In 2004, Nirmalya
Kumar of the London Business School, published an incredibly
insightful book called Marketing as Strategy.
Kumar argued that CEOs have lost faith in marketing -- that somewhere
marketing became marginalized by tactical implementation of communications
programs rather than owning a strategic "seat at the
as Kumar states, the importance of marketing as a two-way mirror between
organizations and their customers has never been more important.
we have this odd situation where the importance of the function is growing
while the faith of management in those who lead the function is
diminished. How did we get to this place where the marketing function
is in crisis? How has marketing lost its relevance?
answer lies, in part, with the subtitle of Professor Kumar's book:
"understanding the CEO's agenda for driving growth and
the years, many marketing organizations and the marketers who run them and
serve them have become disconnected from the strategy of the company. My
experience is that they often are communications experts not marketing
any function under constant pressure, marketing developed its own measures
to justify its existence. Today, that takes place in the form of
reliance on communications tactics and a train wreck of metrics, strewn
like jackknifed cars along the track.
as marketers get caught up in the latest pretty packaging whether it is
social media, SEO or web traffic, and we look for metrics to justify how
well they work. (How many followers do you have?)
find it interesting how many times I've read leading social media experts
stress the importance of understanding the company's business objectives. I want to stand up, shaking with incredulity, like the comedian
Lewis Black. "THAT IS THE PROBLEM!" What
are the business objectives? Who in marketing helps set them? Who in
marketing understands them?
misunderstand me. Metrics are helpful. They are wonderful tools. But they
are usually the cart before the proverbial horse. They often are not lead
indicators of where the CEO is trying to move the company. CEOs are under
increasing pressure to deliver profits. Board members worry about the
complexities of financial reporting requirements.
so, the C-suite agenda is less likely to focus on marketing issues. But
marketing still has to find and deliver answers to questions that
ultimately drive the growth of the company -- who are our customers?
what do they need from us? how do we deliver what they need
better than our competition delivers it?
has to change for marketing to become relevant to CEOs -- and for CMOs to
keep their "seat in the suite"?
Let's start by throwing stuff out. The 4Ps
-- product, promotion, price and place? In the dumpster! Let's start
to think and act like strategic business executives not kids playing with
the latest toy and trying to show mom and dad how well it works.
THE THREE CORE QUESTIONS CEO's FACE
Here's an easy
place to start. Answer the following three questions for your
company or organization:
Where are we?
Where have we agreed to go in five years?
How do we get there profitably and increase shareholder value?
one form or another that is what every CEO is trying to determine.
Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Reddit, Radian 6, only matter if they help answer
item 3, and I believe they can -- when applied correctly to the right
if that is the CEO's short list, what should marketing's be? Let's go back
to Professor Kumar. Here is the set of questions he poses that every
marketer needs to become relevant to the CEO and his or her agenda. You
need to answer these. If you don't know the answers, ask somebody. If
nobody knows, figure out how to use the tools of marketing to get answers.
That is how you become relevant.
STEPS TO MAKE MARKETING RELEVANT AGAIN
From Market Segments to Strategic Segments:
are our valued customers?
customers are unhappy with current offerings in the industry?
the target large enough to meet our sales objectives?
is our value proposition?
it fit the needs of customers we are trying to serve?
benefits are we delivering?
we deliver and earn a profit?
From Selling Products to Providing Solutions:
we guarantee customers outcomes and benefits instead of product
our sales people developed consulting skills and deep industry
we developed effective processes to allocate resources to solution
From Declining to Growing Distribution Channels:
service outputs will the new channel provide?
will the relative importance and power of existing channels change?
competitors will enter the new channel?
changes in channel incentives to existing members will competitors
new competences do we need to enter the new channel?
From Branded Bulldozers to Global Distribution Partners:
we identified our most valuable clients on a worldwide basis?
there single points of contact for global customers?
we optimized our supply chain for global efficiency
we harmonized pricing structures?
From Brand Acquisitions to Brand Rationalization:
brands are contributing to our profits?
needs-based segments exist in each category?
much sales revenue would we risk by deleting non-core brands?
is the role of the corporate brand?
will we articulate our program to stakeholders?
From Market-Driven to Market-Driving:
new ideas routinely imported from the outside?
we tolerate failures and have processes in place to learn from
we ensure that radical ideas do not lose resources to incremental
From Strategic Business Unit Marketing to Corporate Marketing:
does the organization rate on customer focus in processes, including
new product development, order fulfillment, customer relationship
the organization organized around customers?
metrics and rewards related to impact on customers?
the organization systematically learn about customers?
this is as much a shift in thinking as it is in the tools and programs
marketing deploys. Social media and digital marketing tied to analytics
can move the needle forward only a fraction if marketers don't understand
the three most difficult questions any company faces.
marketers, isn't it time we stepped back and started thinking about the
metrics we use as vehicles to identify the growth needs of the company
rather than metrics that justify the existence of tactics that are often
not well aligned with the strategic direction of the company?
it time we started to help set the strategic agenda of our companies and
clients rather than serve as marginalized order takers worried about
followers and colorful charts?
Bellows is a partner at 3Point
Communications, a global communications consulting firm specializing
is creating content-centered public relations campaigns for technology
Articles | Submit