My parents taught me to play nice with others, and I kind of feel like Business school is also about teaching us how to play nice with others in the office. Particularly, playing nice with the other functional business areas in the office. It goes like this:
Engineers: “We’re the most important, you wouldn’t have anything to tell customers about if we didn’t design it!”
Marketers: “We’re the most important, because engineers wouldn’t know what to design if we hadn’t given them the market needs analysis, and sales people would have no cohesive message and brand image to share with customers!”
Sales: “We’re the most important, because we actually get people to buy the stuff! We bring in all the money, so your design and message are worthless if you don’t have sales to make people spend money!”
Accounting: “We’re the most important, because we actually collect the money from the customers, and keep track of how all much profit we make!”
Engineers: “Yeah, and how’d you get all the software that lets you do that stuff, huh?”
Marketers…. sales… you see where this is going. I’ve figured out that it pays to play nice with the other business people. Here’s why I play nice!
Engineers/Programmers: These days, businesses use websites to market their products and enhance their brand identity. Personally, I’m not a whiz at websites, so I need to make sure that I’m on good terms with my programmer. I found out just how helpful he could be during our last website go live! He was helping me fix things on-the-fly, and he’s since helped me manage the more information and formatting on the website. I’ve also found that you’ll get much more realistic timelines and budgets if you are open to discussing the project with the engineers, rather than sending them a list of requirements and deadlines. The open communication and understanding that things may take longer or cost more is helpful in long-run planning.
Sales: Sales people are my direct link to the customer, so if I want to obtain strong market data, the sales people are a good place to start. They talk to customers all the time, so I’m constantly picking their brains about praise for the company, complaints about the products or services, and other general market information. Are customers busy or slow? Which magazines are they reading these days? Sales people take the message to the customer, so you want to make sure that you’re using their insight to present a cohesive brand image to your market.
Accounting: If the invoices aren’t paid, my ads don’t run. And, if my ads don’t run, I can’t stay top-of-mind for my customers. If they don’t pay the bill on my corporate card, I can’t book exhibit space for our tradeshow, and we end up stuck in a poor location because we registered late. In addition to the bill-pay function, I’ve found the accounting department to be a wealth of information about customer acquisition costs, customer profitability, and finding places to cut waste from our marketing budget. I’m not really a numbers person, but I’m figuring out that all those numbers the accountants have are really valuable pieces of information to help me improve my marketing strategies.
So, who’s most important out of all the business functions? I think the TEAM is most important, and a cohesive environment where all the functions play nice together. After all, if I take my toys and go home, how will the engineers know what to design? How will the sales people have a cohesive message? How will accountants have profits to post? It’s important to have a marketer in the sandbox 🙂