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Beware the silo-isation of marketing

Some time ago I was engaged in a business that marketed their products in store as well as on-line.

In an attempt to assign costs etc down to each line of business, very simplistically speaking, each channel had to pre order their stock from inventory production.

So, say product X was going to be launched, then the off-line team had to order their 100 units and the on-line time, their 100, or whatever they thought they could sell.

This as you can imagine resulted in stock out situations in a specific channel while, possibly, another channel still carried inventory. Not ideal, but understandable.

Things came to a real head when a specific product was just not selling on-line but there was a huge demand for it in the retail stores. Factory had no more stock. The on-line team refused to give their stock to the off-line team though they were not selling any, unless they received some sort of premium for it. All got rather heated and ugly and needed senior management to step in and bang some sense into the respective leaders.

Perhaps an isolated case?

Another case in another category, again from personal experience.

Again a product that was sold both off-line and on-line.

I was called in by the business lead for one of the channels for a customer acquisition program. We went through the usual process of identifying prospects, finding means to target them, doing the ROI etc. All sensible good stuff.

However, when it came to communication I was told ‘ See I am only responsible for channel X so when we reach out to these people we should only be talking channel X. I am not concerned for Channel Y’. I tried to explain that the prospect was the same and she didn’t care about the channels. Let us give her the two options and let her decide. Chances of conversion are going to be higher. Didn’t work.

Another isolated case?

I don’t know. I hope so.

However, seeing that my experience comes from two completely different categories, in two completely markets, in 2 different market situations, this may seem a bit more widespread.

Add to it that the job ads are awash with need for people who get ecommerce, m commerce, social media etc it appears that companies are boosting their digital staff. A sensible move given that consumers are spending more time on-line.

However the kind of people coming in these digital roles tend to be a slightly different profile than the ones who manage traditional channels. There is not a natural match. This starts the ‘silo’ attitude.

Add to this the marketing metrics that follow investments and pretty soon what companies could have is two different marketing organizations operating parallely.

There is no simple solution to this issue save that firstly leaders should be aware of this potential problem, and accordingly align processes and, if necessary, structures to ensure that a common goal is achieved through great performance of both the channels.

An analogy that comes to mind is the Formula 1 Grand Prix. It is, both, a team sport and an individual sport, at the same time. Each driver is trying to get to the chequered flag first. However, they are also aware that if they help each other (fairly) the team can win. F1 team management is extremely interested in ensuring that the team wins as much as the individuals do.

Silos help no one, least of all the customer who’ll just shop where she finds what she wants, when she wants, conveniently.

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