It was HP co-founder, David Packard, of all people, who came up with one of my all-time favorite quotes on marketing, specifically that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
This quote is often mentioned in the same breath as these famous Peter Drucker quotes:
- “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation.”
- “Marketing is not only much broader than selling, it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view.”
I’ve always been a big believer in the last statement — that marketing is the whole business seen from the point of view of the customer — and that statement often guided me during my marketing career, including many years as a CMO. Marketing isn’t just tactical — it’s also quite strategic — and the strategic part is why it’s too important to be left to the marketing department (alone). The CEO can’t confuse delegation with abdication and move all strategy over the marketing department.
On the flip side, too many marketing departments “go tactical” and ignore their strategic obligations and opportunities.
If you burn a SaaS business down to two things, Drucker’s quote is pretty dead on:
- We acquire customers
- We deliver them a service
Marketing has both a strategic and tactical role in both.
- Strategically, marketing can help define the target market, the buyer persona (i.e., the person who we are selling to), what problem we are solving for them, and why they might want to buy from us. Marketing can also play an important role in definition of service, not just looking out for customers (as sales and product management tend to by default) but also by keeping an eye on competitors and market trends.
- Tactically, over the past 20 years, marketing has been given more and more ownership for creating the sales pipeline. (See Predictable Revenue or From Impossible to Inevitable.) While CMOs of the past were largely strategic product marketers with some demandgen chops, CMOs of the future better be ambidextrous when it comes to skills and equally passionate about pipeline generation as they are about product positioning.
Great marketers strive for and hit a balance between tactical and strategic contribution. Tactical is table stakes — if you can’t fill the pipeline, the salespeople will come for you with dogs and torches like the villagers in Frankenstein.
But preventing that isn’t the point. The point is to keep the villagers happy wile making a strategic contribution to building a great company. Which is the part of marketing that’s too important to be left to the marketing department — but which is the part that marketing itself shouldn’t abdicate.