Are Your Bean Counters Stifling Marketing Creativity?


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A few months ago I posted on this blog about how and why small companies can think big. It’s like the small, fast cars on the race track. Smaller players can act fast because they are nimble enough and have a streamlined decision making process. Unlike most large organizations and IT giants that frequently or sometimes even chronically suffer “analysis-paralysis”, small and medium companies have the ability to move faster. They have the potential to get ahead of their bigger competition.

I was just reading Car Guys Versus Bean Counters: the Battle for the Soul of American Business, by Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors. In this “battle” that had spectators and speculators worldwide, the obvious “villains” turned out to be the “bean counters” at GM. Lutz identifies 1977 as the year when the seat of power shifted from the bold advocates of design, the car guys to the “empire of finance, accounting, law and order”. A very interesting quote from the book:

“Waste, arrogance and hubris are never desirable characteristics, but the company rid itself of these at a terrible price. The ebullient, seductive volcano of creation had been transformed into a quiet mountain with a gently smoking hole at the top, spewing forth mediocrity upon mediocrity. This shift to the predictable, so seductive to the bean counters, destroyed the company’s ability to compete and conquer.”

What happened to GM was and to a large extent, is still happening in many large organizations, particularly at large IT companies and vendor organizations. The C Suite, the Bean Counters yield the clout and the Car Guys, the marketing experts, the lead generation heroes struggle to shake the shackles and get rid of handcuffs.

Decentralize Lead Generation – Enable Marketing Autonomy

What we are seeing in the last 5 years has been a large centralization of power through the CMO office resulting in more problems than solutions. Where’s the lead generation creativity and decision making ability of the local markets? Operating like a large, centralized seat of bureaucracy has generated “vanilla” solutions that move slowly and deliver mediocre results.

In my opinion, the rallying call now is: Give more autonomy to marketing departments. Let the marketing expert control the budget for lead generation, promotions and sales programs. Stop handcuffing them with budgets and give them autonomy to do their jobs. Before you ask what is wrong with our marketing department look at yourselves. Ask: Are you providing all the tools and the decision-making power to your marketing department? If you aren’t, then stop pointing fingers and be aware that the mountain you are sitting on will one day, soon, erupt and spew like it did at General Motors. If you are, then have faith that they will leverage these to the greater good of your organization; i.e., more leads, more sales, more profit.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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