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.
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.
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. Invesment 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.
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.
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.
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.