Into Marketing and Away: the Changing Role of a Marketing Manager

marketing manager competencies“Non vitae sed scholae discimus”, said Seneca (“We learn for school, not for life”). His words truly reflect the situation at the majority of educational institutions preparing marketing professionals: the content of education is not matching real-life requirements. The traditional understanding of marketing as a function has been transformed in many ways, and new competencies are needed for the existing and ongoing marketing managers.

Competency #1: New Media

Indeed, modern marketing practice is almost impossible to imagine without extensive use of New Media, especially Social Media (Facebook, corporate blogs, etc). This includes not only one-way communication and maintaining social media accounts, but also being able to interact with users, even in case of negative comments or complaints. In addition, social media activity should help to sustain the brand values and product/service positioning.

Competency#2: Information Technology

Apart from managing and creating content and graphic material, a marketing manager should have an understanding of IT systems and processes within a company. Possible uses of IT knowledge include: managing customer or product databases, editing and optimizing websites, analyzing performance needs and writing specifications for programmers in the IT department.

Competency #3: Handling financial and accounting data

A marketing manager should understand and control implications of marketing policies on the operational data and end-of-the-year financial results of the company he/she is working for. Instead of thinking of marketing campaigns in terms of costs, a marketeer must be able to demonstrate the value of marketing activities in terms of brand equity accumulation or share price growth.

Competency#4: Corporate Social Responsibility

One of recently emerged functions of a marketing executive is responding to stakeholder expectations both externally (customers, suppliers and shareholders) and internally (employees). Marketeers have to make sure that the corporate values are being lived by and that these values are communicated in the right way across different channels. It is also a well-known fact that skillful use of marketing techniques in CSR context (e.g. fair trade products) helps to sustain higher margins and increase the overall profit.

Competency#5: Cross-functional knowledge

In addition to the above-mentioned IT and financial knowledge, a marketing manager often plays an integrative role between a number of departments. He/she has to communicate with R&D and Production when a new product is being developed, with Sales when the product is being launched, and not unusually, with the legal department, for example, when crafting advertising strategy. Thus, cross-functional and interdisciplinary knowledge is a must as well as the ability to talk to a number of specialists “in their language”.

Competency#6: International and intercultural thinking

Apart from classic cases of international marketing (launching a product abroad, designing marketing campaigns in a foreign language, adapting promotional activities to a different setting), cross-cultural competencies are often required for working inside the company. Two major reasons for this are the growing number of multinationals (including micro-multinationals) causing the necessity to work with branches and subsidiaries abroad; and skilled migration, due to which foreigners fill up vacancies in domestic firms.

Competency# 7: Team orientation

Resulting from the scope of cross-departmental or cross-country projects on which a marketing professional often works, team orientation and team building skills are essential to keep the projects going.

Competency#8: Creative skills

Though this is an obvious tool for a marketing manager, most universities cannot bridge the gap between the requirement for creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking in the working life and the rigid and mundane teaching methods preventing the students from developing creative skills. Another extreme, though, is creativity for the sake of creativity, when a marketing manager is reluctant to direct his/her efforts into solving a particular customer or organizational problem or to plan the details of putting the creative idea into practice.

Competency #9: Management skills

As more and more companies realize the strategic importance of marketing, a marketeer is faced with typical management tasks, namely planning (laying out campaigns and budgeting), organizing (distributing roles in a project, creating an action plan), directing (ensuring cross-departmental cooperation, motivating the project participants) and, finally, controlling (checking if the set goals are being met).

As can be seen from this list of competencies, both hard and soft skills are essential for a marketing manager of today. Therefore, the ability to respond to the changing conditions and the drive for self-improvement and self-development should be added to make up the full list of competencies required for marketing professionals.

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Business Models on the Internet

Internet is said to have given birth to innovative ways of making money. On the one hand, you can copy some of the traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses and paste them into the Internet environment (online travel agency, online supermarket, etc). But on the other hand, there are endless possibilities for purely virtual business models. Here I would like to share some thoughts on online business models and develop a kind of typology for most common models.

Business model definition

A business model has the following facets:

  • The product. What is the core product and the product extensions/ complimentary products? What is your value proposition?
  • The customer. Who is your target customer? What kind of relationship do you aim to build with your customer (marketing and communication)? How do you deliver your product to the end customer (sales channel)?
  • The company. What core competencies are required? What is your overall market strategy? How can you use partnerships and networking with other businesses?
  • The money. What is your cost structure and financing model? How do you derive your revenue and what profit margins do you expect?

Typology of internet businesses

According to the revenue source and financing, Internet businesses can be subdivided into the following groups (software and online platforms as examples):

  • Open source and financing through donations/grants (iversity, Wikipedia, flattr.com)
  • Open source and financing through client data collected (patientslikeme.com)
  • Open source and financing through advertising (Facebook, Spotify)
  • Open source and commercial licenses or payment only from B2B clients (Groupon)
  • Open source and commission on transactions (Amazon.com, Kickstarter.com)
  • Open source and paid extra features for premium accounts, or freemium models ( LinkedIn, some antivirus software)
  • Strictly commercial software or technology, possibly with a trial period (Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop).

What is more, businesses combine several types of revenue collection (paid games on Facebook in addition to advertising).

Success factors

It is hard to say which of the listed above model types are likely to be more successful than the others, as there are winner companies in each category. Rather, it comes down to other factors, such as the product, the marketing strategy, the target market, the networking possibilities, as well as the flexibility of the business model as such.

Not only the flexibility to change in time, or innovation, is the key to success in the rapidly changing online environment, but also the scalability and extendability of the business model. In other words, is the model transferable to a variety of markets without significant losses in profitability?

For new market entrance, the language together with the culture and the local conditions play a significant role. Even successful businesses are not 100% scalable, this probably being the reason why Google and Facebook have not yet managed to capture the lion’s share of the Russian or Asian market, despite of doing pretty well in European countries. Amazon.com still has not dared to venture into the Russian market, due to perceived logistical and security problems, its place now taken by its Russian clone, ozon.ru.

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