Although many, aspects of Industry have morphed and changed over the last, few decades, there are several outposts that continue to find their way. In spite of technological advances, process improvements, changing Market and Customer demands, fierce Competition and even the advent of the Internet and powerful, Marketing platforms – like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – the prevailing mindset has not changed dramatically.
In 1981, we submitted a manuscript to Harvard Business School for review and consideration. It was titled, “Market Technology: The Missing Link.”
It certainly would not rival Ted Leavitt’s “Marketing Myopia,” however Market Technology approached the fundamental issue differently and distinctively.
The actual manuscript was a “library of congress” class of document complete with concept overview, relevant models, heavy detailed, descriptors, case examples to demonstrate that the stuff had been applied to the real world, etc.
In its raw form – Market Technology advocated that companies must treat their marketing, sales and business development needs similarly to the way core engineering and product development are handled. Determining the right response and the right mix for a company’s marketing and sales programs is no different than determining a company’s products and services. In fact, conceiving effective programs is as complex and critical to the company’s success, as conceiving its product set. This meant that the Marketing discipline and process need to be integrated into the business. In fact, with small-to-medium, sized companies – the Market Program – is classified, as critical – in that, it could make or break a company.
For smaller firms – they must get it right – out-of-the-gate, and may not get a second chance.
This is one aspect that distinguishes smaller companies from their larger counterparts – as the larger firm can absorb a missed opportunity or loss more readily.
How many companies have you been associated with that thought and operated this way?
Market Technology represents a Mindset, framework, methodology, process orientation and an implementation -ready, program all rolled-up in one, complete package.
In your company, what role does Marketing play?
Most, will respond by indicating that Marketing plays a support role for either the product/service or to provide mainline support to the company’s Salesforce or Distribution Network (Channel Partners).
Reference will be made to Trade Show support, MarComm, collateral material, brochures, data sheets and even the dreaded “lead generation program.”
In your company, what is the stature of Marketing?
There are exceptions (depending on the Industry and Company make-up), however most will indicate that it is not a Leadership role (although the Marketing Team wants it to be).
What is the missing ingredient?
Is it that Senior Management did not come from the Marketing discipline and will not give it its day and cut it loose?
Is it that companies have experienced too, many false starts with their Marketing Program or it just doesn’t work?
Is marketing too, risky and costly compared to making investment in other areas of the company?
Is marketing viewed, as a luxury vs. a mainline contributor?
There is no silver bullet answer, although some combination of these factors may be the root to understand the dynamics going on here – in your company.
Let’s revisit the elements of the All-in-One package referenced above:
*The Mindset – we continually get bombarded with messages that advocate a company must migrate to a Market-Driven or Customer-Centric state – well, how many successful transitions have you been involved in or led?
The point is that this involves cultural and many times, organizational change – and that is not a small step, but a giant leap. It may demand shift changes in focus and direction, which may also have an impact on the make-up of the Senior Leadership Team.
It takes careful assessment, planning, timing and relentless dedication to pull something like this off, however the starting point is the Mindset. If there is need to infuse or change the company mindset to embrace Marketing – then it must start with the Top Dogs (Senior Leadership Team) and then filter into the organization. Although the mindset sounds like “soft science,” if the company environment is not ripe and receptive and the mindset is not understood and put to practice, then there is no need to invest any time, resource and effort into driving this forward. It’s a Dead stop!
*Framework/Methodology – most companies’ Marketing efforts look-like a disjointed, puzzle. The pieces are laid out and some fit, however it just doesn’t hang together. The reason for this is that the make-up of the Marketing Program is comprised of discrete events (activity-based) vs. a well-thought out, integrated Program (defined and driven by Strategic intent). Further, there are times when something is put in-place to satisfy the interests of the Top Dog or to appease the Sales Team – avoid these activities like the plague. They will not serve the organization well, deliver the desired results and most likely put a “black-eye” on the Marketing function or diminish its value.
When defining the baseline Marketing Program, it is useful to utilize a simple framework that identifies and breaks down the Marketing Sphere into its core elements: 1. Research (primary and secondary) 2. Market Planning and Strategizing (industry, market segment, application, customer, product, competition, pricing, packaging, etc.) 3. Market Program Development (consistent with Strategic Business Plan and critical priorities) 4. Advertising, promotions and communications (various platforms and vehicles – company capabilities, positioning, customer profiles, product coverage, etc.) 5. Sales Development (market, business, sales, product, etc.) 6. Product Management (market, technology and competition). There are other elements that can extend the framework, although these are the basic, building blocks.
The framework can be viewed, as a group of circles, where each element is inter-related (like a Venn diagram – math term). The circular flow is continuous and self-feeding. Market Research (the Homework), for example, can be integral to defining the profile and make-up of a Market Program – like a Product Launch Campaign or a Competitive Attack Program or building/developing a Strategic Alliance and Partner Network. To have a shot at developing effective, Marketing Programs – it is necessary for your firm to utilize a framework to guide the Marketing challenge. This will also assure that your program is fully-integrated from the get-go. This must be aligned with the Strategic Business Plan (and its priority set), although there are times, when implementing a tactically-driven, program has purpose and value. These are usually opportunity-driven. Once the framework is understood – program considerations are mapped-onto the framework to represent the make-up and selection of your Phase One Market Program. The driver for Program selection should be those challenges, opportunities or problem-set, which are critical to business success – not something that is neat to do. We have many clients that utilize a framework, which has streamlined the Marketing task and not let them down. With the framework, you can “walk before you run” – selecting a few, sample programs, putting them to the test and then extending your reach. Over time, mastering the framework and having all of the elements working in your business – is the target objective.
*Process Orientation – there are a series of steps to define and develop Market Programs. They are not goof-proof nor will they guarantee success, however to embark on putting programs in-place, without a process orientation – is like putting your company’s livelihood on a Las Vegas roulette wheel.
These steps represent a methodology and an integral process:
*Baseline Research – we refer to this, as the homework. This can be completed in short-order (depending on how conversant and savvy you are on the subject matter). To keep it fresh and unbiased, it would be useful to bring in Outsiders – that are not contaminated with the internal view. They may also challenge conventional wisdom and bring-in new perspectives. This phase is normally overlooked or de-emphasized, however it is critical to fueling, shaping and molding your Program selection and content. Can you imagine spawning a Market Program, let’s say, that must build position in a new, Industry segment and generate business, without doing the Homework?
Over time, this must be integrated into your company and be a continuous, process.
*Profiling – bring in your brightest lights and some Outside support to translate/interpret the Homework, which will naturally point you in the right direction to choose and select the “best” Program mix and aid in defining the content of each Program. Develop a written profile – complete with all of the elements – for each Program consideration.
*Positioning/Messaging – we have seen many firms “go creative” on this phase – imagination is good, however make sure that the positioning/messaging is consistent with what was compiled and translated from the Homework. We are not taking a shot at creativity, however Programs are implemented to generate results – not win awards. In today’s market – take the focus off your company, product, service or yourself – the target audience is not interested in that fluff. Have your campaign highlight a critical, Industry problem or opportunity or a target application – something that is relevant and useful to your audience. Have Programs that host a theme not a product-line – this can also be built upon and perpetuated. Mix it up and make it distinctive. Use the “acid test” – when done with your positioning/messaging, put the Competitor’s logo on it – if it makes sense and is not defendable – go back to the drawing board, rather than embarrassing yourself in the Open Market. Incidentally, to support the continuous, development of Market Programs – you might want to consider creating a role – Market Designer. This allows dedication to the task and results in building skill and competence in this key, area.
*Pilot Test – take your Whiz-bang, guaranteed-to-work, Program out to a test audience. This exercise is insightful, can take less than thirty (30) days and can save your bacon. Have the audience made-up of known and unknown quantities (including some of the competitor’s customers) to get a fair cross-section. Take their inputs seriously, factor their valued, inputs into the Program make-up and then launch with less pressure and more certainty. Include your Sales/Support team and 3rd Party Network into the process – get their feedback and also enroll them into the Program early, as they will predictably be an implementation arm for the real thing.
*Implementation Phase (Ready-to-Roll) – this is it – the real thing. Pre-launch your Program both within and outside of the company. For insiders, get them ramped-up and rallying around the Program. Make it a Company event. For outsiders – build a little, mystery – prior to formal launch. Depending on the make-up of your Program – you can leverage the Media (all forms) – most salivate over something new and newsworthy. Take advantage of webinars, instructional programs (How To Workshops), click-into Industry Groups and Associations that cater to your prospective audience, generate useful Industry articles (and find sites whose subscriber network fit your needs) – if your Program lends itself to Social Media – go for it – there are powerful, Marketing Platforms that you can leverage – and turn viral.
There are trusted, experts out there that specialize in these areas – tap them!
This is also a critical, phase for your Program.
If you are leveraging a Sales team and/or a 3rd Party Network (Partners) – make sure to provide the front-end, training, campaign materials, and incentives to get them focused and juiced-up.
Listen to their comments along the way, as they are on-the-street and closely aligned with your prospects and customers. Make adjustments to your Program quickly and cleanly, based on their inputs – no burden.
Highlight the early-stage, successes (regularly).
Remember: the first 30-45 days of your Program is the “bleeding neck” phase – if you lose grip and momentum – you will not get it back. Poof goes your campaign!
*Metrics – avoid putting stiff, metrics on a Program up-front – until it is fully, launched, out there and generating tangible results. At that stage, the Program can be evaluated/assessed, in terms of, its potential impact and then realistic and attainable metrics can be applied.
As a rule-of-thumb – both tangible and intangible metrics need to be defined and put to practice for every, Market Program.
*Program Ownership – if your organization can swing it – identify an individual or group responsible for each Program – to breed ownership and accountability. They should be the conduit, between the inside and outside audiences for all aspects of the Program. They must be key, players in the organization that command respect and “carry a stick.” Program implementation is not a piece of cake and, at times, demands a degree of clout to get things done. If your Program Owner interfaces with the field Sales Team and 3rd Party Network (Reps, Dealers, Distributors, etc.) – make sure they are a known quantity and “speak the language” of the audience. We have seen brilliant, Programs go down the tidy bowl or sit-and-spin, because the wrong people were selected to lead and direct the Program. This is a subtlety that must not be overlooked.
*Reporting – keep the reporting short and simple, although with an emphasis on “keeping a finger on the pulse,” monitoring the stage of Program life (introduction, maturity, wind-down, etc.) and what is useful to Management and the Program participants. Reporting must not be, viewed as, imposing or Management’s attempt to “look over the shoulder” of those driving and participating in the Program. At the front-end of the Program (Roll-out/Launch) – it is helpful to report more often, as early-stage, feedback is key to effectiveness. As the Program takes shape and is more, predictable – the reporting can be less frequent.
*Program Continuum – every program has a life-cycle – it can be a short-term, program, for example – a hard-driving, Competitive Replacement Program designed to generate revenue quarterly, to a long-term, program designed to investigate and build a Channel Partner Network or Strategic Alliance relationships, to a mid-term, program like a formal, Product Launch Campaign. At every step of the Program life-cycle, there are opportunities to enhance the program format, depending on the business drivers and responses of the target audience. For example – for the Competitive Replacement Program, it may be useful to introduce incentives for both the potential buyer and the participating Dealer/Reps or construct powerful, Competitive Analysis tools or generate pre-qualified, leads. For the Product Launch Campaign example – automated “try and buy” kits, which will allow the prospect to review and test the new product (at their leisure with no sales pressure) may reinforce the campaign message, create a sense of urgency and strengthen the overall, Program format. There are times, when it is necessary – mid-life – to repackage a program or take it down a different path. This amplifies a key point – that Programs are not a done deal, after roll-out and launch – they have a life-span, which we call the Continuum.