The Marketing Strategist:

Who Spends What…and Where? Aligning Field Marketing with the Corporate Priorities

July 20, 2016

 

When some of the best and brightest technology and services marketers gathered in Napa for ITSMA’s recent Marketing Leadership Forum, a common challenge quickly emerged.

It’s not a new challenge, but rather a longstanding one that continues to reappear. Namely, how best to organize and align the various elements of field marketing with their corporate marketing cousins to deliver the company’s go-to-market model?

For any company with multiple offerings serving multiple markets, the fundamental question is simply how to cover the waterfront.

It is rarely the case that companies can, or even should, simply provide field marketing resources to support every offering across every industry in every geography. Therein lies madness, the discussants in Napa agreed; the end result would be a marketing function stretched overly thin, racing to react to demands from every part of the business, burning themselves out in a tactical frenzy while confusing clients in the process.

Who Gets to Decide?

Field Marketing Priorities 3D chartStrategic prioritization is clearly needed, we all agreed. But who gets to decide the priorities?

As discussion continued, we moved toward a position that the in-year growth priorities of the business units should set the general direction, provided those business units have the actual power in the company (which typically they do). However, we also agreed that marketers should invest in the longer-term bets the company is making. Near-term sales are likely small, but marketing needs to educate and warm up the market to ensure longer-term growth. 

To help ensure alignment, priorities should be developed and agreed through a planning interlock, with “demand signals” from the field playing a central role. This won’t necessarily end all debate. After all, simply responding to all local demand signals won’t necessarily lead to a coherent overall marketing approach, and may also ignore larger corporate priorities. Conversely, local field marketers probably need the ability to opt out of certain corporate campaigns that are simply irrelevant for their customers and prospects.

Moving to a conclusion—and no doubt considering the wine tasting about to begin—the group agreed that the ideal alignment would allow for a tiered approach to corporate support: The big bets on growth, validated by demand signals from the field, get major marketing investment and programs. Smaller priorities, based on similar input from the field, receive lighter investment in campaign assets and activation.

How does field alignment work in your organization? Does this tiered approach make sense? Let us know as we continue the conversation and update our thinking.

 

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