Case Study: I'm Sorry, But You Need to Fire Your Marketing Manager


This is a true story, but all the organizational details are made up because I didn’t like delivering this verdict.

Once Upon a Time, a large nonprofit organization The Arts Company (TAC) in Whoville, Calibama, hired a strategic planner to come in and help outline the direction for the organization’s visionary growth plans.

TAC had a healthy marketing budget, a full-time staff of 20 people, a committed volunteer base, and program delivery on a robust scale. Its energetic board of directors was committed to making TAC sustainable into the future, and needed support for a new marketing strategy into the digital future.

After the strategic objectives were sketched out, TAC hired Blue Bike to deliver:

  • Marketing Audit - An intense, quick look at how the current marketing efforts align with the strategic vision.

  • Marketing Strategy - A guide for aligning marketing efforts to the strategic plan.

  • Marketing Plan - A comprehensive checklist of marketing tactics, KPIs, and a budget to implement the strategy.

The Results of the Marketing Audit, in Brief

  • 90% of the marketing director’s time was spent on copywriting and graphic design for the printed and digital materials that were part of TACs program delivery (website updates, programs, posters, banners, advertisements, etc.)

  • 10% of the remaining time was spent on the email newsletter

  • 0% of the time was spent on figuring out how many people read the newsletter, went to the website, clicked on the “purchase tickets” link.

  • 0% of the time was spent on public relations and outreach.

  • 0% of the time was spent on surveying volunteers and donors about satisfaction with TAC’s programs

  • The marketing manager was paid full salary and benefits amounting to approximately $70,000 to produce approximately 300 individual marketing pages.

  • The marketing manager was spending nearly $50,000 per year on print advertising.

  • The Executive Director had no idea whether this marketing investment of more than $250,000 was helping sell tickets to TACs events, bring in new donors, or raise the profile of TAC’s programs.

The Results of the Marketing Strategy, in brief

  • Develop a new brand, website, and graphic design templates that should be outsourced to a professional branding specialist at a cost of approximately $30,000 per year.

  • Reduce print advertising and use the savings to invest in digital marketing efforts.

  • Develop custom promotions to target new audience personas and measure their return.

The Results of the Marketing Plan, in brief

  • An organized, lengthy list of marketing activities, such as “produce print advertisements” and “send out email newsletter” that were organized by cost, effort, time, and KPI to determine return.

  • An updated marketing director job description that included the key skills needed to meet the new strategic goals.

When the ED and the board read the new job description and plan, they said, “But Ms. Marketing Manager can’t do any of these things in the Director role. It’s not in her skill set. Not even close. And she won’t do this stuff.”

“Yes,” I told them. “Yes, I know. And it’s unfortunate, but unless she can fill the job description your organization has in order to execute the plan to fulfill the strategy to meet your organization’s vision of the future, then you are going to be stuck right here forever paying double market value for graphic design in-house.”

And they all lived happily ever after. Except the marketing manager. She got let go.

Do you need a marketing audit? Most of the time the marketing manager doesn’t get fired. Most of the time the marketing manager is excited to have an ad hoc marketing director supporting their efforts, empowering them to share their successes, and helping them demonstrate their value more effectively. And usually they like me.

Reach out!