From stuff-maker to strategy-setter.
Marketers are undervalued, overlooked, and buried by their own productivity. Here’s how to change that.
Think about the last time you bought toothpaste.
Odds are you’d heard of the brand, well, somewhere. (Was it a commercial? A product review? You couldn’t remember, but it seemed familiar.) And there it was. (In a package a designer spent months agonizing over.) Maybe it was sitting at eye-level. (In the shelf space a salesperson negotiated.) Or perhaps you ordered it online. (Based on a search term a media buyer paid dearly for.) And before you even used it, you had an expectation of how it’d taste and what benefits it would provide.
Marketing surrounds us so much, we barely even see it anymore.
The on-hold music for customer service. The menu at your favorite restaurant. The products in your favorite celebrity’s social feed. They’re all the job of the marketing team.
Ironically, it’s because of this 360-degree, always-on, never-ending omnipresence that in most businesses, marketing isn’t valued correctly. At estound, we call this The Churn Cycle:
Marketing has a set of strategic goals.
- Achieving those goals means producing a dizzying amount of “stuff.”
Everyone is so busy making stuff, they forget what their goal was in the first place.
- They start to believe the stuff is an end in itself. The stuff becomes the goal.
Sometimes this means in-house marketers are relegated to the role of project manager or agency babysitter. Other times, it’s a job that gets filled with a family friend. A relative. A new hire. Or someone from another department who’s ready to lead, but doesn’t have a marketer’s mindset or training.
So in this series of blog posts, we want to ask some big questions. Like, how did this happen? And in a world where content factories can blast out an infinite amount of tactics, how can marketers assert strategic leadership?
How can they escape The Churn Cycle?
Let’s take a short walk down memory lane.
Marketing has existed ever since the first shopkeeper hung a sign. And every kid learns the 4 P’s in business class: Product, Place, Price and Promotion.
But in the past 50 years or so, the first three P’s seem to have taken a backseat to Promotion. Marketers have to bear some of the responsibility for this. Shooting a TV commercial just seemed like more fun than running price point tests, so that’s what people focused on.
But over the past 25 years, The Churn Cycle has gotten much more pervasive. And there’s two reasons why.
#1 Platform Proliferation
Marketers used to reach consumers through the morning newspaper and maybe an announcer read on a radio broadcast. Heck, TVs didn’t even start popping up in homes until about 70 years ago.
Today, Americans have around seven screens per household. We spend half our lives working on or watching them. And each one of those screens contains a nearly infinite amount of messaging and media opportunities.
From digital shopping carts to paid, earned and owned channels, a good marketing plan now contains not just two or three touchpoints, but hundreds.
So there’s a lot of stuff to make.
#2 Content Commoditization
In theory, all these new platforms should have ushered in a golden age of creativity.
Instead, they did the opposite.
Few businesses had the budget to create custom ideas for every single platform. So marketers found themselves tasked with creating just a few things that could scale across channels and screen sizes. That led to templated design, dumbed-down video, and imagery from either stock sites or AI-powered generators.
(For what it’s worth, this post was not written by a computer. Or was it?)
Crowdsourcing was the buzzword in about 2006. Why make your own ad when you could create “brand advocates” who’d make it for you? Needless to say, this didn’t happen either. Instead, social media, influencers and creators just got added to the list.
They became one more box marketers had to check.
Three steps to rising above The Churn Cycle.
The upshot of Platform Proliferation and Content Commoditization? Marketers who spend their entire careers in survival mode, forever optimizing, resizing and adding to-dos. No wonder the C-suite thinks of them as makers and managers, not as trusted partners, authority figures or subject matter experts!
To escape The Churn Cycle, we all have to get out of the making-stuff business.
- Establish a plan and OKRs, not just a laundry list of tactics to make.
- Have a unique responsibility and skillset, a reason to be considered essential.
- Create a process that keeps your team engaged, so you don’t slip back into The Churn Cycle.
These three steps are what we’ll focus on in this series of blog posts.
Putting your plan into action.
The first step is to create the OKRs we mentioned above. If you’re new to estound and the Unified Marketing System, OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It’s not a process we invented or even a term we coined, but we believe it’s central to success. And our Unified Marketing System makes it simple to use and deploy.
(Also, welcome to our blog!)
We’ve written about how marketing’s primary purpose is to optimize the ratio of Lifetime Value of a Customer to the Cost to Acquire a Customer. (Or LTV:CAC.) Doing it successfully means identifying OKRs that you can measure and report on throughout the business cycle.
You can read more about OKRs in earlier posts like “Why the ROI of Marketing Tactics Doesn’t Matter” and “Why You Don’t Need an SEO Case Study.” And we’ll come back to them in the third post in this series, too!
The important thing for now is to begin putting a plan down on paper. So if you haven’t already, we recommend downloading a PDF of the estound Marketing Dossier.
(Psst… If you don’t have a plan, there will be exercises in the second and third posts in this series that will help you create it!)
Got your Marketing Dossier rolling? Congrats! You’re already way ahead of most marketing teams.
Now, let’s take it to the next level.
The second post in this series will be about how to create a unique skillset that gives you a voice at the highest, most strategic level.