What does it take for a marketer to earn, then command, a seat at the leadership table? This question poses challenges to many marketers.
Traditionally, certainly in hi-tech, companies are founded by technologists. When executive staff members are added, engineering, operations and sales leaders are often added long before a marketer. And who can argue success when a company's products continue to sell without the aid of a marketing leader? The irony with this approach is that its success is likely to be short-lived.
Eventually, this model, driven by the engineers and salesmen whose roles were never designed to understand and target complete markets, always runs out of steam.
The answer is not to suggest that a marketer should overstep or replace the leadership of engineering or sales. Far from it. Instead, the real long-lasting value a marketer can bring is to rise to the role of leading the executive team, and by extension the rest of the organization, to the high ground. No other function is properly suited to do so.
The marketing high ground
represents a special place where you know the market so well, so deeply, that you become acknowledged and valued internally as the “customers' advocate.” With this knowledge comes confidence in understanding the target customer and producing impactful lead generation campaigns.
When marketing leaders at every level step up to take ownership for becoming the customers' advocate and sharing market perspectives internally, a whole different type of discussion takes place internally. No longer are debates driven by random opinions; they are founded on customer use cases, market data, and customer feedback. This is what it takes to earn, then command, a seat at the leadership table.
1. Create a Persona
as a fictional representation of a very real market segment. Lead gen campaigns are the most successful when marketers have empathy with the target market. Only with this connection will our messages and creative approaches have a chance to cut through the clutter.
2. Build a Positioning Statement
is a seemingly simple fill-in-the-blanks tool that forces marketers to make sacrifices. We know we can’t be all things to all people, yet many marketers throw a multitude of features and benefits at prospects requiring them to sort out what’s really important. This only confuses the issue and lengthens the sales cycle. More is not better. A positioning statement challenges marketers to hone a simple statement that identifies the target market (via the persona), names the product and maps it to an appropriate category, prioritizes a benefit most relevant to the persona, and clearly distinguishes its uniqueness against the nearest competitive alternative.
3. Draft Your Story
The Message Box
is the best, most engaging, technique I know to rally marketing teams to develop a relevant, crisp elevator pitch. This tool challenges the marketing team to develop a crisp story to engage the prospect in a dialog. In truth, this pitch is much more about the prospect than it is about the product. Consider that the three most important words we marketers want to hear are “Tell me more!” Those words are an invitation to share the variety of information we’re eager to share. Whatever messaging technique you use, marketers must first show they understand the problem the customer is facing, then offer a set of criteria that can be used to solve the problem. Then and only then should marketers tell prospects how and why their products are better than any alternative. In running to the finish line, our story ends with an affirmation of the value we provide and how other customers have benefited from our products and services.
World-class marketers provide value to the organization not by dictating action, but by reminding everyone (other marketers, sales, engineering, management) of the customer, their goals, and their pain points. While these three best practices are simple, they should not be taken lightly. They require serious attention, and it takes practice to get them right. Consider them tools marketers can use to drive internal conversations so that the best product, roadmap, and campaign decisions will always be made.
Originally published Apr 12, 2011 9:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017