The Ascent of Marketing

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In growing companies marketing seems to progress through stages of evolution.  A sort of natural selection occurs in which experimentation and success at one stage attracts more marketing resources and even greater results (though failure sometimes leads to the extinction of a marketing VP’s career!).

With apologies to Darwin, here is my view of marketing evolution:

1.  Tool-Making MarketerSales Support

It all starts when the sales team complains about a lack of basic tools for prospecting and closing business.  They need collateral and a corporate presentation.  They need someone to coordinate tradeshow participation.  They are embarrassed by the website.  So a marketing coordinator is hired to fashion sales tools from the ground up, and the marketing function descends from the treetop home of the sales organization.

2.  Hunter-Gatherer MarketerLead Generation

Eventually the company finds that pure direct selling isn’t really scalable.  So the marketing function evolves as a lead generation machine to augment the sales force.

Outbound marketing is executed through email campaigns. Content is created for webinars and other outbound marketing initiatives.  A marketing automation system is implemented to handle the growing volume of emails and manage the nurturing of prospects.  The first spending on Google ads may occur.  The website is updated from an on-line corporate brochure to a lead conversion destination.

Marketing and Sales work in partnership to feed company growth.  Marketing beats the bushes and Sales harvests the quarry.

3.  Homo Sapiens MarketerBuilding Awareness

But there’s a point at which lead generation also no longer scales. Rather than hunting for leads, it’s time to become more frequently found by interested buyers.  So the next great leap forward in marketing evolution is building awareness to create inbound demand.

Marketing now gets widespread exposure for the company through editorial coverage and speaking engagements.  Press releases follow a rhythm that includes not just corporate milestones but news stories built around sponsored research. Marketing partnerships with compatible companies and industry analysts build exposure to broader audiences.

Spending increases for advertising and event sponsorships to raise brand visibility.  The company may even run its own branded events.  Social media is accelerated with emphasis on community building.  And the website needs a complete overhaul (again!) to reflect growing confidence in brand position and messaging.

This stage of evolution comes naturally (sometimes prematurely!) to the marketing team but growing spending will certainly test the company’s confidence in marketing.

I know it may be hard to imagine a time, as you watch your knuckle-dragging marketers chip away at making the stone tools of sales collateral, when you’ll ever dramatically increase your marketing budget.  But trust me (and Darwin), your marketing team will adapt to the challenges of business growth.  When the time is right, invest in them and they’ll become the homo sapiens of marketers – executing complex integrated campaigns that generate demand, speaking coherent value propositions to the media and maybe even walking upright at conferences!

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