As a senior business leader, what do you expect your design and marketing team leads to contribute to the business strategy?
I expect our design and marketing leads to have cross-functional understanding of our company and business strategies including knowledge about our selling environment, e.g., retail, restaurant, online, target consumer segments, production capabilities, sales and distribution goals, and profitability. When I review marketing or design concepts, regardless of how innovative and revolutionary an idea may be, I’m asking myself, “Does this person have a fundamental understanding of our company and business strategy?” If I know they do, then it’s easy to earn a spot at the strategy table because I know their contributions are always aligned with core business values and objectives. Or if the idea suggests a massive change to everything we’ve done in the past, at least I know careful consideration was made to the current business strategy before making the proposal.
What are some of the benefits of having design at the business strategy table? Vice versa, what are the benefits of having design report to marketing and having marketing at the strategy table?
Design and marketing are highly collaborative roles, each with their own skill sets, but I think any well-versed designer or marketer has had the experience of being in one anothers’ shoes in a previous role. In smaller companies, the same person might wear the hat of both designer and marketer.
The benefit of having design report to marketing is their ability to interpret high-level business strategy into forms of industrial, interactive and experiential design. While this may take away from actual design time, the brand strategy objectives could be met sooner if design has the ability to clarify strategic objectives at the strategy table without relying on marketing’s own interpretation.
Can you share some tips for designers and marketers to improve collaboration with senior business leaders?
1) Learn to speak the language of senior business management by relating back to key points of interest such as return on investment, sales and distribution goals, and market-share growth.
2) Establish credibility by asking questions that quantify the effect a design and marketing decision will have on all touch points of the business.
In an ideal world, how would you change your design/marketing reporting structure?
Our design group already has a great deal of visibility and influence in our strategy discussions and planning because they understand the business at a higher level. As a result, design execution is very streamlined and communication is usually pretty clear with senior management.
How can the design industry, as a whole, improve to overcome those barriers?
I think companies could benefit by having new design hires go through a three-month rotational training program with key departments such as sales and marketing, product development, manufacturing and finance.