How process management can elevate the value of Marketing

Business Process Management (BPM) is well accepted practice on the supply chain side of most businesses. However, supply chain improvement is only likely to get you parity with the best practices in your industry because great companies have been focused on the supply chain, and its improvement, for years. The real opportunity for competitive advantage comes from applying BPM to the demand chain (i.e. marketing/sales).

Most companies (in fact almost all companies) have done little if anything to apply BPM to improving the performance of their demand chain?

Why? Because it has been felt that the demand chain is not amendable to process rigor. This is provable nonsense.

Most supply chain activities felt the same way (that process rigor would not be appropriate for that activity/process) when BPM was first suggested there. I remember the semiconductor industry’s reluctance to use proven supply chain BPM principles on the assumption that making semiconductors was “different” and those smoke stack industry practices would not work in high-tech. Turned out to be nonsense.

The same was true in the new product development area. The thought was BPM would inhibit creativity. Again, nonsense and proven to be so. Bad processes inhibit output. Good processes facilitate output. Good BPM applied to marketing/sales (the demand chain) will improve results.

Marketing is perceived by many companies as not providing value due to a lack of agreement on outcomes. That is, what is the “value” expected of marketing? This may seem odd or unbelievable, but consider that almost nothing in the marketing/sales process has a defined or agreed upon outcome. Even something as simple as “sales” can create disagreement.

How often have you been in a meeting where a discussion ensued as to whether the margin, terms, delivery, etc. of a particular order were acceptable. Some say “take the order” thus making it a sale. Others, say “no way.” The order is too low-priced, not enough margin, too difficult to produce, not enough time to deliver, etc. So is it a sale or not? How can you expect consistent production and retention of quality customers and their orders of your goods or services, when the definition of them is a time or situation-based variable?

Just because the definition changes does not preclude creating adaptable processes that can produce effective output. However, if the changes are not communicated effectively and timely, then the “work-cells” in the production environment cannot be expected to adapt.

And if agreement on something as simple as a “sale” is difficult, what happens when you begin to discuss something as “fuzzy” as marketing. Academics have been debating for over 30 years whether marketing is a set of behaviors or a culture. Marketing practitioners have just tried to keep their heads down and been glad nobody asked hard questions. The days of not being asked hard questions are over. However, the answers will be useless or nonsense if agreement on outcomes is not established.

Most debates about marketing effectiveness today focus on lead generation in the business-to-business space and brand value in the consumer space. And the tactics used to create those leads or increase that brand value is where the focus lies. There is no doubt that much so-called marketing spend is in these areas. However, if you recast them as sales support, the money will still be just as effectively, or in-effectively, spent, but then it is not a marketing cost. Does that really solve the problem, we think not.

So where is the solution to this continued dilemma? If you consider marketing/sales as a Customer Manufacturing process, then much of the same business process management tools and principles can be successfully applied. And as you probably know, agreement on output/outcomes is a fundamental tenet of good process management.

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year,

Mitch

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