursuits. As Sam points out, the specialists are each bringing their own ideas of what works 'best' which creates wide disparities in the quality and qualification of Leads entering the a sales cycle. As each silo sets its own criteria, the leads are difficult to compare against one another to get a real sense of which are worth pursuing.

This is where I agree with Sam and Jeremiah that a holistic program is necessary. The channel should not determine the message. An understanding of which people/communities/conversations/persona you want to reach should guide the creation of a campaign across multiple media and Ad/Pr/Marketing functions. This kind of integration is more than just using the same version of the logo, or most recent company tagline. The messages should be reinforcing for someone in their target audience if they find them in multiple media channels. The first touchpoint will vary even within a single audience, the importance of bringing the various functions together is so that the messages will be reinforcing when they are encountered elsewhere.

Now, where I'm going to disagree with Sam is in the abolishing of specialization. Consolidation of different functions should happen at the strategy level to make determinations on how to take advantage of their various strengths. When you start implementing tactics having a team with strong skills in a specialized area will help make you more successful. In fact, I've been planning a post about the 'hard skills' of marketing, so let me summarize it here. Each of the disciplines within marketing do have specific skills that requiring knowledge, training, and practice.

Where I see new communications companies succeeding in making the changes Sam outlines is not by discouraging people to develop a deep understanding in their area of expertise but in learning to effectively use their own internal transactional memory. Teaching specialists to identify opportunities within their internal community to complement others work or get the help they need. That comes with its own set of problems but collaboration and community software are on the rise. I'll leave it to the experts to deal with those issues.


Sam Lawrence said...

Nice post!

I don't disagree that specialization will need to continue but I think we have to think carefully about how to do this so that the gravity of interaction, creation and even the beginning of execution remains outside the specialization.

We need specialists to "make" (it happen or stuff or whatever). But right now the specialists are also the strategic masters of their medium. That's what needs to stop. If the architects can't think deeply, be agnostic and execute a plan to the 90% before bringing a specialist in, then we'll remain in this vicious cycle.

We need a new breed of Marketer.

John Johansen said...

I see your point more clearly now. If the specialists are handling the strategy, then it's like the old proverb "When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." The specialist is going to want to show their expertise regardless of the optimal solution.

Agencies are definitely an issue then because they encourage specialization within a specific function. And, as agencies tend to be attractive places for young marketers to work, the cycle perpetuates.

Now that I'm thinking about this, one of the recent SMC Boston events was a discussion of SEO. The PR and social media people in the room mainly had very little understanding of either how SEO worked or what might make if valuable to a company. It was simply outside their area of expertise and finding relevance to their work... well might require a cage match.

Now, I don't want to criticize agencies unfairly. Even at larger organizations, as you mention, the teams are structured around marketing functions with little cross-over internally. You get hired to own a little piece of the pie and that slice becomes very important to you.

But, your proposal does make sense then. We need more marketers that are thinking about integrated marketing. Not necessarily 'generalists' in the sense of not having a discipline but marketers who take the time to learn the strengths of multiple mediums. The resulting fusion would be the MMA style of kick-ass marketing you're talking about.