Friday, November 14, 2008
The Death Of Command-And-Control Marketing
By Max Kalehoff Consider this idea: Marketing leadership is shifting from command-and-control to cultivate-and-coach.
My early business-to-business marketing experiences included heavy-handed dictation of superlative messaging that the organization was expected to follow. It was the norm for many years, and is still very much alive today. While this strategy sometimes achieves alignment and conveys strength, it often comes across as forced and arrogant. Moreover, it prevents organizational clarity and creates unwillingness to confront internal weakness. I'm skeptical command-and-control marketing approaches can be effective in increasingly dynamic marketplaces, with complex communications channels and growing customer choice.
But things are changing. I now find marketing leadership to be more an art of humility, affinity and open confrontation of weakness. Instead of instilling forceful brand and messaging objectives, I find that the most effective marketing leadership comes from instilling strong values and good intentions -- up, down and across the organization. Better products and experiences manifest, and more and happier customers follow.
What's happening here? The marketing leadership role is evolving to one of inspiring and defining frameworks, whereby the power of the marketing leader is less about direct reports and silo-driven campaigns. It's now more about providing guidance, lateral contributions and coordination across all other business functions -- i.e., product, technology, engineering, sales and customer experience, among other. The fact is, every colleague who comprises the marketing team is capable of assuming some stake in execution and outcome.
Instead of acting the sergeant, I increasingly find myself inspiring colleagues to search within, and channel their good intentions through personal and authentic actions and narratives directly with customers and stakeholders. It's a decentralized model that requires trust and emphasizes personal visibility and accountability. To be sure, social media technologies are facilitating this trend. For example, all members of the management team at my company have been mobilized to activate their voice and ears on our company's marketing backbone, our team blog.
I'm sure part of this is my own maturity. But I also think it has a lot to do with a growing hunger among customers to do business with companies that genuinely act and talk this way. Customers don't want relationships with marketing; they want relationships with the people inside the business.
I also know that my ability to evolve and practice this higher form of marketing is contingent upon the progressive management team I work with. For I think it is not the norm -- at least not yet. However, adopting a cultivate-and-coach style of marketing soon will become not an exception, but a universal business imperative. To let go is to gain more.
What's it like in your marketing organization? Is this happening? Is it not? Will it ever?
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Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a search-marketing solution for small and mid-size businesses. He also writes AttentionMax.com
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