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What is the role of the marketing department anyway?

What is the role of the marketing department anyway?

By Denille Roostee
Marketing Manager at Sanlam

As a marketeer, I have had the opportunity to lead organisations across various industries in both large and small organizations and worked together with diverse groups of individuals within the marketing department. During this time I have come to the realization that role of marketing is differently defined for almost each individual.

I have observed over the years a disconnect between expectations and perceptions of the Executive Leadership and the marketing department. ‘Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department’ David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard once said and it shows the disconnect clearly.

The challenges depend on several factors, for example; how quickly an organization embraces online communication, reacts to the current economic situation, what life stage the company is in, how pro-active a corporation is and the experience and background of the individuals who make up the organization. These all impact and play a vital role in how the organization defines the role of the marketing department.

This challenge often leaves the marketing department accused of disappointing and poor performance. With a further accusation being that they do not affect sales directly and just squander budgets. There is truth to this sadly in some cases, as with any department in any organization. Some are guilty of not necessarily, overspending, but more commonly ineffectively spending their budgets. In my experience, more often than not, however, it is rather a case of objectives and targets not being clearly established and communicated beforehand and kept track of throughout the implementation of the marketing strategy.

Verhoef and Leeflang piloted a widespread study termed ‘Understanding the Marketing Department’s Influence within the Firm’ in an attempt to determine the influence of the marketing department within organisations. What its determinants and significance are as well as how this influence is related to market orientation and, indirectly, to a firm’s performance. This study shows marketing is placed mainly in a tactical, executive role. In the past decade both the average age and superiority of marketing staff has decreased and the number of part-timers in marketing positions has increased. The outcome of this study shows that marketing has lost, as they say, 2-Ps to the finance function: pricing policy and distribution policy.

So, what are the consequences of the loss of a marketing departments influence on the organisation? In specialized services organizations in particular, professionals take care of part of their own marketing and sales. This often the case in; engineering companies, law firms and some financial institutions. Consequently, more marketing activities take place outside the conventional marketing department. Another aspect is the customer-connecting capacity of the marketing department and lack of understanding when it comes to the customer journey. If you are a marketeer, periodically ask yourself the question: “when last did I converse directly with my company’s target market?” On many fronts, other departments control the direct customer contacts. A reduced customer connection affects the influence of marketing within the organization, which is not just a shame but negatively impacts the organisation.

So, what can we take away from this? There is no single answer, no wand to wave that will fix everything. However, to overcome this challenge and prevent the marketing department from losing its impact and relevance, it is crucial to stay close their stakeholders both internal and external. Firstly, all marketing efforts must add relevant value to the customer experience. Secondly, marketing objectives must be integrated and in line with the organizations overall objectives.

In closing, Marketing’s internal stakeholders are a very critical function in the company. Every individual of the organizational leadership team is an adjunct of the marketing department.


About The Author

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A Guest Contributor is any of a number of experts who contribute articles and columns under their own respective names. They are regarded as authorities in their disciplines, and their work is usually published with limited editing only. They may also contribute to other publications. - Ed.