Sales and marketing are critical to the success of any business. As a business owner or manager, you have a vital role to play in leading the marketing effort and maximising the effectiveness of your sales and marketing team
Start-up marketing management
In small businesses, the owner-manager typically has a direct role in marketing, as well as managing other employees' marketing activities.
Business founders in particular are often keen enthusiasts, with a deep understanding of their product (or service) and a natural feel for the market. You are likely to be prominent in:
- defining the USP of the business;
- developing your marketing strategy and creating a marketing plan;
- representing the business and networking with key contacts;
- directly pursuing sales.
In the context of managing marketing employees in a start-up business, you'll need to strike a balance between retaining your creative power and giving your juniors a level of responsibility. Look for tasks that can be done by others without your input. These could include assisting with content promotion, such as pitching to publications or the organisational aspect of marketing, like scheduling posts ahead of time.
As the business grows, sales and marketing activities increasingly need to be delegated. You may need to step back, allowing your sales and marketing team the freedom to operate without constant interference. This will allow your marketing employees to begin thinking about ideation, as well as the execution of campaigns.
The role of the owner-manager (or board of directors) changes. It typically includes:
- retaining ultimate responsibility for overall marketing strategy;
- continuing to take a keen interest in day-to-day sales and marketing activity;
- identifying where and how you need to strengthen your capabilities;
- recruiting, training and leading marketing employees, and working with external suppliers;
- being the public face of the business.
In many businesses, the primary focus is on building your sales team and then customer service. Marketing support - such as marketing communications and PR - is more likely to be contracted out.
As your business grows, you develop a more structured approach to marketing management. One-off activities are linked into marketing campaigns. Investment in marketing systems (such as customer relationship management software) becomes increasingly important.
Larger businesses can invest more in building in-house capabilities. For example, you may want to take more direct control of day-to-day website management, while still using outside suppliers for short-term projects or specialist expertise.
Needless to say, as your business grows you'll need to become more adept at hiring marketing team employees. Unlike other types of recruitment, hiring for your marketing department isn't straightforward. An ideal candidate won't be as apparent as a bubbly sales rep or an analytical administrator. Marketers need to possess a complex blend of skills that allow them to control their creative flair. You'll need individuals with inventiveness and the ability to innovate, yet someone who doesn't lack business acumen.
To find the right person, you'll need to get creative with your interview questions and consider conducting multi-stage interviews with practical tasks and an opportunity for more than one senior manager to vet candidates.
Key issues in marketing management
Much of the owner-manager's focus will be on getting the best out of the team. Managing sales represents a never-ending challenge:
- Many employees are naturally reluctant to sell, so continuous motivation and support is essential.
- Incentive schemes typically form part of this process. But poorly-planned incentives can lead to undesirable behaviour (eg excessive discounting to win sales) and unhealthy competition within the team.
- Salespeople naturally focus on sales (rather than, say, customer service or admin). Other marketing tasks may not attract the attention they should. A separate marketing support employee or team can help overcome this.
Salespeople may be highly rewarded compared to other employees, sparking jealousy and conflict. Consideration needs to be given to how marketing and sales work together, and what recognition marketing employees get for their contribution to performance.
Just like sales targets, marketing goals and KPIs need to focus on facts, figures and conversions - not how pretty your social feed or new advertising campaign looks. While you should always recognise well-presented work, any formal recognition (and financial incentive) should be tied to your overarching business goals. As a general rule of thumb, reward performance over presentation.
To ease any tension between teams, managers should make sure everyone understands the relationship between risk and reward. Salespeople usually have more opportunities to earn bonuses and commissions due to the higher level of risk in their role. Making this correlation clear to marketing team members will allow your benefits system to appear fairer across the board.
Your marketing team also needs continuing management. It's easy for a marketing activity, such as maintaining a presence on social media, to become an end in itself. You need to make sure that marketing employees are focused on how they are helping achieve your business objectives.
Having a working vision document is a great way to remind your marketing team of why they're creating a campaign. This document should be accessible to every member of the team, including those in marketing.
Monthly reporting may also help creatives put their work into an analytical perspective and remain accountable for their work by asking questions such as:
- How does my work perform compared to our competitors?
- How many conversions has this piece of work driven?
- What is the ROI of this marketing project?
While managing sales and marketing employees is likely to be a daily priority, it's essential to step back from time to time and look at the bigger picture. New competition and changing customer demand mean that your marketing strategy - and how you execute it - needs to be kept under continual review.
With thanks to Bethany Spence of Exposure Ninja.