There are so many dichotomies presented to marketers today, and the temptation is to see things in black and white. But in order to really make things happen, enlightened marketers are looking at the bigger picture. They know that only with heads and tails do they get a coin.
Here are four key areas marketers need to keep in equilibrium:
Balancing the long term with the short term (a.k.a., Balancing “brand” and “demand gen”): With access to instant metrics and being confronted with demands for sales leads or revenue now, marketers have developed a penchant for focusing on the actions that yield the best short term results. In fact, many short-termers have come to believe they are the better marketers because they “deliver.” Shifts in budget allocation have followed suit, favoring demand generation programs over brand and awareness development. Product marketers feel their butts are better covered if they focus on what will sell today vs. what will turn the competitive landscape on its head tomorrow.
Delivering in the short term is absolutely vital (I’d be the last one to advise against delivering leads, product, and revenue now!), but over-focusing on immediate gains actually stifles growth. If you are not investing time and energy in increasing awareness, growing the market, developing game-changing innovations, and building equity in your brand, your company will keep plodding along at its current pace and rates of growth.
Balancing the left brain and the right brain: Because we are the first generation of marketers to have access to tons of data and analytics, things like “the big idea” or “the creative person” feel out of fashion. The sexy jobs are in marketing operations and hard metrics are sturdier to stand on than intangibles. But with as much value as the data delivers (and boy, are we grateful we have that now!), it’s not in-and-of-itself what marketing does. We are influencing and engaging human beings, and it’s the big idea and creative outputs that get to their hearts and minds. A marketing analytics person with no appreciation for what impacts the customer is not going to provide the most useful insights possible. And the wild-haired creative with no appreciation for where the rubber meets the road (i.e., what will sell), is entertaining but useless. We need to be – both as individuals and as teams – as left-brained as Einstein and as right-brained as Picasso to fully deliver what marketing is capable of today.
Balancing control in your organization: experience and research show that the marketing organization pendulum swings back and forth between a highly centralized function where “corporate” takes the lead and demands full compliance by all geographies and business units, and a highly decentralized free-for-all. Either extreme creates trouble, and marketing leaders are tempted to swing the pendulum far to the other extreme to show they’ve “addressed the problem.” This perpetuates what doesn’t work. Keep the pendulum in the middle, and the control balanced.
My teams, for example, have been successful at taking the best of both approaches. They create on-brand, on-strategy guidelines for the business units and geographies to adopt and adapt to the particular needs, constraints or goals. If you have a corporate role, be more sensitive to your colleagues in other parts of the organization. And if you sit in another country or have a business unit P&L to meet, remember that fractures to the strategic and brand “whole” drag the company down.
Whenever there are two seemingly contradictory sides to something, don’t view one side as the only or “right” option, but remember that taking the best of both generates the best results.