Bad education: Is ignorance marring your marketing management?by
Commercial managers are responsible for producing the flow of profitable income for their business. As such, they are responsible for managing all those various activities which collectively anticipate and satisfy customer demand profitably. In larger companies, many of these particular activities will be managed by specialists, while in smaller businesses, the commercial manager may have direct responsibility for some or all of these specific areas.
In principle, the core elements of customer-related business - that is, marketing research, product development, advertising, promotion and product fulfilment - remain the same. However, the development of new technology, especially in relation to the application of IT to business operations, has changed and is changing rapidly.
Nowhere are these changes and developments more apparent than in the areas of advertising and promotion, which have been revolutionised by the rapid emergence of social media and customer relationship management. The use of Twitter and Facebook have become major customer communication channels, and an essential part of customer-related activity, especially in consumer markets. Keeping up with these developments may be difficult but is essential if commercial managers are to be able to control their total responsibilities effectively.
Although commercial managers may be professionally qualified as accountants, engineers, or as marketers, and while many of them may also have MBAs, they also need to have at least a rudimentary working knowledge of all the activities for which they have overall responsibility, especially in these new areas of social media and online business. The responsibility for motivating and managing those employees who undertake such specialist activities, lies with the commercial manager, thus it is vital that they have at least a working knowledge of these areas in order to oversee them effectively.
Continual professional development is increasingly regarded as a general requirement for all executives in companies.
Where commercial managers are reliant on employees with superior expertise in specific fields, it is important that they do not try to micro manage those areas but allow staff to be free to carry out their responsibilities within the constraints of their job description and targets, while monitoring performance through regular reports and frequent dialogue,
However, problems arise when senior managers do not fully understand the activities for which they have overall responsibilities. A lack of necessary understanding can often discourage senior management from asking relevant and informed questions, either through over confidence in their subordinate executives’ abilities, or through fear of revealing their own ignorance to better qualified employees.
Keeping your finger on the pulse
To maintain satisfactory understanding of all aspects of their total responsibilities, commercial managers need to ensure that they;
- Educate themselves through reading or by attending courses to extend their knowledge of new technology and its practical applications, as well as any other business subject they think necessary.
- Ensure that responsibilities for specialist commercial activities are delegated to suitably qualified employees.
- Question employees to get them to explain in plain language, new methods, processes and ideas in order to establish mutual understanding.
- Determine with specialist staff what inputs and outputs can be effectively measured to establish levels of performance.
- Ensure that all reports are written in plain language, without the use of “jargon” to ensure clarity and understanding.
- Maintain informed dialogue with employees responsible for specific activities. This will help to establish mutual trust and understanding between both parties.
While the principles of business remain the same, managers and commercial managers in particular need to keep up to date with rapidly changing and developing ideas, especially with the application of technology. For this reason, continual professional development is increasingly regarded as a general requirement for all executives in companies.
If commercial managers do not have the knowledge or sufficient understanding of all those activities for which they hold ultimate responsibility, they will not be in a position to ask relevant and purposeful questions. In the fast changing areas of social media, supply chain management, and CRM, knowledge is power but a lack of knowledge shows a weakness, leaving the commercial manager vulnerable to the charge of not being fully in control of their responsibilities. If the commercial manger does not know about or understand an activity for which they hold responsibility, they have no excuse for not asking relevant questions.