How A Marketing Operation That Is Flexible
Thrives In A Recession

Arturo F Munoz Open QuoteAll right, let's not panic. I'll make the money by selling one of my livers. I can get by with one.

-- Dan Castellaneta

Marketing Process in a RecessionYou know the drill. The sales funnel is drying up and marketing is under pressure to produce more quality leads.

Deep in your heart you know you can't possibly generate enough demand this instant to ensure deal closures within the next 3 months. Your typical sales cycles last 3 to 6 times longer than that.

But it doesn't matter. Sales is on your case because there aren't enough leads in the system. The smell of layoffs is in the air. They're after blood. So you begin to panic. You start firing off all pistons. You get going on your marketing-for-tough-economy-days "strategy".

You start blasting emails every which way but Sunday. It's cheap. It's measurable. And it shows you're doing something. Anything.

Will it work?

You hope so. But do you know it will work? Be honest.

If You Panic, Can You Panic Constructively?

The price of panic is high. When marketing in a recession under such emotional conditions, an unfocused email blasting campaign will in fact not only waste precious resources, but it will bring the following truth to knowledge very soon: Your target contacts, who are already experiencing layoffs, will be hard-bouncing from your email system. Your marketing database will be shrinking into oblivion.

More leads? Are you kidding? It's more like here’s yet another reason to worry about the future of your marketing operation. Reality bites hard.

But worry is pointless. It changes nothing in a positive direction. Instead you should focus on whether you indeed have a streamlined marketing process in place to exploit the fewer opportunities available in a slowing economy. This would be a process that could help you downshift to a new pace of operation that reduces cost without eroding your effectiveness in generating demand. It would be a pace that at least matches your company’s rate of growth during the slowdown and that would contribute to growth sustainability.

Marketers And Process Discipline

Are you there in your operation yet? Do you have an integral and well-optimized even automated marketing process or are you dependent on a cadre of human data integrators, churning away at spreadsheets to process lists by hand? These are lists that help you build intelligence, segment your target market, rank your responses. This is manual processing that permits you to pump as many leads as is humanly possible by hand into the funnel. Is that what your marketing process looks like?

marketing operation in a process ducks in row These are tough times confronting the B2B marketing organization. One function often overlooked but fundamental for the success of the marketing team under scrutiny for producing return on marketing investment is the creation of a business process map.

But creating a process map is not an innate desire for marketers. On the contrary, I've heard a director of field marketing quip derisively, "My people hate process. They're in and out of planes going from one marketing event to another. They have no time for process." This is not uncommon.

Some people hate working within what appears to be the stultifying constraints of an inflexible business process. Free-spirited marketers are such a bunch. But reality shows we all work within constraints, whether recognized or not. We all follow rules of one sort or another. We all proceed along pre-established trajectories. How do you otherwise even get to work every morning if it isn't because someone set up routes of transportation, traffic lights and speed limits?

Marketing has no excuse for dismissing process. On the contrary, it's high time for marketers to embrace, optimize and call process its own. One major value-add to marketers when adopting process is having visibility into cost structures to make sound decisions about their campaign logistics, before someone else like Finance makes that decision for them.

The Future Is In The Operation’s Workflow

It's true that marketers often fear process because they associate it with information technology (IT) and mind-numbing complexity. And even though it is also true that IT owns the governance of data systems, it is critical to remember that the line of business (LOB) managers often forfeit enormous influence over the design of these systems because of a lack of discipline in understanding their own way of operating. They fail to define precisely their workflows and how to govern these business processes if automated.

Today more than ever marketing organizations need to institute a marketing operations business function to formalize and prioritize these process governance rules. In combination with IT, marketing can blend its efforts in cross-functional projects to produce in totality a sound and practical operations model that makes use of system assets found elsewhere in the company.

This type of internal collaboration reduces the risk that marketing faces in being isolated by upper management as a cost center and perceived as operating detached from the rest of the company’s operations grid by more accountable peer organizations.

Because system integration is expensive to accomplish and highly political, marketing should take the lead in setting the tone for its own projects, by starting with a visual representation of the marketing operation with the assistance of a marketing IT process strategist.

The future of a mature marketing operation lies in learning not to be reactive but in having the flexibility to respond appropriately and systematically to dramatic shifts in the market without placing in danger the whole operation.

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