CIMCIG’s Ian Exall catches up with Mike Rigby to discuss - Who does the “marketing”?

Author: Ian Exall A I M Limited, CIMCIG Committee

In the March edition of Builders Merchants News, Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Marketing argued that “Marketing” has lost touch with three of the four P’s of the marketing mix. CIMCIG followed this with a blog by Ian Exall that looked a little more in-depth at the marketing mix 4 P’s are and made the point that a business has clear views as to its strategic approach to the marketing mix – and it’s imperative someone takes charge of them. Here Ian and Mike discuss the topic of who “does it”.

Ian Exall, CIMCIG Committee member, begins:


Back to Mike’s article…..

  1. “someone needs to represent the customer in strategy and investment decisions”
  2. Many boards have dropped the idea of giving marketing a seat at top table
  3. Most marketing people have confined themselves to just one of the 4 Ps of the marketing mix - Promotion, or marketing communications.

In my article I (in response to Mike’s) support these stances…in the context of the construction industry,  many of the strategic issues are actually being addressed by the management team and not necessarily within a ‘joined-up’ marketing plan or even by the marketing department.

“Marketing” is a fundamental part of what any business does, whether it has the “marketing badge” or otherwise. It is a critical element of a business’s strategy and core to the company’s overall function and performance. What is key is that it is done well. What it is called and who does it, doesn’t really matter – in my view.


So Mike……

Do you agree with this statement?

I do, Ian, 100%. But we have to ask, who is doing great marketing, particularly in Construction? Screwfix, Selco, Dulux, and Brisant Secure, certainly. And in the world at large? Apple and Amazon stand out for brilliant marketing that’s shaped our world. But their marketing mostly focuses on the 3Ps that marketing professionals avoid: Product, Place and Price. I think that explains their marketing success.

The question we have to ask is, how can marketing be effective if it limits itself to just one of the 4Ps, Promotion? But the challenge for marketers starts with the everyday understanding of what the word marketing means - what ‘everyone’ thinks marketing means.

Whatever the CIM says, and whatever professionally trained marketing people learn when they study marketing, ask anyone what marketing is. Marketing isn’t something people have to puzzle over. Most people know what marketing is - it’s advertising, posters, brochures, emails, social media, video, POS and websites. Few use the word Promotion, but that’s what ’everyone’ understands marketing to mean. Ask them about Product, Place, or Price and they’ll shake their head: no, they’re not marketing. Academics, marketing missionaries like us and the CIM think otherwise, but if it’s as important as we believe then Marketing has to go on a mission to spread the word.

Most marketers were taught the 4Ps, 5Ps or 7Ps and probably ‘know’ they are nominally in their toolkit, but most marketers aren’t allowed near Product, Place or Price in the companies they work for, nor do they see them as being part of ‘real world’ marketing. And feet on the ground, nor do they currently have the skills, experience, competence, ambition or confidence to push the boundaries and own them.  

In large consumer marketing incubators such as P&G and Unilever, and a handful of exemplars such as Dulux in construction, marketing’s scope does include all 4Ps. In those companies marketers are responsible for the growth and profitability of their products and brands, which is why their marketing is so effective and profitable.

Product, Place and Price are crucially important in building business models, so if you don’t have something to contribute or have a say on the key factors that shape a business model, marketing is just a side show.


In your experience, what does the marketing department do today?

Most marketing departments tend to be hyper-active marketing other people’s plans, not their own. Once the business model, including Product, Place and Price have been decided – the baked cake in other words – marketing is tasked with making it look desirable, getting the messaging right, choosing the channels and shouting about it. And then demonstrating an effective Promotion ROI in how and where they’re ‘marketed’.

Positioning marketing at the end of the line like this, inevitably creates a short term focus. Marketing’s increasing focus on short term performance is also why, as research has shown, it’s becoming less effective. But most of this success or failure is already baked into the cake, through the absence of marketing at the critical stages where it could be exerting an influence.


How many of your clients have a dedicated marketing director in the board room?

Very few. Marketing needs a new generation of missionaries to help companies achieve their potential. Construction especially needs marketors with the ambition to own Product, Place and Price, and contribute to designing more effective business models that will generate the results to break down the doors to the boardroom.


Where this is not the case, who would be the champion or owner of the marketing strategy and process?

It’s hard to see how you can be effective if you only control one of marketing’s 4Ps, which may explain why there are so few examples of marketing excellence in construction. It also means that the job of marketing can only be done by the CEO because no one else has the overview and power to combine the four strands of marketing and the business model.


Do you think businesses in the construction industry really understand the academic definition of “marketing”?

No. I don’t think construction is interested in academics or definitions. It’s hands on and practical and it’s only impressed by performance and results. Recognising that Screwfix and Selco’s profitable growth is based on their 4Ps business models, which are the result of brilliant marketing, might be more persuasive.


In the construction industry, is it right that the marketing department represents the interests of the customer?

No. The interests of the customer should be shared between sales and marketing. In some companies there is a tension and competition to own the customer, but in the most effective companies they work well in harmony. The two functions overlap, but Sales has a shorter term focus, and should be closest to customers. Sales is most effective when marketing is doing its job of building for the longer term. I believe Sales and Marketing are equals and it’s not a good sign when one dominates the other. I see it simply. Marketing plans ahead and sows the seeds that grow into a cash crop for sales to harvest. They do two essential but different jobs, and you can’t build a sustainable enterprise without both working together.  


Ian concludes: So where do my opinions fall….

My personal view is that the best businesses are those that have a marketing professional at the top table but the marketing professional doesn’t need to be purely responsible for just marketing function.

Compared to many other industries, the process of procuring the built environment takes many years from idea through to handover of the keys. Tracking and managing the associated opportunity for a business almost entirely sits with the sales team which is why the customer is often “owned” here. As is the P for Price and P for Place (route to market). So the sales director is more of the marketer than the senior marketer in a business. A senior sales person who has had a stint within the marketing department (product or marketing manager) then becomes an extremely well rounded professional indeed.


Mike Rigby is the CEO of MRA Marketing, one of the leading marketing consultancies in the construction industry. Although MRA has been in business for 30 years, Mike has been involved in construction industry marketing for over 40 years and is very well placed to give some well-founded views on many of these points.

Ian Exall is the Commercial Director of insulation converter A I M Limited, part of the Performance Technology Group of companies. Ian has notched up 37 years working within the construction industry, spanning sales and marketing roles within a variety of construction product manufacturers. He is also a current CIMCIG Committee member, past CIMCIG Chair and Fellow of the CIM.