December 9, 2014
by Carla Johnson
In the late 1990s, Philip Kotler wrote a book called Kotler on Marketing. In it, he said that “marketing will be re-engineered from A to Z. Marketing will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate and deliver customer value.”
For the last decade, people have talked about changing buyer behavior. Despite all the chatter, marketing departments are woefully lacking in their ability to keep pace. It’s easy to point fingers and call out the need to keep up. It’s hard to be the one who steps forward and says that you’ll actually do something about it.
Part of the reason it’s hard is because marketers don’t know what their purpose is. We know it’s more than being brand cops and handing out tchotchkes. But we don’t know, exactly, what “more” looks like or what “more” it’s supposed to do.
This is when we have to step back and think about the purpose of the work that we do. The changes in buyer behavior have forced changes in how we think and act as marketers. We want to assert more authority but we need to understand how to build credibility first. That’s why we need to look at the bigger picture and understand our purpose of the work that we do. It’s not about branding and generating leads. We need to think about the changing role of marketing within our organizations. From that point, we can understand the contributions that marketing can make to the overall performance of the business, and then plan strategies that support them.
Developing long-term relationships with audiences is more complex. Today, what builds interest, persuades, engages and creates loyalty is consistent, valuable engagement and unexpected delight in the experiences that people have with a brand.
The new marketer—value creator inside and out
In order to gain influence and earn our seat at the executive table, we need to quit thinking like marketers and transition into becoming audience (both inside and out) experience leaders who understand the view and strategy of the entire organization. If we continue to limit our role to one of “mere” communication, or as a “service agency” to sales, we won’t be able to transform organizations or the way marketing operates within them. Now is the time that we shift from describing the value of the products/services that our company sells to creating value through the work that we do.
How, exactly, can marketing begin to create value, rather than just describing it? Here’s three ways to begin:
- Marketers as growth drivers
For marketing to become a vital growth function that takes a company to new places, marketers have to insert themselves into the overall corporate strategy. To truly transform organizations, we have to go beyond asking, “What’s the role that marketing could have?” to ask ourselves, “What, in our organization, is the role that marketing will have?” How do we shift from describing the value that our products and services deliver, to generating value through the work that we do?
- Marketers as unifiers
As we look at marketing’s role outside the wall of “just marketing,” there’s opportunity for us to bring people together by building non-traditional teams that collaborate to solve customer problems. This means learning what motivates each group and then developing a compelling vision, and superb communication and integration skills. In order to unify, we have to help people understand the greater vision and then serve as the point-people when the work moves into execution.
- Marketers as Innovators
One of the newest responsibilities for marketers is that of spearheading innovation. It is our responsibility to see where our customers’ worlds are going and help our companies get there before everyone else does. We have to look for opportunities to incubate ideas in small ways and feel empowered to translate them into practical direction, inspiration, and executable actions.
In order to lead companies and industries, marketers must first understand how to lead our own profession. How will traditional processes hold up in these times of transition? If we aren’t willing to talk about how our roles need to change, then we’re perpetuating a hidden force that undermines our work: legacy thinking. It’s easy, when under pressure, to default to what’s familiar and comfortable. The pull of the past makes it hard to change thinking, processes, and outcomes. If we’re ever to come into our own as a profession and leaders within organizations, though, it’s time that we step out of our comfort zones.
Marketing is here to continually evolve audience and create value. As we look to the future of marketing, what do you see as the biggest change that needs to happen in your organization? What are the first baby steps you can take to get the momentum going?