Most supply chain companies are in a life-and-death race, but some don't act like it. In fact, marketing operations in many of these companies seem to lack urgency. Why don't businesses get with the program? Their competitors are out to eat them. Wake-up call: Marketing isn't a leisurely walk in park, even if you are dominant in your market sector. There are competing brands in a hurry to grab your business.
My work is in the communications and public relations area of marketing, the promotional and story-telling part. It operates at lightning speed these days. It also involves management teams all the way up to and most definitely including the CEO. Organizations often lose lots of time in reviewing information and making themselves available, to act on or speak on behalf of their company. Here are some examples of places where companies get stuck and lose days, weeks, or even months getting their marketing moving:
- Deciding to hire a communications specialist or external pro to guide and push the communications campaign: Companies blow huge amounts of time, often many months, bringing in trained professional help to initiate and begin working on their programs. Then, once someone is engaged, management is desperate to catch-up and make everything necessary happen at once. All kinds of opportunities such as trade shows, research reports the company could have been involved in, articles written about their technology and other valuable events have come and gone while someone in HR searches for the proverbial green bird, with the blue feet and an orange beak that some hiring committee dreamed up. Many companies treat hiring a marketing or PR agency as a kind of in-door sport. No reason to hurry here. Let's enjoy the game.
- Approving proposals and plans: Weeks fly by without action. Most plans aren't or shouldn't be that complex. Management should be looking for a solid connection to the overall business strategy, a manageable budget, and some form of measurement. If its there, approve it. Ask any questions that come up. But don't squat over the plan while the world goes around the sun. Take a page from the military and approve plans fast.
- Sign-off on marketing or PR copy: The program is up and running. Review of key tactical actions like articles, news releases, presentations, speeches, white papers, web copy, videos, or other communications, need to be accomplished immediately. Otherwise things don't happen. These are typically short items to consider, not War and Peace . When management delays occur in this area, hair gets pulled out. More importantly, opportunities are often missed and grabbed by competitors. Excuses for delays, such as, the boss is traveling or on vacation, don't work. If the approver is out for some reason, have an alternative person handle it. Delegate but don't bring the train to a grinding halt because someone is out! “He's traveling,” is such a lame excuse with today's technology. What the heck else does someone have to do on a flight somewhere or in a hotel room before or after work hours?
- Company spokespersons going MIA: This is as big a problem as delayed copy approvals. It's even more embarrassing when a journalist or research analyst has been courted for weeks or months for an interview or briefing and the boss cancels. From a marketing perspective, this is the same as canceling a meeting with a key customer. I've seen this repeatedly happen. Once the CEO cancelled twice with the same reporter from a highly influential publication. Completely unacceptable.
All these failures and others delay and injure effective marketing and communications execution. The question boils down to how engaged are key management team members in their marketing roles? Are they over-committed and do they need help?
Public relations representation to the market is an important top-level function. It should be seen as a key facet of management and embraced as essential. Where would a football or baseball team be if the coaching staff only showed when it was convenient? Is your company so far ahead of competitors that marketing is a sometimes activity? Is your company in a hurry or not? Can you afford not to be?