After 25 years of sitting on boards, I am more convinced than ever that boards should not get involved in an organisation at an operational level – and marketing is a largely operational activity.
That said it is important that board members understand marketing, its place in the strategic planning process and how they should get involved in that process.
There are many things board members should know about marketing. Here are my top 9.
- What marketing is.
- Marketing is a behavioural science. It is in essence the business of causing specified target audiences to do what you need them to do, in order to achieve your objectives.
- What marketing is not.
- Marketing is not advertising. Advertising is a small subset of marketing. The other aspects including the product, service, customer engagement, price and distribution being more important, and all have the potential to reduce advertising costs.
- What a brand is and what branding is.
- Your brand is what your target audiences say it is. Branding is the process of reducing the gap between what your brand should be and what it is. Branding drives sales, repeat business, referrals, margins, staff retention and staff performance.
- The importance of customers.
- The optimal brand, branding strategy and marketing strategy are developed by the organisation based on what is known about the target audience and how best to manage the behaviour of that audience. Customer focus is essential.
- The importance of data.
- Marketing strategy has for far too long been based on intuition, perhaps supported by some research. Cost effective marketing involves, gathering all the hard data required to make decisions based in evidence rather than unreliable intuition.
- The importance of the product.
- Zara, the world’s 5th largest and fashion brand, despite the business having no advertising budget. It is a highly profitable business because it focuses on offering a product (clothing and service) that meets and exceeds customer expectations.
- The metrics that matter
- All marketing needs to be held accountable and it is a governance responsibility that board members should ensure it is. All marketing can be made accountable if the right strategies, systems and metrics are in place. This will increase return on investment.
- The expertise needed.
- Most marketing managers are well versed in sales and or advertising, few are as well versed in the management of human behaviour and the understanding of behavioural insights and behavioural economics that facilitates cost effective marketing
- The planning required
- Brand, branding and marketing strategy are critical component, if not the driver of business planning. They are not after thoughts. The board has a role to play in ensuring that the marketing strategy is fully integrated into the business plan.