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The Marketing Manager and the Orchestra

I cross paths with many marketing managers, they are often my primary business contact and they generally fall in to two categories – the tactical and the strategic.
I’m a designer, by education and experience, and worked within a marketing department for several years. I got the bug for marketing and now advise my clients on their own marketing strategies. I have always believed that marketing is ‘not rocket science’ and I know this is a view shared by many ‘seasoned’ marketers.

Like creative arts, marketing is often seen as a ‘sexy’ career choice. It generally aligns itself to the creative disciplines and in truth, the best commercial designers have an affinity with marketing.

Strategic vs tactical marketing

Although marketing relies on creativity, it is not a creative discipline. But all too often, marketers get drawn in to the ‘doing’ instead of the ‘thinking’. And this then splits them into the tactical and the strategic. The tactical are the do-ers and the strategic are the thinkers. This may seem a generalization but in my university (read polytechnic) years, my graphics course embraced a very wide range of disciplines, far more than todays courses. We were taught to have a general awareness of every aspect of the graphics world and one theme was the role of the typographer. The view, back then, was that the typographer sat at the centre of the creative process and acted as a conductor of a creative orchestra. Typographers are now almost defunct as a standalone role, but I like the analogy of the conductor and the orchestra.

This brings me back to the tactical and strategic marketers. Marketing is as much science as it is art. Employing marketing principles should be done strategically; employing marketing practices should be done tactically.

This is where we introduce the marketing manager to the orchestra.

Far too often a marketing manager role is expected to carry out both strategic and tactical tasks. They create the email templates, create the web offers, create the flyers, create the odd web banner etc etc. This is largely because the software is easy to obtain and online solutions are geared for the DIY marketer. Some marketing managers do this reasonably well, but this is not what a marketing manager should be doing.

I believe marketing managers should be seen as the composer and conductor at the head of an orchestra. They should write the music (the marketing plan or campaign) raise the conductor’s baton and make sure the orchestra (marketing team) is playing the tune as they want it to be heard.

The marketing team can be internal or external and will probably be a mixture of both. But the crucial thing is separating the strategic from the tactical – the planning and vision from the creating and doing.

This is even more important in a multi-channel environment and a typical marketing ‘orchestra’ is likely to look like this:

It is often very hard to get marketers, or business principals, to understand the basic difference between tactical and strategic planning. The conductor/orchestra model will hopefully add some clarity.

Strategic marketing requires a thorough understanding of customer trends and buying habits of your target market, from this you formulate your marketing plan and goals. The marketing plan becomes the musical score with which to align your orchestra. They need to be aware of your goals and what you need to achieve. It has to be fiscally and conceptually sound, with each member of the orchestra understanding the part they have to play and when.

The tactical marketing planning must ensure that all the collateral and activity required to fulfill the goals of the strategic plan are in place. The right instruments have to be played, with the right notes at the right time. And if it all comes together you measure how well the music sounds by the response from your customers. You may get the odd ‘bum note’ – but then that is what testing is for.