Remote Possibilities? Social Distancing and the Magnification of Marketing

Organizations that are appropriately staffed, skilled, and resourced in the marketing function during times of social distancing and congregate setting restrictions may experience less revenue generation continuity challenges based on unforeseen events and incidents than organizations that have selectively neglected this crucial area.

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Editor’s Note: Unforeseen and unpredictable events like the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are accelerating business transitions to remote work. These events are also putting new pressures on organizations to continue favorable revenue generation trajectories in times where social distancing (1) and congregate setting (2) restrictions are changing the way business can be done safely. One area that is being strongly impacted by the accelerated shift to remote-centric business is the functional area of marketing, as the shift is magnifying the posture of marketing organizations regarding staffing, skills, and resources. This marketing posture magnification may be more comfortable for some organizations than for others. However, it is a magnification that all organizations need to consider.

The Magnification of Marketing

The challenge of aligning marketing objectives and marketing resources is difficult for organizations in the best of times. Competing views and experiences on the best way to close the last three feet with customers along with contending departments and personalities increase the difficulty of this challenge. In revenue-rich times of high business confidence, this challenge may be marginalized in the minds of executive decision-makers and seen as a non-revenue impacting issue. The reason for this marginalization stems simply from the fact that organizational revenue generation meets leadership expectations; thus, marketing resource decisions are considered to be correct. However, what happens when events and incidents interrupt the ordinary course of revenue generation activities and revenue streams are adversely impacted based on social distancing and congregate setting restrictions? What happens is the magnification of marketing. 

The magnification of marketing highlights an organization’s marketing ability or lack of ability to support a strategic shift from personality-driven revenue generation efforts over an unrestricted number of conduits ranging from personal meetings, small group briefings, and significant congregational events, to remote-centric revenue generation efforts heavily augmented through digital channels ranging from webcasts and websites to social media and email campaigns. (3) This magnification unveils the structural soundness or lack of soundness of the organization regarding the ability to support essential marketing functions in times of increased output requirements, highlighting staffing and skill set deficiencies. 

Organizations that have appropriately resourced marketing efforts with the proper skills and staff should be able to pivot with the strategic shift to a remote-centric workplace and have a competitive advantage over organizations that have selectively neglected necessary marketing functions. 

Organizations that have not adequately invested in marketing efforts or that have not used current resources in a skill-set appropriate manner will be at a competitive disadvantage with the strategic shift to a remote-centric workplace. Unfortunately, the marketing teams in these under-resourced organizations will also bear the brunt of the stress created by past resource decisions. Those marketing teams will be required to ramp rapidly to meet awareness needs, messaging requirements, and communication channel demands of the remote-centric workplace. This ramping will take time and resources and, given the potential drop off in short term revenue due to the inevitable and accelerating shift of businesses to a remote-centric workplace, will require swift, decisive decisions and steadfast support related to additional marketing investment.

Background Information and Considerations

The Asterisk Items: Marketing Focus and Function

While not definitive, the following marketing focus and function listing is a reasonable starting point for an organization’s examination of the alignment of marketing objectives and resources.

Marketing Focus

  • Reach
  • Inform
  • Engage
  • Encourage

Marketing Functions (4,5)

  • Product Marketing
  • Communications Marketing
  • Demand Generation
  • Business Development
  • Customer Marketing
  • Marketing Operations

It is unreasonable to think every organization will have trained and dedicated individuals allocated and accountable for all of these functions. However, it is reasonable that organizations prioritize these functions and the tasks within each function and resource the marketing team appropriately to support priority tasks while not holding the marketing team accountable for the accomplishment of selectively neglected tasks.

Examining Marketing Functions 

  • Responsibility: Do we have an individual or team responsible for each marketing function?
  • Training: Are the individuals or teams responsible for each marketing function trained properly and experienced enough to accomplish the requirements of the function?
  • Allocation: Are the individuals or teams responsible for each marketing function allocated the proper resources (e.g., time, money, talent) to support the function successfully?
  • Accountability: Are the individual or teams held accountable for results for the accomplishment of assigned marketing functions?

Marketing Team Size Considerations: A General Rule of Thumb 

For business-to-business (B2B) companies with revenue generation built on and maximized by long-term relationships, it appears reasonable to have at least one marketing team member for every $15 million in revenue up to the point where the organization reaches $100M in revenue. As organizations grow beyond $100M, this very general rule of thumb may change, with organizations requiring fewer marketing team members to support each $15M increment of revenue. The reason this rule of thumb changes in companies with more than $100M in revenue is because when team sizes reach between 5-10 marketers, marketing teams usually have begun to focus on all core marketing functions and marketing processes in each functional area start to drive output instead of being primarily driven by the capabilities of individual marketers.

As marketing team size grows, the composition of that team will benefit from a transition from generalists with marketing expertise across a broad range of functions and task skill sets to specialists with task expertise in specific marketing functions. Understanding a team’s size and its output is only one indicator of team productivity as the primary objective is to enable revenue generation. However, balancing the desired output from a marketing team with appropriate team sizes is essential to both achieving organizational marketing objectives and preventing underutilization or burnout of individual marketers. 

A Change in Workplace Dynamics and Needs

The shifting to a remote-work centric workplace will not happen overnight, yet once the shifting starts, it will immediately begin to affect the ways organizations conduct business. The most significant changes created in a shift to a remote-work centric workplace from a marketing perspective may be the increased availability of time of remote workers to think and the increased flexibility of remote workers to communicate with others. 

Company employees, current customers, and potential customers alike will have increased time to consider and evaluate new and better ways to address challenges solved or supported by a company’s portfolio of products or services. This increased availability of time most probably will drive an increased need for information on those products or services to inform thinking, discussions, and decisions. Additionally, what previously may have only been appropriately communicated in a face-to-face environment or an onsite group meeting may now be acceptably shared online and digitally. This increase in available time and communication flexibility will correspondingly increase the demands on marketing teams to deliver content and communication conduits to support internal needs and external requests.

The accelerated shift to a remote-work centric workplace will magnify the need for organizations to prioritize marketing functions and resource them appropriately to maintain favorable revenue trajectories. Several needs requiring immediate focus are awareness, content, and communications conduits. 

  • Increased need for awareness driven by coordinated digital communications and remote-activities as personality-driven individual meetings and group gathering opportunities may be limited.
  • Increased need for informative and targeted content as customers and potential customers may have increased time available to consider and evaluate decisions thoroughly and thoughtfully.
  • Increased need for communications conduits and information distribution channels as social distancing and congregate setting restrictions may impact organizational sales and customer support efforts. 

Ramifications of Inadequate Marketing Resources

  • Inadequacy to Support a Strategic Shift to Remote-Centric Workforces
  • Inability to Address New Marketing Opportunities
  • Selective Neglect of Necessary Marketing Tasks
  • Bias in Choosing Marketing Courses of Action
  • Inefficient Use of Non-Marketing Resources
  • Lack of Executional Expertise in Translating Plans into Action
  • Misdirected Frustration with Marketing Team for Lack of Marketing Resources

Reality, Rationalization, Reconciliation

The reality is that understaffing the marketing function is generally the rule, not the exception. Some organizational leaders consider chronic understaffing of marketing as a badge of courage, showing that they are focused more on the highly visible last three feet of the customer relationship than on building the highway to that last three feet in conjunction with marketing. What those leaders fail to understand and appreciate is the impact that the highway to the last three feet has in supporting revenue generation and customer satisfaction success.

Organizations typically rationalize this understaffing by concluding that the value of marketing investment in staffing does not have the same direct revenue contribution impact as an investment in sales and business staffing. This rationalization may be based on the fact that the organization is meeting revenue expectations, and in doing this must have an appropriate alignment of staff and resources focused on marketing. Unfortunately, in many cases, this meeting of revenue expectations is achieved despite the lack of investment in marketing, rather than because of proper resourcing. 

Reconciling the reality and rationalization of marketing resourcing decisions requires an intellectually honest assessment and courage to make investment and staffing decisions that may be the best for long term success of the organization but do not look good on the short term financial spreadsheet. This is especially difficult with the introduction of investors and executive leaders who are seeking to optimize earnings to achieve a specific business objective within a defined timeframe and may be willing to accept short term inefficiencies in marketing to meet near term financial objectives. It is absolutely reasonable for organizations to focus on short term financial objectives and limit marketing investment to support the achievement of those objectives. However, it is also reasonable to align expectations for the marketing function with the actual resources allocated to support that function.

The Bottom Line

Organizations that are appropriately staffed, skilled, and resourced in the marketing function during times of social distancing and congregate setting restrictions may experience less revenue generation continuity challenges based on unforeseen events and incidents than organizations that have selectively neglected this crucial area.


Definitions

Congregate settings are crowded public places where close contact with others may occur. 

Functional areas are distinct groupings of individuals around tasks designed to accomplish specific objectives. 

Marketing functions are groupings of tasks designed to accomplish specific marketing objectives in support of organizational business goals. Example of marketing functions and corresponding tasks, as shared Gabe Larsen, VP of Growth at Kustomer, (6) include:

  • Product Marketing (Market Intelligence, Company Positioning, Sales Enablement, Product Content, Analyst Relations)
  • Communications Marketing (Design, Public Relations, Content, Social Media, Internal Communications)
  • Demand Generation (Events, Account-Based Marketing, Campaign Management, Web Development, Email Automation, SEO, SEM, Conversion, Partner Marketing)
  • Business Development (Identify, Contact, Qualify, Pass)
  • Customer Marketing (Reputation, Community, Communication)
  • Marketing Operations (Process, Systems, Budget, Reporting)

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.


References

(1) “Interim US Guidance For Risk Assessment And Public Health Management Of Persons With Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposures: Geographic Risk And Contacts Of Laboratory-Confirmed Cases”. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html. Accessed 9 Mar 2020.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Robinson, Rob. “The Fabric Of Digital Marketing: A Concise List Of Tools”. Complexdiscovery, 2019, https://complexdiscovery.com/the-fabric-of-digital-marketing-a-concise-list-of-tools/. Accessed 9 Mar 2020.

(4) “Definition: Marketing Function”. Businessdictionary.Com, 2020, http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/marketing-function.html. Accessed 9 Mar 2020.

(5) Tunguz, Tomasz. “The Saas Marketing Scorecard – How Does Your Marketing Operation Rank?”. Tomtunguz.Com, 2020, https://tomtunguz.com/saas-marketing-scorecard/. Accessed 9 Mar 2020.

(6) Ibid.


Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

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