Upendra Namburi
Guest Article

Why Marketing People Quit...

Why do people leave - and what needs to be done.

Why do team members leave and what needs to be done?

'You want to leave?'

Hema: 'Yup!'

'It's been only seven months.'

Hema nods her head, thinking to herself 'Perhaps six months too long?'

Hema: 'Yes...I know.'

'And, why?'

Hema: 'Designing posters and banners weren't what I come here to do. This isn't marketing!'

Most of us in the marketing fraternity would have been in a similar conversation. And it's not too different whether you're on the brand team or with partner agencies. The frustration is agnostic. So, what's happening? Well, having made great hiring calls and blunders as well, across the several industries I have worked with, here's my perspective:-

1. Purpose before Poster

In several organisations, marketing is viewed as a cost centre. This often leads to a demanding environment for those in the trenches coordinating with the sales functions churning out 'stuff' - calendars on Diwali, diaries for New Year, posters for the new product launch and the standees for the sales conference.

Why Marketing People Quit...

Upendra Namburi

It is imperative for the senior management and the marketing leaders to set out a clear purpose and articulate the impact of marketing in the context of the organisation. Make it simple and clear, for your team and, of course, for the larger organisation.

If the purpose of that poster in Patna is not clear, then it has every right to be treated as a cost and even junk. If the purpose is clear, it's a different story. Purpose makes the difference, not technology.

2. Businesses exist to make money, not to build brands

A couple of years back, during a pitch, a senior member of the team who had been handling insurance for several years used the acronym 'GPR' when he, of course, should have said 'GWP' - gross written premium - the unit of measure for the value of insurance sold.

Of course, it could have been a slip of the tongue, but when he had to look back at the slide, read it carefully and eventually spell it out, it became clear. He had no clue! This is not a reflection on the agency, but rather, a resounding and even deafening cry for urgency.

Folks, we may be in marketing, but if we don't understand the P&L and balance sheet of the company we work in, we have no right to work in that organisation, let alone spend its money.

A little effort and persistency in ensuring that the teams are aware and aligned with the organisation's goals and numbers would go a long way in making marketing more purposeful and adding coherent, consistent value.

Once the teams are more aligned to the numbers, the output is significantly different. The marketing function doesn't exist to make beautiful glow signs; it exists to ensure that the glow sign is delivering value to the business.

Try it, the glow sign will shine much brighter.

3. Silos and the Holy Grail

It is incredible how silos form or are designed to form even within small teams. The SEO team won't speak with the brand team - why do I need to? The PR agency won't interact with the advertising agency - my client hasn't called for it.

Imagine a marketing team without a clear purpose, lack of clarity on the organisation's path to creating shareholder value and dealing with ludicrously myopic silos, find themselves running around like headless chickens expending more time in sorting out gaps in understanding and communication?

This causes frustration, limits learning and most importantly, just doesn't add up to creating meaningful impact.

It's not a pretty sight. This is not about having monthly review meetings or daily dashboards. It's about setting a culture of true collaboration and for the teams to understand how they can both learn and add value to each other. Allow teams to learn, stimulate them to wander into the unknown and urge them to connect the dots.

Sounds elementary my dear Watson?

4. The TVC is dead, long live the TVC

'How much do you plan to spend on your TV Campaign this year?'

'Hmmm....possibly nothing; but let's see in the third quarter?'

If the purpose and role of the marketing function is based on the delivery of a TVC or a large campaign, then there's something terribly wrong.

Fix, it, extremely quickly.

A TVC or a large campaign has got to be the cherry on the cake; it just cannot be the cake! The role and purpose of marketing in the context of product development, experience design or insight analysis needs to be the bedrock. Marketing is not different for products or service companies, contrary to popular folklore. It's not different for B2B and B2C companies. It exists to steer the customer experience and make it memorable via the TVC or the lather in the soap or even that banner ad on the news website. It's about the experience!

5. Satisfaction is passé. Delight is the new norm

Set the expectation clear and correctly upfront. Yes, poster design and calendar deliveries will be the bulk of the work. Yes, we will have overnighters to make sure that the posters reach Patna in time for the launch in the morning and yes, the cost of the poster will be scrutinised for every single paise.

The opportunity (and challenge) lies in making every poster, banner, standee, brochure, and SMS text message brilliant!

Brilliance, not backed by the dollar spend, but by the sheer impact it can create and value it can add. If you've helped the sales executive in Patna sell one more pack of toothpaste that day, you've done something good.

If you're able to challenge the annual diary and present an alternative which is more practical and contemporary, you've just increased the impact.

There is an inherent and burning need in revisiting each and every element of work undertaken. Is it serving a purpose? Is it truly adding value? Is it just satisfying or delighting the consumer?

So, coming back to Hema...

'Don't quit Hema. Let's roll up our sleeves. We've got some great work to be done.'

(The author is a passionate senior management leader, digital business, marketing and innovation professional, who loves simplicity and challenging status quo.)

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