Should businesses have a standalone marketing department?
It’s a very polarizing question.
Traditionally, in most organizations, marketing and sales go together and make one department. In others, marketing falls under the Public Relations (PR) department. But the debate whether marketing would be more effective if it was a separate department isn’t going away any time soon. Everyone has differing thoughts and opinions.
As with anything to do with business philosophy, including strategy and planning, there’s no one-size-fits-all. What works for one business may not work for yours, and vice versa.
In this article, we will discuss whether you need a separate marketing department and its benefits to your business.
The Purpose of Marketing
Marketing is the process of getting consumers interested in your products and services. You do this through market research, analysis, and understanding the interests of your ideal customers. Marketing is present in all stages of the business, from the very beginning to the end. This includes product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising.
E Jerome McCarthy developed the 4 Ps of marketing to explain how marketing interacts with each stage of the business. The 4 Ps are:
During product development, you need the marketing team to perform market research and answer critical questions such as:
- Who is the target audience?
- Is there a market gap for the product?
- What messaging, and on which platforms, will help to boost product uptake?
- What do focus groups think of the product, and what questions or hesitations are they like to have?
- How can the product be modified to boost uptake and increase its chances of success?
These questions will help you to understand the demand for the product and ways to improve its quality so that it meets the needs and expectations of consumers.
The marketing team also helps to develop the right pricing for a product. If the price is too high, you’ll lose customers. If the price is too low, you’ll lose money. Marketing uses focus group surveys to estimate how much consumers would be willing to pay for the product. They also analyze competitors’ pricing for similar products to help gauge a good price range.
Additionally, Marketing can help come up with a value proposition that justifies the price of the product.
You will rely on buyer personas developed by the Marketing department to make decisions on where and how to sell your product. For example, in some markets, an eCommerce store will work better than a retail location. Sometimes, companies also offer different packaging and branding for the same product depending on the markets they are sold in. Downy fabric softener is known as Lenor in Europe.
Marketing can also offer insights into which locations would be most viable to sell your product.
Your marketing team will be in charge of creating awareness and interest in your product. This is done from the very beginning. It entails promotions (both online and offline), events, and product discounts. This is where public relations campaigns and social media promotions come in.
The Blurry Lines Between Sales and Marketing
As we mentioned earlier, sales and marketing have been traditionally tag teams. They went hand in hand. In the sales funnel, Marketing took care of awareness, interest, and consideration while Sales handled intent, evaluation, and conversion.
There was a very thin line between sales and marketing. It was impossible to separate them.
However, the growth of eCommerce and online marketplaces has shifted the balance towards marketing. Marketing is now more than just TV commercials and magazine ads. The rise of digital marketing has seen marketers grapple with responsibilities that previously belonged to Sales. Marketers now have to handle intent and evaluation too through lead scoring and nurturing. More of the funnel than ever is now the responsibility of Marketing.
The line between sales and marketing has become even more blurred as businesses shift to eCommerce.
With the evolution of roles such as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), and Chief Digital Officer, it is understandable why some people feel that Marketing should run sales. Or at least be a department on its own.
However, this doesn’t mean that Marketing should be run in a silo. It needs to align itself with the overall goal of the organization and work in tandem with the other departments.
The Difference Between Marketing and PR
The rise of social media marketing has also blurred the lines between PR and Marketing.
Traditionally, Marketing supported Sales while the PR department supported the larger brand image and positioning. While Marketing handled advertising, PR was in charge of managing the press. Not anymore. The most interesting part of it? The smaller the company gets, the more those lines overlap.
In some organizations, Marketing falls under the PR department.
The truth is that these two are intertwined. You can’t do one without the other. PR needs a little marketing just as marketing needs a little of PR. If your products are terrible, you won’t have a positive brand image. And you won’t achieve your marketing goals if you aren’t viewed favourably by the consumers.
Both PR and Marketing have overlapping end goals. Yet they have distinct functions that are very different from each other. Even when they exist under the same department, it’s crucial to have clarity on their roles and how differently they contribute to the overall goal of the business.
Why You Need a Separate Marketing Department
Marketing is all about getting the word out and explaining to customers the benefits of your products to increase visibility and interest. It is about turning inquiries into leads and then into sales. While Marketing and Sales (and PR too) all have overlapping goals, it’s critical to the success of your company that each of them become an independent department fully staffed with experts in the respective areas.
Some of the reasons why you need an independent marketing department include:
1. Understanding your target market and competitors
A fully equipped marketing team will conduct market research and build buyer personas that give you detailed and specific descriptions of your target market. They can also perform competitor analysis to help you gauge your standing in the target markets. You will then be able to make data-driven business decisions based on marketplace reality, not anecdotal experiences.
This systematic and structured research is only possible if you have an independent marketing department with dedicated resources and experts.
2. Developing a strategy that drives growth and profitability
Besides conducting research to help understand your target market and competitors, a separate marketing department will also be able to craft effective marketing strategies that drive business growth. They no longer have to worry about how they fit into the bigger picture of the Sales or PR departments.
They can focus on developing a marketing plan that maps out how to build brand visibility and generate leads. The plan will identify your product’s compelling competitive advantages and clear market positioning.
3. Identifying which products to offer and how to price them
Sales is primarily focused on paying customers while PR only cares about the brand image. This is why many companies in which marketing falls under other departments often leave the decision on products and pricing to offer to CEOs and the finance department.
However, these are key elements of a growth plan that should be informed by a research-based strategy. A strong marketing department plays a leading role in identifying the products to offer and how to price them in various markets.
4. Maintaining a steady flow of leads and opportunities
It is a bad idea to assign lead generation and nurturing to the Sales department. Sales often have a quite short operational cycle (does “how many did you close this month” ring a bell?) yet lead generation and nurturing can have a long time horizon. Lead nurturing can take up to months or years.
You do not want to place a function (marketing) that plays the longshot game under a department that’s focused on the numbers they can get now. Marketing looks ahead. Their function supersedes the numbers you can close this month, even though they are guided by clear, trackable metrics.
5. The ability to monitor and optimize implementation
This is the last piece of the puzzle. If you can’t measure your results, then all your marketing efforts will count for nothing. Building a strong brand and full pipeline takes time so you need to get a return on your investment.
A well-equipped marketing department with the right tools and expertise will be able to track lead generation, nurturing, opportunities, proposals, and closes. You can then optimize your entire pipeline over time.
In the age of digital marketing, you cannot afford to have your marketing as a subset of another department. It needs to be a full department on its own with a seat at the decision-makers’ table. Even if you are a small business with a limited budget for a full-house marketing team, you can still establish the department with one or two people and then outsource marketing services.
Functions of a Marketing Department
What would your marketing department do on a day-to-day basis?
Your marketing department will drive the promotional engine of your business. It’s not only responsible for customer acquisition but also retention in the long term.
Some of the key responsibilities of your marketing department will be:
- Developing Your Marketing Strategy: This is the most important role of your marketing department. The department will create a marketing plan that aligns with the company’s mission, vision, and goals. It will identify your buyer personas, conduct a competitive analysis, determine content initiatives and channels to be used, and define the metrics of success. The department will also be responsible for coming up with a marketing budget.
Your marketing strategy shouldn’t be developed by a sales or PR professional.
- Overseeing Third-Party Vendors and Agencies: Marketing will also be responsible for outsourcing marketing services. They will select and manage vendors and agencies that provide marketing support and supply marketing materials. These may include digital marketing agencies, print vendors, and the creative team (bloggers, designers, and graphic designers).
- Producing Content For Marketing Materials: Third, the marketing department will be in charge of building and producing the creative assets needed for marketing campaigns and projects. These include social media marketing material, web elements, blog, promotional, and email marketing materials. They should ensure every aspect of a campaign is taken care of.
- Formulating SEO Strategies: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key component of any digital marketing strategy. The department will be responsible for creating your organic marketing strategy. It will perform keyword research, competitor analysis, and develop content that’s optimized for search engines.
- Managing Social Media Marketing: Social media is another task that your marketing team will be responsible for. They’ll need to manage your social media accounts and develop a strategy that enables the business to build an effective online community.
Other functions of the marketing department may include offering support for the sales and PR teams, planning events (online and offline), overseeing internal communications, and managing marketing campaigns.
Build an Effective Marketing Team
Having a separate marketing department doesn’t mean they will ride solo. It will still need to fit into the larger organizational picture and work in harmony with all the other departments, including Sales and PR. In the digital era, how you market yourself is just as important as how many sales you bring in. A separate Marketing department enables you to fully harness the strengths of your marketing team for a favourable market standing.
If you are a small business that can’t afford to build a full in-house marketing team, we can help you. Salt Marketing has helped thousands of Irish businesses to grow online and improve profitability. Our digital marketing services are tailored to your business needs.
Want to learn how our bespoke digital marketing services can help grow your business? Get in touch today!