Perhaps, at the heart of it all, is an attitude that “good is good enough.” Good is not good enough. “Good is the enemy of great.” Nothing is good enough but “excellence.” There’s another saying that goes “a client gets what a client demands (or deserves).” The CMO must demand marketing excellence from herself, her people and the organization, and accept nothing less.
The Learning Organization
The ultimate path to marketing excellence is the creation of a learning organization. A learning organization is not one that offers a plethora of marketing training programs. That’s a university of sorts. Instead, a learning organization is one that truly understands what drives brand and business development, and how to do so in a way that optimizes its performance. Similar to the litigator who never ever poses a question to a witness for which she doesn’t know how that witness will respond, the learning organization never ever launches a marketing initiative on a broadscale basis (or counts on it to deliver the business objectives of sales, market share and profits) without knowing its performance and ROI from in-market testing. The learning organization doesn’t reinvent the wheel year after year, or whenever a new marketing manager comes into the picture. It builds upon what it knows, facts, proven principles, best practices and quality processes - not opinions. It employs a disciplined process to learn from each experience, share that learning and build upon it to drive even better performance.
The learning organization has a memory that is built from thoughtful analysis and sharing of learning. It goes about studying and analyzing performance in a way that is not so different than undertaking a clinical study for a new pharmaceutical compound. It starts with hypotheses and checks them out before declaring it a blockbuster.
According to Peter Senge, author of the Fifth Discipline, a learning organization “is continually expanding it capacity to create its own future … (where) ‘adaptive learning’ must be joined by ‘generative learning,’ learning that enhances our capacity to create.” Creating a learning organization is the ultimate in achieving and perpetuating marketing excellence.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS
How do we go from here to marketing excellence? Here are some suggestions worth pondering and, where appropriate to your situation, action:
1. Define Marketing Excellence – We need to get real. Marketing excellence is not just a label. It has to be about substance. Make it about marketplace performance!
2. Provide Thought Leadership – This refers to the functioning of the organization (or your brand). What must I do to make it more productive? What must be put in place (not merely different people, which is the easy excuse for failure, but proven principles, best practices and quality processes) to achieve superior performance? This role needs to be undertaken by the CMO if s/he is to leverage the organization and build a winning team. But if the CMO is not stepping-up to the plate (or even if s/he is) then you need to do it, at your level, for the brand team
3. Determine where you stand – Do you know where your brand or organization stands as it relates to achieving marketing excellence? Conduct a “marketing readiness” audit for your brand and/or organization to learn where you stand on the continuum from “marketing emergence” to “brand marketing excellence.” Competency models will not help you determine it. They deal with requisite skills for individual marketers. What we need, instead, is to adopt a model that addresses organizational performance. The marketing readiness audit will enable you to gain a fix on the performance of your brand and/or organization. (If you are interested, we can assist you in developing and conducting a “marketing readiness” audit. Moreover, we will provide you with an objective view of where you stand with regard to marketing excellence.)
4. Set High Standards – The legendary adman, Leo Burnett, stated “When you reach for the stars you might not quite get one, but you won’t come-up with a handful of mud either.” Champions set exceedingly high standards for themselves, regardless of their field of endeavor. Then they go about their work of perfecting themselves, and seeking help from others, in their quest to attain their goals, goals that also-rans consider unreachable.
5. Institutionalize – Everybody needs to get on the same page, regardless of management level. Everyone needs to commit her or himself to not just reaching for the stars but the framework to achieve marketing excellence. S/he needs to adopt the framework, live and evangelize it. If the team does not pull together on this practice then success will be fortuitous or sporadic at best. Without institutionalization you may win an occasional game but then that’s not winning a championship. Practice is mandatory, not optional!
6. Enlist everyone is in marketing - Peter Drucker stated that the organization has two functions: marketing; and innovation. Ultimately, everyone in the organization must be involved in marketing if it is to achieve excellence. Members of the Board, customer service representatives, finance, manufacturing, every person and department needs to consider its role, not from an individual silo, but as part of the whole in achieving superior performance in winning customers in the marketplace, to create brand loyalty.
7. Serve Creatively – One of our primary roles as marketers is to better serve our customers than competition. But what once was the standard for service is now a commodity. It’s generic. It’s gone beyond being an advantage to being a disadvantage. Here’s where innovation MUST come into play. Ideas can have a profound impact on delighting and, therefore, winning customers. Generate tons of ideas. Take lots of shot on goal. The more shots we take the greater the likelihood that we will eventually score with a BIG Idea.
8. Get SMART - SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant (in terms of leading to the achievement of the Business Objectives of sales, market share and profits in the marketing plan) and Timebound. Marketing excellence is about being SMART. It’s doing the right things in a way that is SMART. It’s about making marketing matter (more).
9. Measure Twice, Cut Once – This is a practice of master carpenters. It needs to be a practice of marketers intent on creating a learning organization and achieving marketing excellence. While we may generate many ideas, these are nothing but hypotheses. Now they need to be tested for proven performance in the absolute and relative to other options. We need to pre-test with marketing research before in-market testing. Then we need to market test prior to rolling-out or launching on a broadscale basis. We need to measure for ROI. DO NOT CUT THE MARKETING TESTING BUDGET! It will undermine marketing’s ability to create future performance. We need to measure to ensure we are making our marketing matter (more).
10. Take One Step At A Time – “That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” stated Apollo 11 astronaut, Neil Armstrong, as he was the first man to step on the surface of the moon. It took many years, millions of dollars and the work of many to make this historic mission successful. Achieving marketing excellence and developing a learning organization will not happen immediately. You can’t get from here (determined by the results of the “marketing readiness” audit highlighted in point 3) to there yesterday, overnight or, perhaps, not even next year. It will require an iterative approach with clear priorities. Depending where you currently stand it could take a few years, particularly if you are stuck in stage one of the BDNI Brand Marketing Excellence Continuum, “marketing emergence.”
BDNI Brand Marketing Excellence Continuum
In this case you would need to move to stage 2, “brand marketing performance,” and then on to stage 3, “brand marketing excellence.” Is it possible to jump stages? Yes, but it is not likely since it requires clear priorities, focus, commitment and an incredible amount of work. Additionally, the organization needs to conduct adaptive experiments to gain the knowledge it needs to develop into a learning organization. Here’s a sample of potential priorities for brands and/or organizations to reach the first stage, “marketing emergence,” in the BDNI Brand Marketing Excellence Continuum:
Sample Stage 1 Priorities in the
“Brand” Marketing Excellence Continuum
|Priority Action 1
|| Create MBO (Markeing by Objectives)
|Priority Action 2
Develop Brand Positioning Strategies to transform
the organization from "selling products" to
|Priority Action 3
Set quantifiable expectations for all marketing
mix initiatives and identify ways to measure
* Taken from the BDNI Brand Marketing Emergence Model
Perhaps, we (at BDNI) can be of service. If you’d like help in making your marketing matter (more), through developing and conducting an objective “marketing readiness” audit, creating a specific “marketing excellence migration plan” to move your brand and/or organization through the BDNI “brand marketing excellence continuum,” developing and/or conducting training to achieve marketing’s mission, creating a competitive brand positioning strategy, etc., please don’t hesitate to let us know.
Best wishes in achieving marketing excellence!
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney