You know, I’d hate to be a marketing manager in a typical service-based firm.

The problem is, in such a firm, there’s precious little for a marketing manager to manage!

Here’s a person with no authority, no direct reports, a tiny budget, and no process to oversee. A person who’s only mandate (to ’get the firm’s name out there’) has no metric with which success can be measured.

Now, I’d like to make it clear that I have no problem with the title of Marketing Manager, nor with the person who holds that title. My problem is with the role that’s generally assigned to that title.

The fact is, if your firm sells services (or a product with an essential service component), the traditional role of a marketing manager is probably redundant.

If so, you should move fast to redefine your marketing manager’s role – to provide him with something of substance to manage, and to provide your firm with an opportunity to recoup its investment in the position.

The word marketing means too much

Unless you’re a consumer goods firm, your marketing manager probably shouldn’t manage marketing! The problem is, the definition of marketing is so far- reaching that the word loses all relevance.

Michael Porter (the patron saint of strategy) defines marketing as the entire organisation, as viewed from the customer’s perspective.

So, is it practical to give your marketing manager responsibility for your whole organisation as viewed from your customer’s perspective? I suspect not.

Even if we view marketing in terms of its core functions, its reach is still very broad.

First-year marketing students are taught about the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion (place refers to distribution).

My guess is that, in your firm, it’s really the last of the four Ps (promotion) that concerns you the most. (I suspect that your product design, pricing and distribution strategies are not in a constant state of flux!)

Accordingly, it would seem beneficial to restrict your marketing manager’s role to the management of promotion.

But the word promotion means too little!

However, in the context of a service-based firm, promotion should consist of so much more that simply getting your name out there.

Let’s face it, you can’t sell professional services, information technology, mining equipment or construction services with the kind of promotional campaign that a consumer goods firm would use to sell cornflakes.

You need a process – often a complex, protracted process – that starts with the identification of a potential customer, and ends with the acquisition of an enduring and profitable relationship.

This means that, if you want your marketing manager to manage promotion, he should manage your entire sales process (and not just your advertising and public relations activities).

The role of a sales process manager

Okay, the title’s not so sexy! But, remember, what we’re concerned with here is the role behind the title. (You’re welcome to continue to refer to your sales process manager by the arbitrary title of marketing manager.)

The reality is that, while technically you’re restricting the scope of your marketing manager’s role, in practice, you’re likely to provide him with considerably more responsibility.

Your sales process manager should be responsible for the three components of a (relationship-centric) sales process:

  • Relationship acquisition. (The acquisition of relationships with a constant stream of potential clients and centres of influence.
  • Relationship management. (The ongoing management of these relationships and the generation of sales opportunities.)
  • Opportunity management. (The management of the sales pipeline – the process that stretches from the identification of a sales opportunity through to the winning or losing of the sale.)

In practical terms, this means that your sales process manager should be responsible for managing:

  • the regular advertising or direct mail campaigns that acquire relationships;
  • the automated communications (newsletter, seminars etc) that maintain and develop those relationships;
  • and the various steps in your sales pipeline (maintenance of a communications log, dispatch of proposals and scheduling of appointments with sales consultants).

While many firms do not give their marketing managers responsibility for the entire sales process, this is dead wrong. What is the purpose of advertising and public relations activities if it is not ultimately to generate sales?

We frequently come across organisations where marketing managers are busy running ’branding’ campaigns, and salespeople are out in the field ’turning over rocks’ looking for sales opportunities. Go figure!

If your organisation does not have salespeople, your sales process manager should be responsible for the sales-related tasks performed by partners or managers.

Do you really need a sales manager?

Now that your marketing manager is responsible for the entire sales process, do you really need a sales manager?

Well, good sales process design will reduce the complexity of the opportunity management process and, accordingly, the demands on your salespeople.

In a perfect world, your salespeople should do nothing other than conduct meetings with preappointed, pre-qualified prospects, who have indicated a propensity to purchase.

If you have a large enough sales team, you may be able to justify a sales manager. Just be sure that your sales manager spends his time managing salespeople, and not your sales process. (In other words, if your salespeople spend their time in the field, that’s exactly where your sales manager should be.)

’Managing’ doesn’t mean ’doing’

While we’re in the process of reengineering your marketing manager’s role, it’s worth reminding ourselves that ’managing’ doesn’t mean ’doing’.

I often take a walk through our clients’ manufacturing facilities. In the process, I seldom see production managers operating machines.

Why then, do these same organisations have their marketing managers doing data entry, creating advertisements, writing brochure copy, designing PowerPoint presentations, and so on?

The issue is not whether or not your marketing manager is skilled in these areas, but whether or not they can manage your entire sales process if they have their sleeves rolled-up, doing process work.

Tell me, have you ever seen an orchestra where the conductor plays first violin?

A rewarding career

If you compare the role of typical marketing manager with the role of a sales process manager the differences are profound.

The former has little authority and no process to oversee. The latter has authority over the entire sales process – and is in a position to manage this process, from relationship acquisition, through to the conversion of opportunities into sales.

The former has no way of quantifying his effectiveness. The latter can demonstrate a clear return on marketing investment – by relating marketing activities to the sales they produced.

The former makes decisions based on intuition and data of questionable relevance (can anyone really demonstrate a linear relationship between brand equity and sales?). The latter (to quote Alfred Sloane) ’manages with the force of facts’.

I mentioned at the outset that I’d hate to be a marketing manager in a typical service-based firm. Tell me, if you had the choice between being appointed marketing manager or sales process manager in your own organisation, which would you choose?

Me, I’d take the role of sales process manager along with the title of marketing manager. Why would I want to be called a marketing manager? Well marketing managers get invited to more free lunches of course!