Role of Marketing Managers




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Role of Marketing Managers in Global Services

By Arun Kottolli

In services oriented company, the role of the marketing managers extends beyond that of marketing to customers. Marketing managers have to take on additional roles of quality control, organizational change director, marketing facilitators, image manager, and strategic leader.

The need for a vastly expanded role is there because marketing managers need to convert marketing into a line function by working with frontline employees to turn them on to marketing. The best Marketing managers seek to capitalize when service production occurs at the point of sale.

Turning Marketing into a Line Function

"In service business the most effective marketing directors turn marketing into a line function"

In service business the least effective marketing department executive strive to be clever marketers; the most effective executives strive to turn everyone else in the organization into clever marketers. Their philosophy is helping the organization to become a marketing institution, rather than doing the marketing for the organization.

Tom Fitzgerald, VP of Corporate Marketing for ARA Services, an international , diversified service company with more than $4 billion in sales, suggests three things marketing mangers to do:

  1. Determine the level of the "marketing mentality" in your business. You may have to generate a complete change in culture or simply fine-tuning.

  2. Integrate your marketing orientation into operations by developing a combined "business plan" (which includes marketing) rather than a separate "marketing plan" - this helps unify the organization rather than dividing it.

  3. Don't try to create a large, separate marketing department. A services business needs only a few marketing specialists who understand the operations culture and who will help keep the organization focused on the customer.

Cornerstone Roles

In service business, a marketing mentality is like a garden of customer-responsive strategies, attitudes, habits, skills, knowledge, systems, and tools that exist in an organization at any time. With proper attention and nurturing the plants flourish; without these, the garden will die. The marketing manager is responsible for making the marketing garden to flourish . He or she does not need a big entourage or fancy trappings to do this. What the mangers does need is a bold vision off what the garden can be and a strong commitment to keeping the garden healthy and growing all the time.

Quality Control

Excellent service is the foundation got excellent services marketing. When service is excellent, marketing is easier.  Price hikes are more palatable because customers perceive value in the service. The benefits from the reinforcement of positive word-of-mouth communications is maximum when the reality of service delivery matches the advertisement. 

Aggressively marketing a low-quality service undercuts a firm's future. More customers are tempted to try the service - or to try it again - only to discover firsthand that the have made a mistake; and never to use it again. Quality service is the essence, the core, of services marketing. 

Services are performances often done in the presence of the customer, there is a significant opportunity for services marketing when the service provider and customer interact. The quality of the service and service delivery is a major marketing tool. 

To highlight the need for quality control, consider an example of a restaurant:- Quality in a restaurant is the effective sum of the quality of food, the ambiance, the courteous  presentation of the waiter. Customer is satisfied when aspects of service is of top notch quality. 

In global delivery of services (either software, healthcare, etc) the issue of quality in services is complicated by cross-cultural barriers. The service provider may think that he/she is providing excellent service, but the customer thinks otherwise. For example, Indian software professional working at a client's place in the US must know the cultural intricacies of the client's culture to deliver the service in a manner deemed as high quality by the customer. Remember, the quality of service is defined by the customer and not by the service provider. This may mean wearing a suit to work, having excellent communication skills or taking the client out for a football match. 

It is the role of the marketing manager to ensure that the service provided meets the quality standards demanded by the client. In global delivery of services, a marketing manager may have to take an extra step to educate the cultural aspects of the clients to service providers. 

Change Architects

The fundamental idea of marketing is effecting a good fit between the organization and its markets. As its markets change, so must the organization. Nothing is forever in the marketing environment. Not cultural values. Not demographics. Not the economy, Not technologies. Not the political climate.

A key role for marketing managers is to help redefine their firm's strategic directions in response to changing market conditions. Market sensitive strategic change is at the heart of the organizational renewal. A good example of this is GE and IBM which transformed from a manufacturing organization to a service oriented organization. 

Marketing managers need to help renew their organizations before its too late. To do this they must contribute to the architecture for change. They must define a strategic direction that will be relevant and profitable in the years ahead and present internal strategies needed to actually change the organization. Effective change requires an internal and an external strategy. Marketing managers need to work with line executives in formulating both types of strategies.

For example: Marketing Manger at Infosys, a leading software service provider from India, have to develop strategies to incorporate Sarbanes-Oxley act requirements into their financial software services. This requires developing an external strategy for the firm to take advantage of changes caused by Sarbanes-Oxley act. And also develop an internal strategy to train and develop all the skills needed to provide software services incorporating the clauses of Sarbanes-Oxley act. 

Marketing Facilitator

Marketing managers need to capitalize on the reality that employees performing the service are closest to the customer; they are in the best position to be marketers. A primary role of the marketing director is to facilitate the process of in-the-field service provider-to-customer marketing.

Packaged goods marketers "push" the trade and "pull" the customers to market there wares. Push-Pull marketing applies to services as well but with several twists. Services marketing managers need to push and pull employees performing services so that they will want to be and know how to be effective marketers. Just as packaged goods marketers have two sets of customers (the trade and the end-customer), so do the services marketers (the employee service provider and the end customer). In effect, the firm's own employees are the equivalent of wholesale and retail distributors in packaged goods marketing. Service employees are the critical linkage between the marketing department and the end-customer. These employees are the conduit through which marketing either realizes its potential or does not. 

"Services marketing managers not only must persuade customers to buy, they must also persuade - and help - employees to perform"

Marketing managers can facilitate marketing throughout the organization in at least three ways:

They can work continuously to educate managerial and non-managerial employees about the nature, purpose and applications of marketing. 

Employees cannot be expected to have a marketing mentality if they do not understand what marketing is. The most effective services marketing directors devote considerable time and resources to employee education, by sponsoring and/or supporting marketing seminars and training courses and by on-on-one education of employees.

Marketing directors need to strive to make it easier for employees to practice marketing.

The best marketing managers focus on giving employees the tools they need to be effective marketers. These mangers involve themselves in helping to create:

Customer information files that contact employees can use to better understand their customers' need.

Create systems that speed up routine transactions and free employees for cross-selling.

Internal Training and communication services so employees can be more competent and feel more confident with customers.

The marketing managers understand that services marketing effectiveness is a direct function of employees' willingness and ability to engage in marketing behavior at the point of sale and delivery. (This seems like an obvious point, but is often overlooked in most service firms)

Marketing manager must be a relentless, visible champion for quality service in the organization. 

Excellent service makes every other facet of services marketing more potent. Marketing manger must:

Be an advocate for service excellence inside the company

Help show the way in the organization to improved service

Assess the impact on service quality of all marketing decisions - ensuring that these decisions support improvement rather than undermine it

Because quality service is the core of services marketing, the marketing manger must be the key player in a firm's strategic efforts to improve quality. By helping the firm improve quality, the marketing manager facilitates marketing. Without quality service, the rest of marketing will be ineffective and thus irrelevant.

Image Manager

Organizational image management is another critical role for marketing managers. Helping  the company to fit its environment and facilitating marketing effectiveness at the point of customer contact contribute directly to a positive company image. The intangibility of services marketer to use all possible means to establish a distinctive and compelling company identity.

Consider service firms such as airlines, banks, brokerage houses or restaurants - these provide services that are quite similar to that provided by their competitors. Transforming similarity into distinctiveness is no small task when the product is a service. 

"Differentiating oneself from the competition, both in fact and in the eyes of customer and prospective customers, is one of the persistent challenges in our business. Nothing works quite as well as having superior answers to meet the needs of the customer. However, even when one can achieve product superiority there remains the problem in service business of making sure the difference is recognized and applauded"
                                                   -- John Hamby, President of Glastonbury Bank

Services marketers need to take full advantage of whatever competitive advantages a firm might have by communicating these differences cohesively, consistently, and strikingly. A proactive approach is needed to clearly define a firm's special competencies - its "reason for being" through communication media. 

Marketing managers must strive to brand to company, not just the specific services it sells; and thus mobilize all the images into one powerful message.

Ideal Services Marketer

The roles described above suggests the kind of person needed to assume these roles. The best services marketing managers have true leadership capabilities, are tuned into  the differences between goods and services marketing, are knowledgeable about the industry in which they work, and have excellent teaching skills.  

For a marketing manager in a global service provider, the task is even more complicated with the issue of cross-cultural relations. Marketing manger in such a firm must have a global mindset, be aware of the impact of culture on global marketing, play a leadership role in building a marketing organization, implement quality in services to effectively build a brand image for the company, and help define the firm's strategic future

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