A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Management: What Is It?
There's a tendency amongst marketers to feel like we go it alone, flying by the seat of our pants. We make decisions, test results, monitor analytics, and hope our instincts point us in the right direction. It's sort of like mad science, in a way.
We often forget that it doesn't have to be this way.
Small business marketing plans are often a spontaneous, idea-driven process because we work independently or as a small team. As often as not, we don't need to worry about managerial tasks because there's no one to manage. We don't need management platforms because they don't provide tangible benefits when our numbers are small.
Of course, there's a glimmer of deeper organization.
- Planning strategies to guide the overall digital marketing direction.
- Implementing controlled tests with monitored KPIs for results reporting.
- Performing competitive analysis to look for market opportunities.
Strategic thinking, split testing, analytics, competitive marketing analysis; it's all there. You see those techniques just as much in agile growth hacking as you do in the most prominent and stodgiest enterprise marketing departments. What you don't see is the overall codified structure behind it.
When implemented with a traditional business hierarchy, that structure is called Marketing Management.
"In short, marketing management is when you plan, organize, control, and implement the marketing programs of an organization. This process includes the policies, programs, strategies, and tactics used to create and meet the demand of target customers to create profitability." – Project Manager.
Of course, many of us marketers are used to guiding our efforts, following hunches and data wherever they may lead. Some of us chafe at the idea of operating under the thumb of a manager. Yet, at the top levels, that's what everyone does. There are even C-level Chief Marketing Officers.
Why Marketing Management is Important
The first thing you might wonder is why this overall management is so important. After all, if you've been working just fine as a self-guided marketer, what possible benefit would you get from having someone working above you? Are they just there to rubber-stamp your plans and occasionally deny your ideas and get in the way?
The truth is, marketing is often in a precarious position. All too often, business owners don't quite realize the importance of marketing. They know their brand, and everyone they know has brand awareness, so what good does marketing do? Never mind that their business is nowhere near as prominent as Disney/Apple/Coke or what have you.
All they see is that marketing has a lot of dolalr signs attached to it. More importantly, those expenses seem ripe for cutting.
"You're running different variations of the same ad? Why? Cut all but one; we're slashing your budget."
As much as managers' perspective is as controlling and oppressive forces, a manager is also an important liaison. They use the data in those analytics reports to generate value analyses to justify every penny and ensure that marketing budgets aren't the first to go when there's a financial downturn. They're the first line of defense against the CEOs and bosses who want to cut the marketing budget.
Dialing back on marketing means losing prominence and market share. Your competitors – at least, those with their marketing management – know when to identify and capitalize on opportunities. Your company dialing back is an opportunity for your competitors. It's a tricky situation, but it's essential to recognize a path forward in every case.
How Marketing Management Works
Marketing management runs on familiar initiatives and forms of thinking. You've heard them all before; you just may not have seen them codified as a single managerial role. What is involved?
You are defining business and marketing objectives.
Sure, if you're used to operating on gut instinct and experience, all of this can sound like meaningless corporate buzzwords. The thing is, it's a significant and tangible way of codifying that instinct to insulate against potential failure. By using a systemic approach to identifying goals, you can review every objective and check for points of failure.
Everyone has their blind spots; using a managerial plan allows you to find them and prevent yourself from walking off a cliff that you weren't paying enough attention to see.
You are planning how to achieve those objectives.
Once you've defined your marketing strategy and objectives, the next part of marketing management is building a plan to achieve them.
- What channels do you use to implement this marketing? PPC? Referrals? Social media platforms? Content marketing?
- What tools do you use to capitalize on these channels? Do you use specific platforms? Do you invest in cloud SaaS applications?
- What metrics do you monitor? What key performance indicators can tell you when your efforts are bearing fruit (or if they aren't)?
All of this is the development of a roadmap. If you're trying to reach Point D, and you're at Point A, you want to figure out where Point B and Point C are so that you can get from one to the next to the next. The exact routes you take may be flexible, but if you don't know even the basics of how to reach them, you're going to waste a lot of time, energy, and money on figuring it out through trial and error.
Indeed, one of the most significant benefits of marketing management is efficiently using your budget. Paying a monthly fee for a marketing tool might seem like a steep cost. Still, if you can dial back and look at it objectively, maybe it can bring even more benefit in terms of optimized value, saved time, and capitalization on the information you didn't have before.
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You are organizing the company's resources to align with those objectives.
Company resources include employees, tools, budget, and more. An individual marketer might not have the influence or respect to network with other teams; a manager can guide the connection between the marketing team, the sales team, the creative department, and more.
From a purely monetary standpoint, a marketing manager can help determine a reasonable budget for different marketing efforts. As much as it might be tempting to dump money into seemingly-lucrative PPC ads, we all know they reach a point of saturation where more money doesn't help, and it's up to the manager to find that point before you do.
You are building teams and hiring staff to implement marketing techniques.
A marketing manager's single most significant benefit is organizing not resources, not money, but people. A marketing manager implies a marketing team, and a team can work more effectively than anyone. Sure, there are always stories about the lone wolf "growth hacker" who blows established groups out of the water. Still, you and I both know those tales are usually wildly implausible and impossible to replicate.
Marketing managers can identify what people are necessary to build a high-performing marketing team, from content creators to data analysts to experts in various tools and platforms, and put those teams together.
You are coordinating disparate teams to implement those objectives.
Marketing teams do not work in isolation.
- They need to work with the product team to ensure their messaging and deadlines are correct. No one likes to spend a bunch of time and money marketing a release date that needs to change. It's even worse when you spend time promoting specific features and benefits that end up cut from the new product line. Staying in touch with the product team keeps that accuracy.
- They need to work with the sales team to refer leads and maintain consistent messaging. If marketing over-promises, sales are forced to under-deliver, which helps no one. Keeping the alignment between the teams – and making sure sales are aware of the offers and messaging marketing is pushing – is crucial.
- They need to work with the support team to maintain a strong level of customer satisfaction. Many people use marketing channels (especially social media and reviews) to reach out to companies to solve their issues. Marketing is typically the team that sees these posts and needs to appropriately refer their customer base to the customer service department.
- They need to work with the management team. Management guides everything the company does. Marketing activities– and more importantly, analytics – is the foundation of how leadership can make its decisions.
Marketing managers become the prominent voice and representative of the marketing team when interfacing with these other teams. They're the go-to person to guide plans and make decisions.
You are using monitoring analytics and analyzing progress towards objectives.
Marketing is one of the most direct departments in a company regarding feedback and data. It's straightforward to codify money spent. It's somewhat more difficult to codify the value received for that pricing.
Two primary things need to happen:
- Marketing efforts need to be identified with unique tracking so the incoming value can be traced back to specific marketing efforts.
- Key performance indicators need to be chosen and the value assigned to them. This process is easy when it's as simple as PPC ads with money-out, conversions-in. It's much harder for awareness-building, newsletter growth, list segmentation, social media marketing, and other non-monetary objectives.
This market research requires high-level overarching thinking and a viewpoint for long-term strategic value. In other words, it's hard to put together at the ground level but more straightforward to do when you're operating at a managerial level.
You are adjusting plans to meet reality and adjusting objectives as necessary.
Managers are not all-controlling, self-assured pillars of correctness. They make mistakes. Thus, they need to use the data provided by analytics to make the relevant adjustments. Forecasting is rarely accurate, and it may help if you were practical and conservative with your plans.
Sometimes those adjustments mean dialing back on the budget for a failing marketing campaign. Sometimes they mean pushing more money into a campaign to make it more successful (like winning ad auctions.) Sometimes it means adjusting marketing goals to point in a different direction, as audience feedback tells them their current impression is off-target.
There are many factors to help you adjust your plans to reach those goals. If your marketing isn't paying for itself, you may want to evaluate your expenditure, long-term ROI, and your lifetime customer value. If your new customers are not sticking around, you might be focusing on the wrong demographics or target audience. Your product has to line up with customer needs and pain points, and if your marketing is reaching the wrong people, you'll end up spinning your wheels.
Managerial guidance is critical for every department in a business, but marketing is the most directly tapped into feedback and cost/benefit calculations. It can be challenging to see those market trends and adjust when company's product development goes wrong. When marketing goes wrong, the effects are not always immediate and pronounced.
How to Get Started with Marketing Management
The first thing to recognize is that marketing management is not necessarily restricted only to large companies. It's more of a state of mind.
If you're a one-person marketing professional or a small team, it can be challenging to establish that executive presence. The best thing to do is select a "strategic mode" and a "tactical mode" for operations. Strategic mode is your long-term, top-level thinking and planning. Tactical mode is the implementation at the ground level, and both feed into one another.
The is business growth. As your business grows, your marketing efforts and your budgets will too. As those grow, the need to guide them properly becomes a primary factor. Initially, you might have C-levels, directors, or other immediate founding members of the team handling it, but delegation needs to happen at some point.
The more you establish early on, particularly when it comes to analytics and data feedback loops, the better off you'll be.
My biggest recommendation is to get organized and start using a centralized platform to regulate your analytics and your marketing mix in one place as much as possible. It's harder to transition when you've built up a castle made of spreadsheets and scattered notes, but it's a lot easier if you test out some more efficient processes and get comfortable with them.
Where do your marketing management efforts work? How much have you put into establishing them as a small or mid-sized business? I'd love to hear your perspective.