The great strength of the Roman army was its organisation. But just how well do marketers organise their departments and their activities? Nicholas Watkis examines what marketers can learn from the Roman way.
For over 700 years the Roman army, both Republican and Imperial, was very successful in the majority of its campaigns. That success was despite the fact that for much of the time the Roman army did not have superiority in numbers or in weapon technology to its adversaries. The great strength of the Roman army lay in its superior organisation, command structure, logistics, training and leadership. It was said of the Roman army that its “drills were bloodless battles; its battles bloody drills.”(Josephus, - “The Jewish War”).
Considering that marketing often absorbs quite a lot of investment in order to produce profitable revenue, its efficient organisation ought to be of major importance. But just how well do marketers organise their departments and their activities? If the principle marketing executives happened to fall under a bus, how well would the business function without them? How easy would it be for someone to seamlessly take control over the marketing decision making and management?
Marketers rarely admit to having all the resources that they think they need, but how well do they use the resources and assets that they have? How well organised are marketers’ assets and processes to achieve their marketing objectives? As with any activity, if marketing operations are directed to achieve specific objectives, all the resources will require organising accordingly.
Marketing involves all those activities which directly or indirectly produce the necessary income on which a business depends. The task of chief marketing officer (CMO) is to maximise the level of profitable income while minimising costs and the use of assets. Because marketing involves many diverse activities and disciplines, such as research, sales, advertising, promotion, planning, it is essential that all its resources are managed efficiently and effectively, It is therefore the responsibility of the CMO to direct the effective organisation of assets, finance and especially, personnel.
The principles for the organisation of the marketing function are no different from those of other business areas and disciplines. A business organisation tends to work best when its structure is:
- Flexible and capable of adaption to meet changing requirements
Marketers need to understand that the marketing function does not stand or operate in isolation from the rest to the business, but is an integral part, responsible for producing the income on which the business depends for its existence. It is therefore incumbent upon the CMO is to ensure that all the marketing staff, understand how the rest of the business is organised. They need to know how the various functions and departments are subordinated, what their functions and responsibilities are, and the identities of the principle personnel. Marketers should have a similar understanding of how their own department functions, especially concerning who has what responsibility and authority.
Each member of the marketing staff should have a clear job description. This should not be prescriptive, but should define their subordination, principle tasks, responsibilities and authority. CMOs need to ask:
- Do all marketing staffs have clear objectives, both individual and collective?
- Do they also have clear lines of responsibilities, communication and authority?
- Are all these clearly understood by all the marketing staff?
While businesses put considerable effort into developing an annual marketing planning process, in many businesses, much less effort is put into ensuring that there is an effective organisation to carry it out. As with most business functions, marketing staffs tend to work better when there is a clearly under stood routine of activity. However, one of the most important aspects of any business or marketing structure is to be able to cope with changing conditions, and especially unexpected events. Efficient internal communications can ensure that all marketing decision makers are informed of all current and planned activities. This is especially important when marketing staff leave or are absent, so that others are able to take over their workload to maintain the continuity of actions.
Marketing plans are not simply a blue print for using marketing resources and investment to achieve specific marketing objectives. Quite often businesses leave out the most important aspect of business and marketing planning, which is how to deal with the unexpected event. How many businesses actually have a contingency plan for such occasions? What do the marketing team do if the projected sales do not come in as planned? What actions are to be taken if the revenue is below what was planned? Or what should be done if demand is outstripping supply?
The Roman army was trained and organised to meet every eventuality, both expected and unexpected. Marketers must similarly organise themselves and their resources in order to deal with any change in market conditions or circumstance, and especially any unforeseen event. Being well trained and organised will help to ensure that the level of developed income can be maintained without interruption, despite changing conditions and unexpected events.
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Nicholas Watkis is the founder of Contract Marketing Service, established in 1981. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a certified management consultant of the Institute of Business Consultancy. His new publication How Good is Your Marketing? will be published in November 2009.