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The Marketing Director Is THE hope of Small Business

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The following is my first installment from a new book I'm writing (my third) on the important and pivotal role of today's Marketing Director: The Marketing Director is THE hope of Small Business

Marketing Directors are the literal connecting point between company and customer, linking message and promise to need. With proper care and feeding, the marketing director's value to their small business is unmatched.

What is "small" business?
So we're on the same page, when I speak of small business I'm referring to companies with 5-99 employees.

Small does not equal micro, SOHO (small office-home office) or one-man bands. And small business certainly does not include the millions of part-time hobbies masquerading as small businesses.

Small businesses consistently generate revenue. They have sales people (translation: the owner isn't the only one selling). They have customers. They may or may not be profitable. Some grow like weeds while many others have flat or modest year-over-year growth. More than 90 percent are privately held.

There are at least 2.2 million small businesses in the U.S. with 5-99 employees according to the latest U.S. census data. If the FORTUNE500® has, well, 500 companies, small business, taken as a whole, is 4,400 times larger.

Marketing's NEW Leading Role
At a macro level, it's important to understand a new, key megatrend. Research upon research confirms today's customer buying behavior is unlike any prior timeframe. Now when a new supplier is needed, at least 70 percent of all buyers begin their search online. This is true for consumers and for business purchases.

Gone are the days of customer telephone calls (or letters in earlier periods) to likely vendors for scheduling in-person introductory presentations and demonstrations. Nobody does this stuff anymore. It's just not as efficient as global web searches of billions of web pages, live and prerecorded webinars, comparison websites, buyer forums and customer reviews.

That's not to say sales people are no longer part of the process. Their role is actually more critical than ever (see Corporate Executive Board: The Challenger Sale). It's just that sales people get involved at much later stages in the buying process.

And no, it's not different in your industry.

Today, the initial conduit between buyer and vendor is an Internet web search. And since Google has two-thirds of the search market, by definition, Google not only dominates (obviously), they are the most important cog in a company's revenue-generation machine.

So where does Google get the data to feed into its massive search engine? No surprise: The data comes directly from all those billions of web pages they've so conveniently indexed. All those words on all those web pages have been extracted, categorized and stored away into a gargantuan database... making it possible to provide relevant links for you when you search for the latest report on ceramic brakes, an emergency dentist or Katy Perry's real name.

Consequently, if your company's website is invisible or has just a smidgen of relevant content, you're toast. Plain and simple: You don't stand a chance against your competitors.

The good news for small business is that search engines make no attempt to distinguish between big companies and small ones. Score one for leveling the playing field for small business.

Marketing Director 1.0
If you happen to own or work for a small business (statistically it's a 50 percent chance you do), you should be asking, "Who's in charge of all of this important stuff?"

Regardless of your role, your livelihood (and future paychecks) may depend upon the answer.
In the pre-Google era, marketing activities were managed by a 1.0-version Marketing Director responsible for design and delivery of sales support materials, tradeshows, direct mail and the company's brand.

1.0 Marketing Directors provided meaningful work. Your own company most likely benefited from a consistent message, coordinated image and marketing campaigns that connected potential buyers with your sales team in the form of a reader-response "bingo" card, tradeshow badge-swipe or inbound telephone call. In that age buyers, for the most part, disclosed name, rank and serial number.

Nice and tidy. Simple delineation of roles and duties.

It was relatively easy for a 1.0 Marketing Director to hide (if they wanted to). Almost by-design, the sales force insulated marketers from day-to-day customer contact, filtering a lot of important customer data before passing it up down the line. It took something on the order of an Act of Congress for Sales to approve marketing interviews with real, live, breathing customers.

Marketing also had no permanent seat at the table when it came to weekly sales meetings or biannual business forecasts. God-forbid a Marketing Director ask too many questions about deals stuck in the pipeline and lost business.

And when it came to calculating a company's return on its advertising "investment," fuzzy-math prevailed. Seems everyone accepted the hundred year-old Wanamaker saw about half of marketing going to waste because it wasn't humanly possible to know for sure which half was failing.

Insulated. Isolated. Lack of clear accountability. As I said, it was easy to hide.

But no more.

Marketing Director 2.0
Once the purview of sales, the new Google-enabled buying process (where Sales enters the buying process later) transfers much of the responsibility for customer nurturing to Marketing. This puts the Marketing Director on the very front lines as the point-person for the buyer's "journey" with their company.

Is your stomach churning yet?

Marketers must now speak the conversational language of customers and sales. [Note to self: send Marketing Director to the next product and sales training workshops]

For the first time it's possible to link hundreds of various inputs from internal sources like engineering, sales and customer service with external feeds such as Internet search-related keywords, online advertising, competitor social media, third-party recommendations and all sorts of touch points into a model that yields profitable customers and measurable ROI.

It's the catbird seat of the entire outreach-to-engagement-to-customer cycle and the essential job description for today's Marketing Director.