Where Have All the B-to-B Direct Marketing Generalists Gone?
When I tour B-to-B catalog companies today, I’m struck by something I find pretty remarkable. There are precious few people in any company today who really know, in a balanced way, what’s going on.
Sure, we have product wizards, catalog-production experts, paid-search experts, outbound- telemarketing managers, fulfillment/ERP experts, etc. But where are the people who have the whole, integrated, balanced view of how the business runs? Where are the experienced direct marketers who can review, evaluate and assess investments across the various needs of the business? Look around your own organization and find those people because they’re worth their weight in gold!
As catalog companies grow and each area of operations becomes more complex, detailed and hard to manage, it’s only natural that we have specialists. It’s sad we don’t have the complementing generalists. You know, these are the folks who balance the great ideas in one area with the “about to be a disaster” in another area.
I’m reminded of the day when a well-intentioned bean counter made the unilateral decision to communicate to all employees that manual paychecks were no longer a payroll option; all payroll was to be processed by direct deposit. Of course, he assumed that everyone had a bank account just because he did. He also incorrectly concluded that they were just too lazy to fill out the direct deposit form.
Well, that memo was regarded as a pink slip for the 130 employees who received manual paychecks. All heck broke loose, and it took months to repair the distrust that resulted from that seemingly innocent and well-intentioned decision.
The problem really was the author of the memo didn’t have a clue about the nuances of the various areas of the business. He was a specialist, not a generalist.
I sit in many client meetings with B-to-B catalogers, and one of the pleasures of my work is meeting many, many very bright and talented people. It’s a treat. What I don’t see, however, are too many experienced generalists.
In privately held companies, it’s usually the owner and maybe one or two other long-term, senior employees. In companies owned by larger public companies, mostly I see talented specialists in the various functional areas and limited experience “general managers” who last two or three years “in their current assignment.” These folks aren’t generalists with experience — they’re more like reactive quarterbacks. Mostly I see them fight fires rather than drive businesses.
I also can say that I see a direct correlation between companies that are doing well and the ones that have two or three senior generalists running the place. Look around. Which type of company are you?
Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence Inc., a strategic consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at www.b2bdmi.com or (954) 566-4451.