September 21, 2009

Marketing: Playing the Company Tambourine

"Poets and painters are outside the class system, or rather they constitute a special class of their own, like circus people and gypsies."

Gerald Brenan
20th century British writer

And within business I will add marketers, with apologies to circus people and gypsies if any reading this should be offended by the association.

On our best, most analytical day, we marketers are viewed by "hard science" business types as (barely) necessary evil disruptors of cash flow, returning little value to the business.



  1. Definitely not true although I will admit some marketers are their own worst enemy, over promising, under delivering.

    But without us, there is nothing for the "hard science" types to do. They keep the numbers that reflect what we marketing people have created.

  2. I've had a career full of meetings where I have to explain why our sales and marketing activities did not turn out as planned, all the time, finance/accounting types sitting there is judgment. When we exceed expectations it was a "team effort", but when we don't, guess who the finger is pointed at?

    Just once I'd like to say, "You go out and sell and I'll sit here and balance your debits and credits."

  3. You wouldn't have to explain what didn't happen if what you said would happen actually did.

    I'm one of those "hard science" business types (finance) and just as these two apparently marketing guys are tired about having to put up or shut up, I too am tired that they don't.

  4. Ed, in your opinion, is there ever a time when the outcome of a marketing or sales activity can be legitimately unknown, or should they all be predictable?

  5. Good marketers, of which there are very few, can more often than not assess likely outcomes. The "shoot from the hip" types don't even try.

  6. Dangerous for me to disagree with your generalized response ("Good marketers, of which there are very few"), and regardless, the number out there isn't my point.

    This all comes down to how accurate we expect marketing and sales projections to be, which will vary depending on how volatile the marketing and market being considered.

    I agree with you that defensible projections should accompany every sizable request for marketing/sales expenditures, but based on a career's worth of experience, management will do well to remember that all of it is just estimates of what may happen.

    Moreover because that is true, when I've been in charge, I required my entire management team to reach agreement concerning what we would and would not do, including accepting joint responsibility for missing targets.

    When it comes to company performance, there is no "me" and "you", only "us".