Last night, as I was sipping a White Russian, and wondering if the 1/2 and 1/2 had spoiled, it dawned on me that the role of Marketing at technical companies has evolved. When I first strapped on the Product Management straitjacket, back in the late 1990’s, the role was far less defined that it is today. My first boss was a Director of Marketing. He wasn’t a Marketing Communications person; we had a core group in the headquarters that did that.
We wrote market definitions, we did Voice of the Customer exercises, we drafted press releases, data sheets, sales presentations, we did sales training, we helped close deals, we collaborated with key customers on technical papers submitted to conferences, we kept abreast of our technology and market. We did competitive analyses; we did SWOT analyses. We did win/loss analyses. In short, we did Marketing.
Today, it seems that the Marketing group has become much more aligned with the communications function. Less to do with competitive analysis, customer requirements gathering, and targeted sales materials. The Social Media storm, and all the web marketing pretty butterflies have moved that group into a new realm. Couple that with the trend (welcomed) to move Product Management into a unified group, reporting to the GM or CEO, with a seat at the leadership table, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.
For one, it formalizes the metrics, the call to action, and the detailed product responsibilities into one contiguous group. As this evolution was underway, there was ambiguity as Marketing became more focused, and as Product Management/Product Marketing was finding its sea legs. I was pretty fortunate that I was at one job for 6 years while this evolution was happening, and I was able to ride and guide it without having to job hop.
But I am concerned about the status and future for my Marketing friends. As their roles become more compartmentalized, and their specialization becomes more focused, the risk is that they become completely commoditized. Then they can be replaced with a service. The first time they outsourced a layout project was the beginning of the end. There are dozens of vehicles to outsource your lead generation, and if that is all that marketing has become, then … you can read the tea leaves.
Product Management, regardless of where it reports to in the organization, is, and will remain the primary owner of the real marketing in an organization.