Do managers really understand what they are managing?


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Marketing is defined as the management process which anticipates and satisfies customer demand profitably. A marketing manager should therefore control the assets and process which collectively satisfy the customer to produce the necessary income. But do marketing managers really understand what they are managing? On the face of it, the answer must be “yes”. But on examination the answer is more equivocal.

In theory, marketing managers should be responsible for all those activities involved in producing profitable income by anticipating and satisfying customer demand, but in practice, this is often not the case. While the other main elements of business, such as finance and production are managed by senior managers with overall responsibility for their respective areas, that of marketing, which is the driving force in producing the business revenue, is frequently not managed in that way at all.

Examination of the marketing press would suggest that many marketers have a different perspective of marketing management and their responsibilities. One has only to see that the predominance of articles in the marketing press that revolve around customer relationship management (CRM), brand, advertising, product perception and public relations. There are also occasional articles on selling, but rarely on sales management. Very little is published about the management of marketing. Many marketers seem to have lost the understanding of marketing as a management function and view it as mainly denoting customer relations and different forms of communication and promotion. It would seem that for many, the role of senior marketing manager or commercial manager as being responsible for the generation of sustainable profitable revenue is not something that they would recognize.

The internationally famous management consultant, the late Peter Drucker once said” if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it”. Thus the effective management of all the assets and resources required to produce profitable income necessitates the use of performance measurements, not just for sales but across all customer related activities. When measuring marketing performance, especially the return on investment (ROI), many marketers often confine their interest to measurements involved with CRM, advertising, promotion and brands. While these performance measurements are important, they are not indicative of the overall performance, for generating revenue

It is generally understood that the majority of marketers only stay in post for 18 months to 2 years, thus their outlook is essentially limited. However, business and marketing plans are normally prepared as a five year rolling plan with annual reviews, thus to be effective, such plans need long term management. Frequent changes of management are not compatible with the effective execution of such plans

If marketers aspire to reach senior management as commercial managers, with the overall responsibility for producing profitable income, they must learn to speak the language of profit, revenue and costs. As commercial managers, marketers must be able to quantify and demonstrate in relevant performance measurements, the contribution to the business of their various customer related activities, both for the immediate and the long term, and not confine themselves to their own particular specializations. This means that they must be able to understand and manage all the resources necessary for producing income, including the sales function, in an integrated manner. In short, if marketing is a management function, then it requires professional managers to operate it. To that end, marketers will have to prove themselves be good leaders, managers and motivators, able to think strategically for the long term development of the business. Those who consider marketing to be about brand and communications, especially through social media, limit themselves and the importance of their contribution. Business is about profit and profit is about revenue and costs, not brand and image.

Commercial mangers have the responsibility of maximising profitable income for the long term future of the business, by getting and retaining the custom which produces the necessary income. While creativity and imagination are required to produce products and services to meet customer demand, commercial managers need primarily to be effective and efficient managers rather than being creative themselves. They must ensure that all the workforce understand that individually and collectively, their actions affect customer perceptions and satisfaction, which ultimately effects the level of income on which they all depend. Instilling enthusiasm, motivation creativity and expertise is not simply a matter of communication, but of effective management and leadership. Financially literacy is also essential for efficient management, in order to understand the costs of income generation

Commercial managers need to ensure that all contributing directly or indirectly to satisfying customer requirements have:

  • A clear understanding of their objectives
  • Clear reporting lines to the commercial manager
  • A full understanding of all the processes for which the commercial manager has overall responsibility
  • Supervision of all activities but avoiding micro management.
  • An integrated team spirit so that all problems are discussed.
  • A regular reporting system that identifies all important activities, the relevant progress and highlights any problems.

As executives responsible for generating income, commercial managers should be judged on the amount of money produced and their financial efficiency in its production. While brand awareness and market share may have their importance, only sustainable profitable income via effective management, provides businesses with long term viability, and their employees and shareholders with a future.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 18 Mar 24

Nicholas Watkis, AE MA DipM CMC FCIM
Nicholas Watkis set up Contract Marketing Service in 1981, providing professional interim marketing management for a wide variety of businesses. Over 30 years practical experience in organizations, large and small, national and international, led to the development of Business Performance Maximized specialist in marketing performance measurement.


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