Upon entering the University of Texas at El Paso’s Executive Master of Business Administration program (EMBA) in early January 2011, I wondered just how much this program would help my professional career after having spent more than 23 years in the federal government with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As an engineer for the government, I have generally been isolated from the rigors of operating a business. I do not have to procure a money source for the business, nor any of a myriad of things a person must do in order to start a business. And, I especially do not worry about marketing, or so I thought until recently.
After completing several courses for the EMBA, I emerged with a better grasp of business principles that reinforce my belief in the need for marketing, even for the Corps.
As defined by the American Marketing Association (AMA), marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers, and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.
Prior to my enrollment in the program, I held a common misperception that marketing is “the art of selling products.” In this context, marketing does not align with the Corps’ mission for providing vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, as well as energizing the economy and reducing risks from disasters. And, the Corps does not sell a product. Or, does it?
Using AMA’s definition of marketing, the Corps definitely needs to capture and embody marketing and marketing techniques. The Corps strives to implement organizational processes that create, communicate and deliver value to our customer—the taxpayer.
In the form of congressional reports, information papers, web sites, public forums and pamphlets, to name a few, the Corps markets what the agency does, what it accomplishes and how taxpayer dollars are effectively put to use as mandated by Congress. Although not in the strictest sense of marketing for a profit, business survival dictates Corps policies and procedures to manage customer relationships that benefit the organization and stakeholders.
In a simplistic overview of government contracting, projects for various governmental agencies are identified, approved and funded by Congress. The agencies then have the option of how to execute their program. Agencies may or may not select the Corps to execute the program for them. If a value and relationship can no longer be substantiated, agencies will look elsewhere. But, because of the ability of the Corps to market the value it provides and the relationships it has sustained, the Corps has been the federal engineering agency of choice since its inauguration in 1775. In order to maintain this elite status for the next 230 years, marketing is and will continue to be of vital importance.
Through marketing, the Corps has leveraged its valued customers and relationships throughout its history. As a result of marketing strategies and plans, the Corps has transitioned itself from a series of separate divisions and districts responsible only for their own regional areas into an integrated organization with a “One Door to the Corps” policy. Any federal agency can contact the Corps and obtain expertise anywhere in the world. From its humble beginnings with only a chief engineer and two assistants, the Corps now employs approximately 36,000 civilians and 600 military employees, working on 250 military or federal sites, in nearly 100 countries across the globe. And, marketing has been key to this expansion.