Marketing is Undervalued, What Do You Do?

Coming to terms with the fact that marketing is undervalued is frustrating, but it’s not the end of the road. There are some companies where marketing is destined to be in that state, but a good marketer (paired with the right partners) can change the trajectory of marketing for an organization. If you’ve recognized the signs that marketing is undervalued, let’s talk about what to do next.

A good way to approach this problem is to see it as building a marketing strategy or a strategic plan. After all, you’re solving a similar problem — how do I get X audience to engage with Y?

Here are a few steps to consider while building that internal marketing plan.

Step 1: Figure out why

Once you know marketing’s internal position, figure out why or how it got there. Many things could have contributed to this, including things that built on each other over time. Marketing often slips into irrelevancy because of these few things:

  • Previous leadership – A former marketing leader may not have been effective, was not a great storyteller, or even had conflict with other leaders. No matter the issue, if a previous leader left a bad impression, you need to know (and understand) that.
  • Lack of leadership – When a leader, good or bad, leaves and isn’t replaced at the same level, that can leave a gap. If there’s no marketing leader at the table, it’s easy for others to develop a lack of understanding (or interest) in that department’s activities and results.
  • AlignmentWhen others believe marketing isn’t directly contributing to the goals and priorities of the business, they believe it doesn’t align with the daily functions of the business.

Understanding your firm’s position on marketing shouldn’t overwhelm you. Use this only to develop a fully realistic picture of what you need to do, not to deter or derail your team.

Step 2: Find allies and enemies

Similarly to defining your end-user audience, outlining internal audiences will help you as you create your strategy. Start by looking for allies and enemies. 

Allies, or advocates, are important. When you start with people who are on your side, it’s easier to gain momentum. However, there are some criteria when choosing the right allies:

  • Positivity – They need to be generally positive, not just about marketing. They should be realistic and firm, but approachable and open-minded
  • Momentum – A person, or team, with momentum is a great resource for you. If marketing can find ways to contribute to that momentum, it will pay dividends in moving your efforts forward.
  • Influence – This is probably the most important criteria. Your ideal ally has internal influence. Their partnership with the marketing team will help win over others. If your team helps them succeed, others will notice.

Enemies are easier to find, and you don’t get to choose them. But don’t let emotions get the best of you. Seek to clearly understand those against your marketing team and keep an eye out for what they value.

Step 3: Listen to both 

At Honestly, we listen before designing any digital experience. We listen to the internal audiences, the positive audiences, and the critical audiences. That’s what you need to do here as well. But what do you need from these groups of people?

You should endeavor to understand:

  • What they value – This will likely need to be asked different ways depending on the team or department internally. Your sales guys (and gals) are going to place value on different things than your human resources people. Tailor the questions and start with your understanding.
  • What they need – We all know that what you value and what you need are two different things. What are these audiences missing that could help them succeed in their roles? 
  • Who their audiences are -They’re interacting with people, internal and external, everyday. Who are those people? What challenges are they faced with?

An important note: don’t make this about marketing. Asking how marketing can help will likely lead you nowhere. This isn’t about marketing first, it’s about their department. Try to stay out of solving their problem in this conversation. 

This step is critical. One of our Honestly values is truly listening and asking the right questions is an invaluable skill. You might find that this is where things start to change. When you enter these interactions intending to listen and learn, you’re going to build trust and start to get noticed. This might be the first time marketing has done this at your company. 

If you’re going to trust an agency to do this, think about how you interacted with that agency during the sale process. Did they ask questions with only the intention of listening? Did they ask additional questions? 

Step 4: Determine your message

Again, there’s no rocket science in how to do this, but there’s important nuance in how it’s done for an internal audience versus external audience.  If you listen and learn from these internal groups, your message should come together easily.

Some examples of internal messages about marketing might be:

  • Success stories – Marketing has to tell it’s own story about what it has done for others. Track these stories and start with the allies you’ve developed in this process. 
  • Priorities – Frame the marketing team’s priorities through the lens of how they serve other teams. You’re not just doing marketing for marketing’s sake, connect the dots for the internal teams.
  • Alignment – Share the department’s goals, write content and text that includes key phrases from other parts of the business. If another department has a well-loved five point promise, use that framework for how marketing will contribute to the business. 

Step 5: Build your plan

Now, you can put this all together. Get specific about how you will leverage internal allies, what channels you will use, and the outcomes to expect.

Things to consider

This can feel like an extra job. You now have a whole additional marketing channel and audience, and you still have your current role. Some of the important things we’ve learned here at Honestly about helping others overcome this challenge are:

  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. There’s no faster way to destroy trust and cause problems than not doing what you said you would do. Set realistic milestones and hit them, every time. Consistency will take you far in the eyes of others.
  • Be practical and don’t overcomplicate it. You don’t need to revolutionize everything. Start by looking at what you’re already doing and examine how you could, with some elbow grease, turn that into an internal message. It’s not about adding tons of tasks to your to-do list; it’s being intentional about communicating with your internal teams.
  • Repeat Step 3 above, over and over again. Listen to them. Then ask again. Even if you’re not sitting down one-on-one with someone, listen to what they’re saying in meetings about other topics. Listen and listen again.
  • Practice telling stories. Develop the habit of sharing the marketing team’s stories. Frame the stories in different ways, so people are interested. If you’ve been in an environment where people don’t value marketing, it’s easy to keep things to yourself. You’re the only one that can break that cycle. And if you have a partner/vendor working with you, they should share stories for you to tell regularly.
Do you need to prove the value of your marketing efforts? Try building an internal marketing plan. Here are 5 steps to help you get started.

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