• Bill Petrie

Who is Your Quarterback?

Ensuring the right tone is set for your organization


Like most Americans, I love football and everything surrounding the game. In fact, I’ve forsaken most other sports to mortgage my passions for Saturdays and Sundays for the six months between August and January. While I’m a die-hard fan of the Texas A&M Aggies at the collegiate level and the Dallas Cowboys on Sundays, I genuinely love the game itself. Beyond the obvious physicality, a complex chess match between the two teams leans heavily on the performance of the most essential player on each side: the quarterback.

As anyone who watches football knows, the quarterback is the person that sets the tone for not only what happens on the field but off it as well. To be clear, nothing happens on the offensive side of the ball without the quarterback – period. This is why he is sometimes known as a “Field General” because the only way a team will achieve consistent success is through dependable, if not fantastic, quarterback play. One only has to look at the Dallas Cowboys as an example.

Despite all-pro players on both sides of the ball over the past twenty-five years like Jason Witten, Terence Newman, DeMarcus Ware, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliot, Tyron Smith, Amari Cooper, and Micah Parsons, the Cowboys haven’t come close to reaching a Super Bowl, let alone win it. During this period of sustained mediocrity, the Cowboys have trotted out the following forgettable Field Generals: Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, Ryan Leaf, Jason Garrett, John Kitna, Brandon Weeden, and Clit Stoerner. Not exactly a list of folks that will find their way into enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.

This isn’t to say that the Cowboys haven’t had good quarterbacks over the past quarter-century; they have, namely in Tony Romo and Dak Prescott. However, while Romo and Prescott have put up great numbers, they haven’t done it consistently and have shown a preponderance of shrinking when their play matters most. As a fan, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch.

When I look at a business, there’s a department that’s clearly the organization’s quarterback – and it’s not one you’d expect: marketing.

That’s right, marketing is the quarterback of every for-profit enterprise. I can break it down even further to help make my case by drawing an analogy to every department in an organization:

  • Sales – skill positions like running back, wide receiver, and cornerback. Offensively, these are the folks that will take the message and score the big wins (touchdowns). On the defensive side of the ball, they prevent the other team from scoring or stealing an account in the case of business.

  • Administrative and Customer Service – the offensive line. This is where the critical blocking of a company takes place to ensure that the friction is removed so the message can be delivered via the offensive and defensive skill positions.

  • Accounting and Finance – in the National Football League (NFL), this would be the “capologist” who keeps the player payroll under stringent limits placed on every team by the league office.

  • Human Resources – this is the scouting department as they are in charge of finding the right talent to bring to ownership and management to potentially hire.

  • Ownership and Management – In the world of football, this would be the owner, General Manager, and Head Coach. While they certainly assemble the talent, the amassed team still has to execute on the field.

  • Marketing – as mentioned above, this is the quarterback of the organization. They create and control messaging, which, in turn, shapes how the company or team is viewed by both clients and competitors alike.

To continue the analogy, many teams throughout the history of football have tried to go cheap when signing a quarterback. They generally hope they will be a “caretaker” of the offense and stay out of the way of the running backs and wide receivers – usually with disastrous results: Rex Grossman with the Chicago Bears, Elvis Grbac with the Baltimore Ravens, and Kerry Collins with the Tennessee Titans. These teams had everything it takes to win a Super Bowl except a quarterback with strong, consistent high-level play; opposing teams knew how to exploit their weaknesses, they were unable to stay calm under pressure, and they made poor decisions at the worst possible times. Because of that, they are only remembered in second-rate marketing blogs like this one.

You can be exceptional in every department and still fail because the marketing is weak. If the message is anemic, it won’t move an audience to action. In an economy where buyers have more information – and power – than ever before, it’s not enough to have the best salespeople or the most robust management team. Effective, consumable, and targeted marketing is the key to driving the organization’s success.

Are you investing in your marketing to truly be the quarterback of your organization? Is your message being received by your salespeople to the point where they communicate it to score big points with clients? Is your marketing strong enough to withstand attacks from your competition? Does the delivery of your marketing message mirror that of Tom Brady?

If you can’t answer yes to all of these, it’s time to find the right quarterback to drive your organization to your Super Bowl. There are many options:

  • Making a key hire

  • Elevating someone within the organization

  • Even bringing in an outside expert like brandivate to take you to the proverbial next level

Regardless of what you do, if you don’t have the right quarterback for your company, it’s imperative that you find one and find one fast as you never know when you’ll be against a team with a Hall of Fame level marketing department.

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