This week one of my favorite “hands-on” columnists in the Report on Business, Gwyn Moran – the founding CEO of Encana Corp – talked about the Canadian economy. Specifically, about our persistent lag in productivity growth relative to our US neighbour, and why the productivity gap is so important to our Canadian economy and our overall quality of life. See Why productivity gains should matter to Canadians.
It appears everyone is Canada is scratching their heads about Canada’s lagging productivity – from Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, to federal politicians, to policy and economic think tanks across the country. In 2008, Canada ranked 16th out of 34 OECD countries in labour productivity, a full 12 places behind the United States, our biggest customer, partner, and competitor.
What is productivity?
Productivity is a measure of how efficiently goods and services are produced. Productivity is defined as output per hour worked, and it’s about working smarter not longer or harder. Productivity can be improved in various ways (see pyramid chart at the bottom of this post), but a common way is by purchasing new equipment and technology that increases output per worker. Gwyn talks about how much more productive a Canadian highway road crew is when using the latest road grading and paving technology, versus using the pick and shovel approach still used in some developing countries.
Why should we care?
According to the Conference Board of Canada: “Productivity is the single most important determinant of a country’s per capita income over the longer term. Countries that are innovative and able to adapt to the ebb and flow of the new global economy boast high productivity and thus a superior standard of living.” In other words, higher productivity leads to improved competitiveness internationally, faster economic growth, higher employment, higher personal wealth, and even stronger government services. All good things!
How about Marketing productivity?
This got me thinking about marketing. Does Marketing have a role to play in closing the productivity gap? Doesn’t Marketing Automation technology boost a company’s productivity in the same way as those brawny road-building machines boost output in road-building?
Well, it certainly does! Inbound Marketing Automation technology, for instance, allows a marketing team to generate more sales leads, better manage those leads, and, most importantly, improve conversions to sales, all without an increase in marketing manpower. Inbound Marketing Automation thus literally means more output per unit of input!
Even better, automation frees up the marketing team from mundane, repeatable tasks to focus on higher value strategic and creative tasks. The end result is more revenue, more growth, more profits. Increasing marketing output is vital to creating a more competitive company.
All of a sudden I’m seeing marketing in a completely new light. With the right tools like automation (and the know-how to use it properly), marketing becomes more than a cost center. It becomes a powerful engine of productivity.
Canadian Marketers versus US Marketers
And let’s face it. Canadian Marketers need all the productivity tools at their disposal to successfully compete against their counterparts south of the border. That’s because US marketers generally have an advantage in terms of financial resources and economies of scope and scale. And US marketers seem naturally endowed with a more aggressive, “the world is my backyard” attitude that seems so foreign to Canadian marketers. (And if we do get a little aggressive at times, we are very quick to “apologize”!)
What about talent? Having worked extensively in the US, and for US multinationals across the globe, and having completed a Cornell EMBA alongside US executives from the likes of Apple, IBM, Intel, and Goldman Sachs, I can tell you that Canadian talent more than holds its own relative to our US counterparts.
But we all know that talent alone is not enough. To overcome our situational disadvantage, we need to out-produce our US cousins. Which brings us back full circle to productivity. We need to adopt the most advanced technologies and processes to fully leverage our marketing skills and talent.
So here’s the million dollar question: Are Canadian Marketers slower in adopting productivity enhancing tools than our US counterparts?
My experience at Gossamar talking to hundreds of B2B marketers tells me that, yes, Canadian companies are generally more hesitant to adopt automation technologies. But, despite looking high and low, I cannot find any research to support my opinion. If you know of any credible market studies in this area, dear reader, let us know. Otherwise Gossamar will embark on a research mission later this year to add some facts to the argument. Stay tuned.
Is there a Solution?
What’s the bottom line in solving the productivity lag? According to the Conference Board, the solution for Canada is to “invest in machinery and equipment—particularly information and communications technology”.
For us Canadian marketers, the clear message is that its time to throw down our pick-axe and shovel, and start using those productivity enhancing tools and processes at our disposal.
And let’s do so before our US cousins!