TORONTO — It’s ironic that the department in charge of a company’s image would be seen so poorly inside its own walls.

Liz Scott is the director of marketing for Kaval Wireless Technologies in Markham, Ont. She said her group is jokingly

referred to as “”the big, black, money-sucking hole.””

Scott was one of several marketing experts at an American Marketing Association High-Tech roundtable on Thursday to discuss the challenges facing the maligned departments in the high-tech industry.

Justine Fedak told of a similar perception issue. The vice-president of marketing and client strategy, Bank of Montreal client group and investment banking group, said she and her ilk fight the stereotype of being people who simply tote around bags with trinkets in them.

To deal with the issue Scott and Fedak said they’ve conducted internal PR to explain their function. For example, Fedak said she and some of her staff got together with the legal department over cookies to hash out an issue, but added “”we had our struggles in describing what we do”” enterprise wide. Kate Pearce, AOL Canada‘s vice-president of marketing, agreed getting people in the same room was very important because “”the walls come down.””

Fedak said acting as an interpreter is part of her job. It’s up to her, she said, to ask, and get the answers to, the questions of end-users. “”It shows you’re part of them team,”” said Fedak. “”It helps gain credibility with engineers,”” Scott said.

Fedak recommended inviting executives and others with no marketing experience along for focus groups and other sessions. She said it proves to be an eye-opening experience, but also offered a warning: after a session some believe they’re experts.

While there are a number of obstacles in-house to overcome, there is still the outside world to worry about. Scott said technology companies are on a fast track, always looking for the next trend. The nature of the industry, she said, makes measuring results all the more difficult, especially for B2Bs like Kaval.

Scott said one of the keys is to present a consistent message. Like the companies they represent, marketing departments often rely on outsourcing, so getting the PR and advertising firms together to discuss what the message is crucial, she said.


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