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How marketers can improve their relationship with the rest of the business

in Musings

As the marketing department, it’s very easy to feel under siege and under-valued – there’s often a sense of ‘nobody loves us, everybody hates us’. I know, I’ve been there. These days, as a copywriter running my own business, I’m free of that pain. On the other hand, I see my clients struggle with it all the time.

So if relations between you and the rest of the business are fraught, here are three things you can try.

But before we dive into them, it’s reassuring to know that it simply isn’t true that everyone hates you.

A Research Now study found that less than 1% of respondents believe marketing has little or no effect on the business and 84% say marketing is essential.

So how can you feel the love a bit more?

Cut the jargon

In the same way as you try to cut technical jargon from your customer-facing communications, so you should try to cut marketing jargon from your communications with other parts of the business.

Callie Hinman, Content Strategist at AffiniPay, puts it like this:

Smart marketing professionals take this same approach to prepare for meetings with the executive team or non-marketers. They know that to prevent misunderstandings, they must translate their vernacular into a language an audience who is generally unfamiliar with marketing can easily comprehend.

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy Group, puts it rather more bluntly:

“The language of marketing is like the language of astrology – if you talk to people who believe in it, you’re fine. Anyone else thinks you’re mad.”

Explain why you need something

Remember you’re the expert in marketing and what seems obvious to you might not to anyone else. Bear this in mind when you’re asking for information and input.

Cliff Gilley of The Clever PM highlights the bafflement with which marketing is sometimes viewed:

Of the many different teams that Product Managers work with on an ongoing basis, very few are as misunderstood as marketing teams. … In fact, the best Product Managers usually have very strong relationships with their Marketing teams, if for no other reason than to ensure that they have a direct method of contact and communication with the market and prospective customers. Building that relationship requires that we delve deeper into what Marketing really does, what needs they have, and how we as Product Managers can contribute to their success.

If you want to get better results you need to explain where you’re coming from and why. Here’s Cliff Gilley again, doing our job for us:

Marketing [needs] accurate product and feature information. While Sales and Marketing often have a reputation for “making things up,”that usually only happens when there is a vacuum of useful and accurate information available to them.

Finally, Marketing needs someone to translate the inevitable tech-speak into market positioning and customer-friendly language. Many marketers glaze over when presented with technical specifications, user stories, and bug reports —they’re far more interested in the why than the what.

Agree what success looks like

Collaboration is key. Andre Theus, VP of Marketing at ProductPlan recommends having shared, mutually agreed-upon definitions of success:

Yes, product management and marketing will each have their own success metrics, and this is a good thing. Those metrics—whether customer retention, revenue targets, landing page conversion rates, or likes on Facebook—are all useful guides for each department.

But to bring your teams together, both product management and marketing should also identify and plan to work toward a set of shared, strategic-level goals. This will keep both teams from falling into silo mode, and will also help keep everyone focused on the company’s big-picture objectives.

And isn’t a company where everyone is pulling in the same direction the sort of company you’d like to work for?

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