Pragmatic Marketing

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Early in my working life, I made a career change. After earning a degree in Electrical Engineering, I started a part-time MBA and made the transition to Marketing. I haven’t looked back. Yet I still wear my engineering iron ring (an inspired bit of socialization and branding familiar to Canadian engineers) and retain the structured habit of thought drilled into me during my undergraduate studies.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that this training informs the approach I take to marketing.  While I recognize that there is a fairly successful product management/product marketing framework and seminar series called Pragmatic Marketing, I use the phrase “pragmatic marketing” to describe the philosophy I bring to my marketing initiatives.

Wiktionary defines pragmatism as: “the pursuit of practicality over aesthetic qualities; a concentration on facts rather than emotions or ideals.” The thing that drives hard-nosed financial business managers and technical executives nuts about marketing is the perceived focus on “fluffy” matters like brand image, social media, web design, collateral layout, fonts, logos and “customer experience”. Their frustration is that, while all this sounds impressive, it is wickedly hard to connect to concrete results like revenues.

Marketers don’t do themselves any favours by using squishy MBA-speak when trying to articulate the value of what they do (I’ll save my lecture on “Marketing the Marketing” for another post!).

So, here’s my take on the essential elements of pragmatic marketing:

  1. Have a formal process for planning that draws upon multiple sources and engages the entire marketing team. Publish a monthly/quarterly calendar of marketing initiatives that is linked to revenue targets, sales activities and new product introductions.
  2. While marketing execution may be about emotion (after all, we do want the market to develop an emotional connection with our brand), the rationale for marketing initiatives must be ROI.
  3. All marketing spending must be “hard-working”. Sure, spend money on brand awareness, but make sure you’re generating leads from the same campaign. When there is a clear call to action, you can measure the response. Speaking of which….
  4. Measure and report results. If you can’t measure the outcome of your initiatives, ask yourself if you are leading with your head or your gut. No marketing initiative is complete (dare I say viable) without a plan for tracking metrics.
  5. Protect your pricing. Marketers sometimes forget that their role isn’t just to generate awareness and leads. They also have a responsibility for maintaining price levels and margins.
  6. Really listen to your sales team and channel partners. Sure, they are self-serving at times but mostly they know what is needed to grow revenues. While you’re at it, make sure that you, in turn, are providing high-quality, quantitative feedback to your product management and development team.
  7. Act like you own the company. Manage your budget. Make sure that the marketing department earns a reputation for fiscal responsibility. A CFO that trusts you will listen when it comes time to ask for additional marketing investment.

Don’t get me wrong. Inspired marketing is the flower of innovation and creativity. But marketing is both an art and science; pragmatic marketing is the science side of things. As you might gather, it is also hard work. The pay-off is better results as well as the respect and support of your colleagues in other functional roles.

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