Marketing is the great chimera of ambitious businesses – the elixir of growth for some, and a bottomless, money consuming pit for others. So what’s the difference? What makes the difference between a growing business which sees marketing accelerate its growth, and one which sees a huge investment in marketing disappear with negligible or no return?Well, for many, it’s simply a question of attitude. Marketing is a creative process and, to many business leaders with a management or accounting background, it can seem a little like alchemy, or witchcraft. Some struggle to deal with it at all, and specify only the use of trackable, accountable methods such as PPC advertising. Others allow over-ambitious teams and agencies free rein to spend on high-flying concepts which may or may not help achieve the business’s goals. Both approaches can send companies down the “bottomless pit” marketing route – it is essential to strive for the best of both worlds. Here are four simple guidelines that can be applied by leaders at businesses of any size, to make sure that they are getting the most out of their marketing programme. 1. Define your guidelines The first step towards aligning marketing with management goals is to build a solid foundation. Process management is about the implementation of guidelines but, if those guidelines are overly complicated, or open to interpretation, then no process in the world can ever be streamlined enough to ensure timely delivery of campaign content. Therefore, investment in strong, simple, clearly worded brand guidelines will be repaid many times over. 2. Streamline collaboration and sign-off Of course, this is all made much easier when the process is automated, and conducted through a dedicated, high-bandwidth channel. Such a scheme can also facilitate better collaboration. An automated means of progressing the workflow means all individuals can use their time in the most efficient way possible and, with a clear indication of sign-off status on each piece of work, nothing can reach the public eye that ought not to. 3. Let creatives create – but manage their contributions In order to make sure that great ideas are not spoiled by the differing concerns of many cooks, there must be a rigorous means of orchestrating collaboration. In turn, that requires that real thought is invested in defining what type of input is needed from which teams, and when. Those decisions can then be reflected in an automated system of workflow progression, which means that marketers no longer have to spend time working on managing that aspect of their work. 4. Insist on consistent managed processes. It takes nothing away from the creative process to say that it cannot be given special treatment in relation to the rest of the business, and must be subject to the same level of accountability, productivity and constant improvement as any other business process. That means that new processes need to be imposed consistently, and it is up to the leadership to insist on this. We call this “lean marketing”, as it is an application in marketing of the principles of lean manufacturing and lean process management – and this is necessary if business leaders are to get the most out of their marketing expenditure. Many business leaders have strong opinions about the value of marketing, but the truth is that you only get out what you put in. What you put in, however, isn’t just limited to the budget and the good ideas. There’s no reason why marketing should be exempt from the rigor and transparency that is imposed. on the rest of the business – but there’s no reason why that rigor should blunt the verve and creativity that is the foundation of good marketing. Jan Quant is CEO at lean marketing firm Screendragon.
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