Thursday, May 19, 2011

Are You a General Manager Or a Marketer?

I was recently asked to define the difference between a general manager and a marketer.  It was sort of a set up question.  The marketing career path can take you in either direction – to the pure science and art of marketing or the more general business discipline of general management.  Marketing often feeds into general management, although GMs come from many backgrounds.  Marketers often say they aspire to be general managers, and many general managers think of themselves as marketers first.  One isn’t better than another.  They are just different.  

Apart from the difference in job descriptions between running an organization and building and executing marketing plans, there is a defining difference in style and approach between the two.  A general manager concentrates on making good decisions, making them quickly, even without complete information and then mobilizing a team to focus on execution.  A marketer builds strategy and plans, based on consumer needs and critical assessment, and puts those programs into place, focusing on the communication to the consumer. The focus for the marketer is not on the decision but the process and the quality of the inputs. 

Marketers and general managers tell different stories about what they do.  To a general manager, their world is a lemonade stand which can be led to make more money, more quickly, and with more quality.  To a marketer, the focus is the lemonade itself, what the consumer thinks about the lemonade, and how they can make the lemonade new, different and add new benefits.  How much money the enterprise made today is not as high a concern.

At some point in your career, your skills, passion and interest will define which direction to take. Which road will you take?

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