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  • Alan Prowse

The role of marketing, salmon and the land of 10,000 lakes?


The Marketing function has several roles; however, in my mind their most important role is to analyze their markets and consumer data and make sound and timely recommendations to the business units. They need to understand what the consumer wants, not just now but also in the future. Then based on their data and research, they should recommend the next steps to the organization.

To understand this role a little better, I like to use an analogy. Let’s assume your Market was the State of Minnesota, “the land of 10,000 lakes” and your product was the delivery of fresh fish to the local restaurants.

The Marketing function would need to decide which of the 10,000 lakes the sales team should be fishing in. This decision is based on which of the lakes have the fish the restaurants want. Marketing also needs to determine the method of fishing and what type of bait to use. Once they decide on this, they should then try fishing in these lakes to test their strategies against the market. Assuming this goes well, marketing share this information with the sales organization. They provide the leads, in this analogy the locations of the lakes, the product, briefings, and collateral, again in this case the correct methods and bait to catch the fish. Most importantly they need to provide the value proposition that differentiates our company from the competition. In this analogy it might be to guarantee the delivery of pre-prepared fresh fish by noon, on the same day it was caught, to the restaurants.

Once this information is shared with sales, marketing then must keep track of what is happening on all the lakes, taking in all the inputs from the all the fishing teams. What is working, what is not, including what the other fishing companies that are fishing in the same lakes are doing. Finally, the marketing function must understand what the consumer is demanding, what type of fish are the restaurants serving the most. Is their consumer eating more salmon or eating more trout? This way they can have the Sales teams (the fishermen) deployed on the right lakes or rivers, including where to be on the lake, what bait to be using and which fish to catch. Marketing typically focuses their efforts on the mid-term trends i.e., eighteen-month to five-year. They should be part of the fishing community and have a strong understanding of the market, regular attendees of the community trade shows and symposiums and can process large amounts of data, make sense of it, then provide the business units strategies based on the data.

I hope this short analogy helps you better understand the key roles of Marketing and why it’s important to have them focused on the mid-term trends. Too often have I seen marketing get pulled into sales roles, especially after they test the market and have some success. In the analogy above this would mean everybody ends up busy fishing and in real danger of missing changes in the market, consumer, or competition. In my humble opinion, the hand off between marketing and sales is critical, as optimizing all your business development assets around the short term is never the right answer… So, there it is, that is what the role of Marketing, Salmon, and the land of 10,000 lakes have in common!

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