It is a common admission among many general managers and chief executives of nutrition firms that marketing remains the weak link in their efforts to capture a larger part of the market. Yet, despite much effort, very little is achieved, mostly because we do not really understand where the real problem lies and how to solve it.

Some common mistakes include the following cases taken from real-life experiences. Names are omitted, but many can certainly relate to similar problems in their own organizations.

The sales people should do the marketing  

This is perhaps the most common mistake, as many confuse marketing with sales. Marketing is what is done before the sales representative rings the prospective customer’s door bell. In other words, marketing has to do largely with what happens before sales.

Yes, sales people depend on and use marketing material, but this is part of the sales process. Asking them to take on the marketing is like asking them to do two jobs. Sales is enough of a job by its own.

The technical people should do the marketing  

The correct approach is that technical people should be part of the marketing team, not lead it, unless they have long experience or sufficient training.

Knowing a product deeply does not guarantee it will be sold profitably. For the same reason, technical people are seldom, if ever, allowed to handle sales directly, they should be not asked to assume responsibility for the marketing.

Graphics specialists should do the marketing  

Most marketing departments are staffed and often led by graphics specialists. While these professionals can create a brochure or advertisement better than anyone else, they cannot decide if the brochure is needed or in which magazine the advertisement should be placed.

We are all responsible for marketing  

Yes, this is quite common, and it is also a good way to avoid hiring more employees. However, here the maxim ‘by trying to be strong everywhere you’re strong nowhere’ applies quite strongly! Again, many individuals from many departments should make up the marketing team but there should be a leader.

The marketing professional  

So, who should do the marketing, or better asked, who should lead the marketing efforts? Simply put, a ‘marketing professional’. Someone dedicated to marketing with certain qualifications and talent. This brings us to the next question:

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What are the qualifications of a capable marketing specialist? Here’s a short list.

  • Professional training. This can be college education or long experience in marketing - preferably both.
  • Knowledge of the market. This is key for success. A newcomer will take long to master the idiosyncracies of our market and time is short when the competition is flustering the market with their marketing material.
  • Be both a leader and team player. A difficult combination, but equally important. This professional should be able to take and process information from all departments but make the final decisions personally. A golden rule often violated in many corporate organizations.

What is marketing really?  

So, now that we have hired this professional; how should the marketing progress?

First, marketing starts before a new product is even a vague idea. A marketing professional should first evaluate the market to find out what is needed. This can be a new or better product or service, a new/better placement of an existing product/service, or just new/better support for a product/service.

Secondly, consultation with the upper management. How much will it cost and how much is it going to bring in? In other words, how much money will we make? For this, the marketeer should have already consulted with the technical people to evaluate feasibility and cost, and also with sales to evaluate gross sales potential. But, the final number proposed to the boss is the marketing specialist’s final responsibility.

Thirdly, once approval from above has been secured, the technical department should be advised on what is needed, and the sales department on what is coming. This can be a long list for both departments and involves numerous interdepartmental meetings.

The marketing department should leave the rest to the project manager, but keep working on procuring marketing material. Again, the technical department should be asked for content and sales for an evaluation of this content. Next comes the graphics specialist. Quite often, conferences and live product presentations are needed and, here again, the marketing department organizes the event.

After sales activities  

Once the new or improved product or service is selling, then marketing should start collecting feedback from the sales representatives and also directly from customers. This last part is often overlooked.

A true image can only be painted by using first-hand testimonies. With this knowledge, the technical department should be advised of any necessary changes and the process returns to square one, if necessary.

When the year is closing, or the quarter sales report is out, the marketing department should take the raw sales data and study the general picture.

Where are we stronger and why? Where are we weakest and why? What can we learn from the first to apply to the second case? Which salesman brings in the most business and how can we learn more from him to pass on to the rest? What has been the involvement of the technical people? Who’s the most respected by the customers, who is the one sought after by our sales people for advice and joint visits? These and many more are the questions that should be answered and brought up for further discussion.