Speaking of relationships…

We’ve spoken with a lot of marketing directors lately. When we ask what’s important to their success, one factor keeps coming up: their relationships.

While every marketing director – in every company and every industry – faces unusual and unique issues, personal relationships are always vital.

Marketing is an inherently human activity, even with the prevalence of digital methods. One of a marketer’s best resources is empathy – the ability to understand what someone else is going through and share their feelings. We usually think of empathy when we try to understand our customers. But it’s just as important for forging great work relationships.

Internal relationships

Marketing directors must motivate staff, report to peers, partner with sales, answer to a boss and facilitate a board of directors. They must turn employees into brand advocates. With internal branding, they need the support of departments that a few years back they may never have touched. In many companies they must work with product development or engineering. Imagine the difficulties you would face if you can’t work effectively with these folks?

Setting expectations in the face of insufficient budgets, scheduling or commitment from your internal clients would be next to impossible if a marketing director can’t identify his co-workers’ practical and emotional needs. Doing a great job would be impossible if you can’t respond with empathy, intuition, imagination and desire to help. And these only come from working hard at the relationship.

External relationships

Working with an agency can be tricky. If you’re paying too little, how will you motivate them to do a great job? What if you’re paying a lot, but end up working with junior staffers, instead of the first team? How about if you’re not giving them a reasonable amount of time to present their ideas or produce them? The relationship is key to getting the most out of your engagement.

Like customers, agencies have discernable motivation. Even when you can’t provide all cash they’d like, you can provide the other things that they thrive on: the chance to do great creative and strategically meaningful work.

Agencies aren’t the only relationships that marketing directors talk about. They also talk about key audiences, such as franchisees or certain market segments. They talk about professional groups, associations, colleagues and the press. 

An example: You’re trying to create a licensing deal and it’s a new frontier for you. What better way to begin your research than with a call to your colleague who does licensing deals all the time, and can give you personal advice based on personal knowledge of licensing, and of you?

Think about not being able make a phone call to get the answer to a problem. Some people can make that call and get lots of free and timely help. Others don’t have those kinds of relationships. That’s a burden on any career. 

What goes around comes around

Marketing professionals who have been successful over the long stretch often have earned the respect and friendship of people they’ve worked with, both inside and outside their companies.

True, the marketing world is full of sharks. But I’ve met a healthy number of true professionals who are also  wonderfully caring and giving people, and that’s reason to take heart, whether you’re in an agency, or on the client side.

Must be that empathy thing. 


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