Collaboration between centralized and decentralized resources is the ultimate secret weapon effecting success in any organization.
To centralize or not to centralize. Is that the question? For years, leadership groups and marketing professionals across the AEC industry have debated which approach is more effective in their organizations. As much as everyone loves to be right, the correct answer probably falls somewhere in the middle. This is a quintessential gray area, but one that in its ambiguity can prove to be beneficial for every firm.
Take the Avengers, for example. Each superhero is fantastic in his or her own right and usually fights evil forces by themselves in their particular region. Heck, the Mighty Thor even hails from a different planet and confronts foes in multiple “realms!” Even when having an incredible track record and being extremely successful in their “zones,” however, these superheroes need to come together at some point and work as a team. Avengers: Assemble!
S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) is a fictional centralized agency that, for the most part, focuses on the bigger picture when dealing with threats to Earth and humanity as a whole. The Avengers were assembled in order to maximize each superhero’s strengths and establish best practices for the superhero community. Each side of this proverbial coin, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, benefits greatly from the other, just as centralized and decentralized marketing staffs’ coexistence proves 100 times better than the alternative.
In this context, the answer to the two questions: 1) Should we centralize marketing? and 2) Should we decentralize marketing? is a double yes. Based on your organization, there are multiple ways and degrees in which to design the right combination, but one thing is certain: each “side” must complement, support, and contribute to each other’s functions. Let’s take a look at some key areas affected by this “double yes” theorem:
- The Iron Man: marketing and business development tools. Technology is a moving target and includes a never-ending quest for optimization, and Tony Stark is the quintessential programmer. To this end, the ongoing maintenance of marketing tools and its content is the main character in this movie. The conceptualization and development of tools like customer relationship management and project performance databases can kick start from any region/area/department, but the probabilities of adoption, success, and continuous improvements rely in the standardization of processes. Bottom line, these tools need to be managed and maintained from a central location, but the quality of the content is greater if it comes from decentralized centers.
- The Mighty Thor: marketing paradigm changes. The God of Thunder can manipulate weather patterns and affect change on command. Whenever cultural paradigms need to shift, their degree of success is usually tied to the core of its birth. Changes that are born internally, say from a specific region, are more easily extrapolated to the rest of a company than when they are proposed from a “corporate” standpoint. Nothing trumps a relatable success story in the quest for converts and eventual believers.
- The Black Widow/Hawkeye: comprehensive knowledge of suite of services. Just as this femme fatale is a master multilingual powerhouse, a central department should be the go-to resource for a 30,000-foot view of the range of services offered by the company. Marketing staff aligned to specific services, in turn, will be able to provide in-depth descriptions, case studies, access to successful submittals, and direct others to the right experts needed for any particular pursuit – similar to the targeted Hawkeye approach. Think of this as the broad strokes in a mural versus the intricate details of an oil painting. Both can be beautiful.
- The Captain America: staff collaboration. Belonging is a strong and inevitable feeling that exists in human nature; humans need to be accepted as members of a group. Poor Captain America felt completely out of place waking up after 70 years and playing a part of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. undoubtedly helped him cope with his new reality. When your marketing is decentralized, the staff still should collaborate as a team. Ongoing meetings to discuss best marketing practices, trends, unusual pursuits, new capabilities, and many other topics, will foster a much needed bond. From their vantage point, a central marketing group can alleviate intense workloads and juggle concurrent deadlines experienced by a regional team.
- The Hulk: strength in marketers’ numbers. Decentralized profit centers can have a harder time budgeting a strong marketing group. A chronic illness in our industry is marketing departments being understaffed. Usually individuals are stretched too thin and this is one of the main causes of the amount of talent jumping ship to other industries. Central teams, through their bird’s eye view, can paint a clearer picture as to what is needed across a company. A comprehensive analysis of overall and regional ongoing activities, assignments, campaigns, return on investments, staff growth, and revenue projections, is an essential part of the process to determine the right number of central and decentralized marketers. Your marketing team should be able to make a Hulk-like impact in your organization.
As Henry Ford said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Every marketing staff member is an essential piece of the overarching puzzle and the collaboration between centralized and decentralized resources is the ultimate “secret weapon” effecting success in any organization. If you feel like a blend of various superheroes or, like me, like the Mighty Thor, the call is the same: Assemble!
Javier Suarez is the Central Marketing and Sales Support Manager with Geosyntec Consultants. Contact him at JSuarez@Geosyntec.com.