The timing of this blog is apt. The role of Marketing in the Executive is currently being debated in companies across the globe. While the functions of Finance, Operations, Human Resources and General Management are traditionally well established on Boards of Directors, the role of Marketing has been excluded. It is now starting to be viewed in a more strategic manner.
Should Marketing be represented at a Board level?
I refer specifically to a series of studies on the role of the Marketer on company Boards by Kimberly A Whitler. Kimberly is a regular Forbes writer and Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Darden School of Business, University of Virginia. She says: “In a world where growth is more challenged, marketing becomes more important. Because marketers are the engine for growth in the company.” In her research, she talks a lot about Marketing metrics (performance measurement), which are now more advanced than ever before.
What does this mean for School Marketers?
In a previous blog entitled ‘Structuring Your Marketing Team’ I laid out 3 key criteria to apply when considering the structure of your Marketing Department: Structure follows Strategy, the Sales and Marketing Conundrum and Insourcing, Outsourcing & Automation. In this blog, I reflect on the role of Marketing in the executive structures of the organisation.
School Marketing has been treated as an Administrative function for many years, and this is starting to show. The role may be heavily operational, but without a strategic angle, the impact and effectiveness is bound to be limited. It is what we allow it to be. As Sun Tsu wrote: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
There are two ways this concept can be of value to your school if implemented and optimised:
- The Board/Exco empowering the School Marketer with strategic insight
- The School Marketer empowering the Board/Exco with strategic insight
The Board/Exco empowering the School Marketer with strategic insight
In the first instance, a School Marketer that works without being plugged into the strategic direction and decisions of the organisation will tend to work in a heavily operational way (let’s say 98% operational, 2% strategic). The result? Great marketing ideas and messages, but there is a risk that there is a misalignment, despite all the busy output. Impact is reduced.
The School Marketer empowering the Board/Exco with strategic insight
In the second instance, a Board or Exco that works without the School Marketer’s input on a consistent basis will tend to be less customer-focused, less in touch with the needs of the market. This can negatively affect growth, efficiency and brand.
How to make it work for your school?
Now both of the above options, 1 or 2, may be okay for your organisation. But the direction of independent schooling in South Africa reflects a different picture.There is a growing need to be more in touch with the market, with a stronger alignment between the day to day marketing and the overall strategic direction, values, mission and vision of the school.
Both 1 and 2 are important. It is not a one-way street. A School Marketer who is only asked to do a Marketing Plan presentation annually to the Board is not being utilised optimally for the good of that organisation.
Do I believe that the School Marketer should be represented on the executive? Yes I do.
Do I believe that the School Marketer should be represented on the Board? Yes I do.
This does not mean a top-heavy Marketing Department. It simply means that we need to work smarter to find ways to give a voice to our marketers in strategic discussions and to listen to them when they speak about the customer, the market trends and the areas that need attention in the marketing efforts.
It’s a sensitive topic. Structure always is. But it’s important for the organisation to work well.
Remember Sun Tzu’s words: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
I'm Keryn House
I enjoy creating marketing anecdotes and visuals related to my horse as there is a lot to be learned from animals, and this provides a unique context to my writing. My horse Slick (aka Sports Express) has been with me for many years and is a source of inspiration and relaxation for my strategic mind. He lives on a friend’s farm in KZN and I see him twice a week.
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