Working on the business

Every marketing function manages two distinct bodies of the work.

The first consists of the daily efforts needed to keep the engine running. Creative needs to be refreshed. Emails need to be sent. Direct mail needs to be printed and shipped. There’s a seemingly never-ending list of these activities, and the time spent doing them is thought of as working “in the business.”

The second consists work efforts to make improvements to the engine. Your organization could enter new marketing channels, explore new customer segments or needs to meet, or invest in new technologies or processes to increase efficiency. These are often strategically essential, but non-urgent activities that aren’t immediately visible to the rest of the business or the outside world. Time spent here is thought of as working “on the business.”

No marketing function can successfully live exclusively in only one of these domains for very long. Working in the business is what keeps the lights on today. Working on the business is what keeps it competitive and viable for the future. In a world of rapid change and heavily constrained resources, the question is how to balance the trade-offs between them.

How are you currently allocating your resources (your time, your team’s time, your budget) across these two areas? How should you be?

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