Sales Management

A New Job Path Away From Marketing Services

by Susan Zweibaum on January 23, 2012

What happens to all those professionals who lose their jobs as marketing services teams disappear?

It’s something I thought about as I reread a post of mine from last year. I wrote then about how companies, particularly CPG companies, are getting rid of their in-house marketing services teams, and I recommended ways for companies to better manage without those teams.  This time I want to focus on all of those marketing services professionals who find themselves looking in the mirror and wondering where their careers went.

Ok, I realize this sounds a bit negative, and truthfully it isn’t all dire for marketing services pros.  Those focused in digital or PR still have a strong role and often find roles in the corporate sector.  It is those in more traditional roles (consumer promotion, corporate design, etc) that are having a harder time rebounding.  Let me say candidly that I fall somewhere in the middle, and this Nowhere Land predicament has led me to think long and hard about what comes next.  See, I am one of those people with broad expertise and not focused in the areas that are considered “hot” and my knowledge of the “hot” specialties (i.e. digital) is not readily seen as expert enough.

So then, fellow lost marketing services professionals, what comes next? 

Go into Brand Management

It is true that many of the marketing services people came from brand management at some point or decided that it wasn’t their cup of tea.  However, there are always positions for good brand managers at all levels, and marketing is marketing regardless of the industry.  The hard part is convincing the hiring managers that you are capable of doing the job since you haven’t come up in the ranks of brand management.  In the right company you will be able to convince them as long as you have participated in enough brand initiatives to give you “brand” experience.

Change Industries

Marketing services is something that is needed in all sorts of industries.  While it is something that is synonymous with CPG, these kinds of skills are useful and needed in other industries as well.  In fact, my skills in sponsorship and endorsements is much more usable with companies such as American Express and Bank of America where they have sponsorship departments to manage all of their sponsorship deals.  Healthcare is growing and they need to advertise and create selling collateral just as much if not more than CPG companies.  Look outside your comfort zone and you might be surprised what jobs are available. 

Move to Trade/Shopper Marketing

Before going into marketing services, I spent a bunch of years in sales and trade marketing.  The experiences were similar, and most internal marketing services folks have worked on customer specific programs as part of the larger marketing plan anyway.  You will likely continue to manage agencies and you will be developing customer specific promotions and programs.  The key here is embracing the idea of working with the retailers and sales teams and being a willing go-between between the brand and sales folks.

 Go Work for an Agency

Okay, this is not for everyone.   In fact, I spent 8 years working for agencies and determined that it is not for me.  It takes a specific kind of temperament to work at an agency.  However, all those skills, all that knowledge of marketing vehicles, profitability and what a client wants can be valuable insight for an agency (as I’ve written about in previous posts.)  Working internally at a company, you have your internal clients, so the concept shouldn’t be that different.  Clients don’t always make good agency people, but the skills are definitely transferable if you want to be on the creative side of things.  I have two warnings: 1) Make sure you are okay taking orders and working for the client vs. being the client as it is a whole different ballgame; and 2) Realize that agencies are all about the “big idea” and get frustrated when you try and throw reality into the mix.

Rebrand Yourself

This is probably the hardest one of all and that one that I have been drawn to most often.  Can you parlay your experience into another type of job or industry?  Can you do something completely different that isn’t exactly marketing?  I always considered going into theater marketing or management and have explored ways of utilizing my CPG knowledge for local theaters.  Don’t get me wrong; they are mostly looking for people with theater experience, but I am trying to get in by consulting or volunteering and letting them see what I can do.  Training is also a interesting alternative and a way to translate all that marketing knowledge to those not as experienced.  If you choose to rebrand or change direction, just realize that you might not get paid what you once were paid in marketing services.   Then again, you might be paid more!   The trade-off, however, is something new and interesting that is not a dying profession.

 I have to admit that the dearth of good client side marketing services roles is frustrating and that the knowledge we bring is not always appreciated.  However, I have seen a number of my friends succeed by doing one of the above.  For instance, a director of integrated marketing left CPG to be a V.P. of Marketing at a healthcare company, another colleague left to run a creative management team at a hospitality company, and still another left to open her own franchise business.  I have no doubts that they will all be highly successful even though they have changed their original paths.

 And I have no doubt that you can too. You might even like that reflection staring back from the mirror.

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When Sales and Marketing Collide

by Scott Joyce (with intro by Susan Zweibaum) on June 29, 2011

This post is a slight departure from my norm.  Instead of being written by me, this post is written by a guest contributor who I have worked very closely with in the past and is an incredible salesman.  Our goal is to look at marketing from a salesman’s perspective and how these two different corporate groups can best support each other.  I hope that Scott will continue contributing and that it will provide interesting insights for my readers.  Please note that the opinions written by Scott are purely his and I reserve the right to counter in future posts.

 Everyone sells, and every salesperson is in marketing. 

 When you are on an interview, you are selling yourself.  When you act in a film or a play, you are selling your performance.  When you are in management, you constantly have to sell your ideas and concepts to others.  

 Every salesperson is in marketing.  The very definition of marketing is “the activity … of creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value” (American Marketing Association, www.marketingpower.com).  A salesperson is always tasked with delivering value to his/her current and prospective clients.  A salesperson is always marketing themselves and their company to their clients.

 With such interwoven goals, you have to wonder why the sales and marketing arms of organizations are so often on different pages.  I don’t pretend to know all of the answers, but I do know of several common culprits that often drive a wedge between the message and success of the sales and marketing groups.

 1) The Old “Do More With Less” Marketing Method

In a bad economy, one of the first things to get cut is marketing dollars (the wisdom of which is a whole different topic).  So when the marketing organization is whittled down from 10 people to two, they are left understaffed and sometimes lack significant departmental experience.  Yet, many organizations don’t scale back their plans – they had 10 projects on the docket, and they are going to have to figure out how to “do more with less” and get them all done.  This is an awful thing to do and often puts the marketing organization in an untenable situation.  Tasked with completing 10 projects with 20% of the staff (and probably even less of the original dollars), they are forced to produce canned products that are often generic, not on message and just plain useless to the sales organization.  In my world, we call this “checking the box” – you got the task done.  Whether it was done right is another story, but the task itself is done.

 At one organization, this resulted in a laughable result.  The organization needed professional marketing slicks – single-page flyers that told a professional what the organization could do in a variety of categories within their space.  These needed to appeal to upper management, so they needed to be produced in color and on high-quality material.  The project went through on schedule and professional material was produced, but the budget was significantly cut midway through.  Instead of scrapping all of the ideas or the project itself, the creative team decided to cut costs by grouping together multiple concepts on a single page.  The resulting message distracted the target from the main message, creating information overload amid a jumbled cavalcade of ideas that did not flow.  The sales force hated it and ultimately did not use it, so the project became a complete waste of time and money.

 Marketing and sales need to partner together to create joint goals and timelines, especially when annual or quarterly plans need to be adjusted on a large scale.  Difficult decisions need to be made and made quickly – waiting only makes the problem worse.  When an organization’s resources are reduced, they need to pull back and focus on only the key initiatives or ideas where they can get the biggest return on the limited investment that can be made at the time.  If the sales organization had been apprised of the changes, they would have worked with marketing to simplify the message and focused just on one or two main areas.  This would have clarified the message to the customer and produced usable materials, leading to a successful, albeit scaled-back result.

2) When Budget Cuts Strike

 Budgets often change in midstream due to a variety of business circumstances.  When this happens in the middle of a project, the best thing to do is quickly evaluate if it has eroded the foundation of the project or if the project is still viable.  Unfortunately, many executives love to cut budgets but then try to force the organization to achieve the original goal.  We like to call this “phantom budgeting,” where money disappears but suddenly results and goals are stretched to bridge the difference.  No one is really sure how it will work, but these executives feel that if everyone tries hard enough, it can be accomplished.

 Here’s a great example: A technology company’s sales organization had absolutely no branded materials to leave behind or send to customers.  Meanwhile, their competitors were giving away branded laptop cases, USB drives, etc. The sales group was tasked with creating ideas for affordable items and came up with many, mostly technology-related items.  However, in the middle of the project, the budget was cut considerably.  Marketing chose a few of the lowest-end items from the list and bid them out because that was all the budget allowed.  One was a pen and the other a mouse pad.  The pens that came in looked really nice – until you used them for a day and the black paint from the company’s logo flaked off on your hands.  The mouse pads looked OK, but they actually had customers return them (most customers threw them out), because the cheap rubber that they were made from (which turned out to be from recycled tires) smelled so bad that they left an awful aroma in computer rooms.  In both cases, this company wasted a lot of time and effort executing a marketing program that not only hurt their brand, but also created ill will between the sales and marketing organizations.

 Don’t fall victim to this common mistake.  Scale back the projects, extend the timelines or scrap some of them altogether, but don’t produce inferior products that wastes time and hurts your brand.  If budgets get cut, reassess your priorities and the return you expect to get from them.  Creating ineffective marketing materials does more damage than good – it creates ill will amongst the sales organization, doesn’t drive customer retention or sales, and frustrates the few marketing experts you have left on your payroll.

 3) Creativity Run Amuck

 Most marketing professionals are creative; it is part of the very nature of the position.  Creativity knows no bounds, but budgets and timelines do.  The creative side has to be tempered with leadership that balances the unique with what is practical and necessary.  The sales organization is not much help with this.  Those of us in sales like to think we are creative, so we dream up crazy ideas all the time, usually with very little thought to their practicality.  Get a bunch of creative marketing and sales professionals together, and they can come up with a $300 million advertising campaign that features explosions and famous actors pitching product, all to sell a few thousand purple widgets.

 Too often the creativity of a group exceeds the practicality of the situation or even the sophistication of the customer.  Make sure those that lead these groups are pragmatic.  Executives need to choose project leaders who can balance the company’s needs with the creativity of the team.  These leaders must strike a delicate balance between the executive who often lacks detailed knowledge about the project but knows the organization’s financial means/outlook and the staff who have all the ground-floor details but don’t necessarily see the bigger picture.  This group leader has to have the strength to push back on executives and the patience to continually refocus the group.  A weak group leader who is influenced exclusively by either side almost never produces a result with any lasting value and effect.

All of us are facing economic circumstances that are unprecedented in our lifetimes. As such, we should be looking at the way we do business through a different lens than we ever have before. Executives and leaders need to realize more than ever the influence they have on the course of events within their organizations, the impact that fast-paced decisions have on their people, and how quickly circumstances can and will change in these uncertain times. Employees need to recognize the need that employers have for individuals who not only adapt to change, but who prove that they have multiple skill sets that make them invaluable assets to. And both groups need to ensure that the departments they represent, especially those of sales and marketing, are working together on projects, adapting quickly to the changing marketplace and delivering the best result possible with the resources available. Those that execute this well will not only survive, they will thrive.

Scott Joyce is a senior manager in a corporate sales division of a Fortune 150 firm. He has nearly 20 years of experience in sales management and training.  His perspective is built on his ability to forge close cross functional relationships, particularly with marketing.

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