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In the April 2004 issue of Polaris eNews, I outlined the first five of ten qualities of a great
marketing manager (click here to read that article). While many more attributes could be added
to this list, below are the last five qualities that I see as integral for being great at a job that is
often undervalued but sorely needed.

A 
  
  
  

Great marketing managers paint a big picture, defining the box for their subordinates, vendors
and team members.

All too often, I have seen marketing managers who love to tinker in MS Publisher® or Front
Page®, creating flyers and web pages. Or, the marketing manager chooses to micro-manage
literature design that has been created by a competent graphic artist. It's easy for marketing
managers to become engrossed in the details -- self-maintaining a website or creating internal
product data sheets.

Great marketing managers instead keep their eyes on the big picture, delegating detail tasks to
the appropriate people. Creating, managing and selling a clear vision is extremely hard and it's
easy to fall into the details because they¶re easy, and less risky than the rest of the process. (For
more on this subject, see Cutting Your Own Hair, by Ken Stine).

Pat Walker, the General Manager of Prime Factors is fairly new to the role of Marketing
Manager, but he has done a great job of allowing our graphic designers to ³do their thing´ while
giving specific and reasonable direction that, in the end, have created an effective and cohesive
collection of marketing materials.

Effective marketing managers are always looking at the big picture. They work at and refine the
vision, and don't allow themselves to become distracted by the details.

   

Great marketing managers cannot function without a plan. However, taking the time to outline
every detail of that plan, and then follow those details to the letter is counterproductive and
extremely time consuming. It also distracts them from the true task of leading the company
towards the marketplace with a vision. The biggest problem with creating an incredibly detailed
plan is that it tends to lack the spontaneity that market forces create, and ignores the reality of
creative people and ideas.

On the other hand, a marketer who doesn't have a plan is completely adrift. Marketing materials,
sales literature, brochures, booths, and websites that are created without the framework of a
vision, end up being fairly useless. They create a lot of noise in the marketplace, but have no
focus, influence, or legacy.

In my experience, a loose planner has the best of both worlds -- they have a plan, but it is loose
and allows for creativity and spontaneity. New ideas can be inserted, and old ones withdrawn
without having to completely rewrite the plan.

A good marketing strategy or plan also requires pubic relations, advertising, and sales tools
components. It also may include a tradeshow and Internet presence. Other components to a good
marketing plan may include product packaging and point-of-purchase concerns. A good
marketing manager will include these components in an overall marketing plan.

Whether a marketing plan is written (preferably) or stored in the head of the marketing manager,
this planning must be done for a marketing program to be effective. Good marketers tend to be
flexible, quickly changing their plan when circumstances or markets change.

  

  
Internal issues and fear amongst colleagues, senior management, or the marketing manager's
direct supervisor can damage or destroy a marketing program. Over the years I have seen
conflicts between marketing managers and their superiors (or subordinates) cripple companies.
Companies have failed because the marketing people couldn't navigate the internal politics of
their company. Quite often, the administrative or production wings of a company have more
influence than sales and marketing. In fact, in many companies, marketing is looked down upon.
Engineers, developers and managers with an operations background often dominate production
or manufacturing oriented companies. These companies frequently fall into the trap of thinking
the better product will ultimately succeed in the marketplace. A good marketing manager
understands that it is not whether the product is better or superior, but whether it is perceived as
better or superior.

Because of this common clash, the production team may resent what the sales and marketing
people are doing because they don¶t understand the value. The marketing manager's role is to
constantly teach the production team about The Vision. They need to demonstrate proof and
show results. It's important that the marketing manager brag internally (selflessly) when their
programs are working. They also need to teach both the sales team and the production side of the
company about the successes occurring in the marketplace.
It's all about creating a climate for success. Successful marketing managers find ways to generate
internal enthusiasm for their marketing programs. Great marketers find ways to include the sales
team in their vision. Sometimes the marketing manager even needs to target their superior (CEO,
President, Owner, etc.) and educate (sell) them on important issues so they can get the financial
backing they need to carry out a successful program.

For example: the marketing budget is quite often one of the very first items that senior
management targets for cuts when money is a little tight, even though industry research has
consistently shown that companies who stop marketing and advertising during a recession or
economic slowdown suffer severe economic and brand damage -- if they survive at all.
Meanwhile, companies who manage to find the budget and continue marketing through the
downtime will often capture market share and are much better off in the long run. Marketing
managers have to preempt this kind of self-destructive action by consistently exemplifying their
successes to everyone in the company and teaching them of the marketing team¶s value.

My good friend, client, and CEO of Harrell Remodeling, Iris Harrell, is the champion of
positive! At Harrell Remodeling, every design award, every signed contract, every marketing
milestone is recognized and celebrated. People who worked on a specific project are publicly
recognized and patted on the back. Even at the bottom of the recent recession amongst rolling
layoffs, she was finding ways to brag about the great stuff happening in the marketing
department. The result was that they hung in there, kept marketing, reached their company goals,
and are now roaring into 2004!

These obstacles are very common and the marketing manager's job is to work the internal
politics and eliminate obstacles within a company that may prevent success.

X 
   
Here at Polaris, our type of business affects the marketing manager's budget (advertising and
marketing expenses) as much as anyone else they typically interact with. Obviously, cost is a
part of every project. I've experienced three methods that my clients use for managing and
controlling costs, and there is one clear method that gets the most out of us as a partner in their
marketing efforts, yet is still cost effective.

The first of the three different scenarios I've seen is the "bottomless pocket". These marketing
managers will direct us to just "go for it" never asking us at the beginning of the project what it's
going to cost. I'm not sure if they are afraid to know, but we happily spend the time that we feel
it takes to complete the project. Initially, this sounds like an ideal client for us. However, I've
learned quickly that this is a false paradise. Almost always, problems arise down the road, both
for our client and us. The marketing manager that allows us to work on projects until we feel
they are complete, without checking costs, is almost always surprised by the bill. Once that
happens, they are forced to halt the project, or renegotiate, or cut back its scope. We find that we
never end up being as effective as we should be.
An analogy would be taking a dog for a walk without a leash. The marketing/design group
represents the dog (appropriate, I think). Without a leash, the dog will run everywhere and the
owner may not reach their destination. For this reason, we don¶t typically work on projects under
this scenario.

The second situation we often see is that the marketing manager wants us to quote every project
to the penny before the project begins. Experience has proven that it is nearly impossible to
estimate the hours it will take for creative projects. Sometimes great ideas come quickly and
sometimes they don¶t. When a client asks me to quote a cost based on an exact number of hours,
you can see what I'm forced to do -- guess to the high side. Otherwise, we would be out of
business very quickly.

This type of marketing manager functions under an illusion that they are saving money by
controlling the vender and their costs, to the penny. The reality is that they are actually costing
themselves more since the vendor has to estimate everything on the high side to eliminate risks.

The third and best method for managing creative vendors creates a win-win situation for both the
marketing manager and their company, and the design agency. It begins with the marketing
manager having enough experience to understand what a given project may typically cost,
preparing a loose budget and having reasonable expectations. In discussions prior to the project,
we agree on a ballpark budget with round numbers ($2400, $800, $20,000, whatever)
understanding that the finished project cost may be over or under this figure.

A loose budget frees the agency up to do a good job. We have run across new creative ideas near
the end of a project. I've had a creative team member say, "This is a great idea, do you want me
to explore it?" With a loose budget I am able to tell the team member to spend a few more hours
on the project to see where it leads. These ideas have often turned out to be the best part of a
marketing program. If we were in a situation where we are committed down to the penny, I
would have told the staff member not to work any further on the project because we¶re
committed to the quoted amount and we don¶t like to work for free.

I am much happier to have a target budget, knowing that if we go over by 10 to 20%, it will not
be a catastrophe. Also, if the project is 10 to 20% less than we proposed, I am very happy to pass
this savings on to the client. When creating an estimate with a loose budget, we don't have to pad
the estimate since the risk is not there.

I am not suggesting that the marketing manager shouldn't have complete control of the budget. I
understand that a good marketing manager needs to be completely accountable to his budget and
his company¶s bottom line. But along with creating flexible budgets, an effective marketing
manager needs to have a good understanding of costs and expenses for different kinds of
marketing projects. This way, the marketing manager can budget effectively, be on target, and
control marketing costs without inhibiting the creative department.

u   
 
Most of us know a great salesperson -- they love to sell. They love the hunt, the chase, and the
close. They love the process of not knowing if they have the sale until they make the close and
then bask in the exhilaration of the whole process.

In the same way, a great marketing manager loves the marketing process-- the uncertainty of it
all. Is this the right vision? What do my customers really need? Are we providing what they
want? Good marketing managers love making bold statements and leading a team into battle.
They love diving into the marketplace, delegating tasks, taking risks and seeing the outcome.

Unfortunately, the outcome is not always what is hoped for. Some marketing programs will
fail²it¶s almost inevitable. However, great marketers shrug this off and simply try something
different. They know that even the best laid marketing plan has uncertain elements. They
surround themselves with people they enjoy working with and have a great relationship with
their creative team or outside agency. These are people they can throw ideas at, or ask for ideas.
This marketing manager enjoys the inner play, or the fun, of trying to insert the company into the
consciousness of the marketplace.

There are not many marketing managers who really LOVE this process. I enjoy working with the
ones who do. It is fun to work with them because I know they get more out of everyone,
including my company. And it is fun to be part of a winning team!

There you have it -- The Ten Qualities of Great Marketing Managers. Becoming a great marketer
is not easy. It takes a lot of experience, strength of will, perseverance, skill, risk, and a bit of
courage. Speaking for those of us who are still trying to achieve greatness, let's keep at it and
learn from the best. To marketers who are already great at what you do, keep up the good work!

This is the second article in a two-part series on marketing managers. Qualities 1-5 can be found
in the April 2004 article entitled Ten Qualities of Great Marketing Managers (Part 1).

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