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  • Is It Marketing or Is It Management?
    spacerWorking Together with Team Spirit for Strategic Success

  • Marketing and management each often have a different perspective on business issues. Due to their potentially conflicting perspectives, the two may not always see eye to eye. Sometimes, marketers find that management does not seem to understand marketing. Yet sometimes, management's vision of what the business stands for and where it is headed can be a valid reason for opposing creative new directions that marketing proposes.

    My 20+ years researching business success and failure finds that when it comes to strategy, either marketing or management can do well, and either side can also do poorly. Neither side monopolizes strategic success, and neither side monopolizes strategic failure. Both can make strategic missteps.

    That's why, to address the marketing side, my Winning MovesŪ Special Report "Do Things Change or Do They Remain the Same? CMO Success and the Changing Role of Marketing", which came out a year-and-a-half ago, encourages CMOs not to lose sight of strategy. As the report explains, if a business already has a strong strategy, marketers should exercise caution with new ideas that do not fit the strategy. The intent is to encourage strong strategies, since a strong strategy's importance transcends the issue of whether its roots lie in top management, in marketing, or elsewhere. No matter where strategy originates, companies benefit when all sides work together with team spirit to pursue the common goal of strategic success.

    Yet, since my report aims to foster marketing success, it leans toward being a bit sterner about any tendencies marketing may have for possible strategic missteps, than it is for those of management. It does so because I am aware of enough cases where marketing is off strategy. But, since my research finds that either marketing or management can get strategy right, and either can blunder strategically, my report also points out that top management may not always have a strong strategy.

    So, it is interesting that, in contrast to my findings, the book "War in the Boardroom", by noted marketing experts Al and Laura Ries, portrays strategic strength strictly as characteristic of marketing, but not of management. Still, the Ries book is valuable since it encourages strong strategy and warns against hard charging excess expansion. I consider this kind of expansion the nemesis of strategic success. But, unlike my findings, the Ries book attributes the missteps of hard charging excess expansion only to management, while it credits the successes to marketing.

    For example, the Rieses astutely point out the value of dominating a category and the dangers of expanding too broadly. Yet, according to the Rieses, marketing sees the value of category domination, but management does not, so management pursues inappropriate expansion. The Rieses describe managerial icon Jack Welch as someone who barely mentions marketing in his best-selling books. Their discussion of Welch is ironic, however, since Welch is widely known for his pursuit of dominance with his view that, if you can't be #1 or #2, you should exit the business. Thus, it's hardly true that marketing has a monopoly on the pursuit of category dominance.

    Nonetheless, the Rieses provide valuable discussion of strategy, with emphasis upon the importance of focus. But, while being highly focused is generally a successful strategy, my research finds that strategies with a somewhat lesser degree of focus can also be very successful under the right circumstances—as long as, despite a bit greater breadth, all the pieces fit together well and support the strategy. Like the Rieses, my findings indicate that an extreme lack of focus is a recipe for business disaster. And, like the Ries book, my "Evolution, Not Revolution" Winning MovesŪ Special Report, unveiled in early 2007, points out that Enron's collapse was not due to fraud, but resulted from an ill-fated strategy of going in too many new directions too quickly.

    Yet overall, the Ries book does a good job of bringing the gulf between marketing and management to the forefront. The book's efforts to bridge the gap are to be applauded. But, their approach is a bit too we-they, which encourages an adversary relationship between the two sides. The adversary relationship can be intensified by the fact that one size does not fit all. Some top managers successfully build businesses. And, some marketers err with poorly fitting creativity, or by falling into the excess expansion trap.

    So, rather than giving marketers all the credit for strategic know-how, companies would be better served if both sides--both marketing and management--work to improve their understanding of business success principles. Both sides need to be more attuned to strategy. Both sides need to make better use of the relatively recent books and research that have been coming out on strategic issues. Since both sides can harbor their own misperceptions, both must learn what really works in a world where myths about success principles are common. By working together with a team spirit to adopt the increasingly available knowledge of strategic success principles, both marketing and management, as well as their companies, will be far more able to achieve favorable results.

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