Sunday, July 8, 2012
A MEDITATION ON MARKETING EXCELLENCE – Part 1
Meditation – med-i-ta-tion (noun) – pondering of something
Nearly all of our worldwide clients have “marketing excellence” training programs. But what is "marketing excellence?" What is it that they strive to achieve? This is Part 1 of a meditation in search of defining and characterizing marketing excellence, and what it takes to achieve it.
What is Excellence?
Excellence is about achieving the highest levels of performance. It means being more successful, much more successful than others (namely, the competition – both external and internal).
It is not about reaching and settling into a norm of average performance but, instead, achieving a place that is near perfection, clearly superior performance in the absolute, and relative to what others are able to achieve.
It is not merely an individual accomplishment. As much as individual accomplishments are appreciated and desired it asks more. It is really about the performance of the organization at the brand, division, sector and/or company level.
It is not a "sometimes thing" but a persistent state of superior performance. It is like the legendary coach Vince Lombardi's perennial champions, the Green Bay Packers, successfully executing sweep after sweep around end to inexorably plow their way down the field to an eventual touchdown, and a certain victory. It is like the Spanish National Football team winning an unprecedented third, consecutive international title (a World and two European titles) with a score of 4 – 0, routing its opponent. It is Apple Corporation reinventing categories and consistently breaking records for sales and profits, quarter after quarter, as it delights consumers on its way to become the corporation with the highest market capitalization in the world.
Marketing excellence is not merely showing up to play or go through the motions to slog through the same, rather average (more likely, lackluster) performance. It’s about a dominating performance to bust through targeted goals, and exceed all expectations.
And, it doesn’t end with winning. It is not content unless we’ve achieved the best ever. And when we do so it leads us to demand more from ourselves, and drives us to strive and achieve new, higher levels of performance in the future. It’s recognition that today’s marketing excellence will be mediocre by tomorrow’s standards.
What Comprises Marketing Excellence?
Marketing excellence is about profound achievements in the marketplace such as:
- Sales and market share growth faster, much faster than the category;
- Conscious, as opposed to fortuitous, and predictable achievement of quantifiable financial and customer behavior objectives;
- Establishing market, or segment, leadership;
- Generating a predictable, high rate of ROI for marketing initiatives;
- Creating a pipeline of proven innovations (e.g., new products, product improvements, marketing tactics, communication campaigns, etc.) to ensure enhanced competitiveness and future streams of uninterrupted, profitable income;
- Widening the leadership position in the market or segment;
- Beating competitors to the market with innovation (e.g., new products, technologies, etc.) and securing first mover advantage;
- Establishing, and being guided by, a competitive, enduring and ownable brand positioning strategy to create strong brand equity;
- Delighting customers to drive a significant customer preference, and high levels of satisfaction, advantage for your offerings;
- Creating a “whole product” offering (consisting of both tangible and intangible features) that provide relevant and meaningfully differentiated benefits to the target-customer segment you serve;
- Moving the life cycle of the brand ever higher, and extending it out to the right, to maximize its life value to the company;
- Creating brand loyalty, thereby, immunizing customers against the lure of competitive entries (to maintain or even grow market share) or price discounting (to maintain ASP – average selling price);
- Maintaining and even growing margins;
- Achieving the business plan month by month, quarter by quarter, year by year – with no surprises;
- Generating leadership communications that not merely achieve high copy testing scores in marketing research but, more importantly, drive preference for your entry and compel customers to action (in the marketplace) that overachieves the communication behavior objective;
- Being recognized by industry authorities and competitors for best practices and superior performance;
- Knowing the “why” behind every “what” of brand performance, customer behavior, etc., such that intelligent adaptations are implemented that build leadership;
- Being guided by an MBO (Marketing By Objectives) plan where behaviors connect with business objectives and resource allocation is accountable for generating intended performance;
- Integrating and coordinating all marketing activities to achieve Power Positioning, leverage a BIG Brand Idea through all communication vehicles and, as a result, fuel geometric growth;
- Integrating and coordinating with all functional elements within the organization to deliver flawless execution (e.g., no quality or product availability issues, etc.) in all marketing related activities.
If we are not able to credit our brand or organization with the aforementioned achievements then, sadly to say, we have not achieved, nor are we achieving, marketing excellence.
Who’s Responsible for Marketing Excellence?
A marketing curriculum, as much as it is dubbed "marketing excellence" cannot legitimately ascribe to it unless its training results in superior performance. And, when it comes to marketing, superior performance is not merely an individual accomplishment measured by attainment of competencies, but a team event measured by marketplace performance factors.
Marketing excellence is winning performance by the team, the Brand, the Division, the Company. Therefore, the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) or the CEO (depending upon the company) is the architect of marketing excellence. The CMO sets the framework (i.e., the practices and processes) for marketing excellence. Training programs, and ALL marketers, must adhere to this framework in the same way all functional areas must adhere with the Corporate Business Plan established by the CEO. Without the stewardship of the CMO and the institutionalization of proven principles, best practices and quality processes, marketing training programs are merely window dressing, no matter how well intentioned. They look good on paper but fail to live-up to their promise where it really counts, with superior performance in the marketplace, simply because they are not faithfully adopted, and practiced, as the new standard of operations.
The CMO is the conductor; the marketing organization is the orchestra. Without the conductor the orchestra has little or no basis for comportment in a manner that will lead to a harmonious, fully integrated performance. Each musician, or marketer, will be reading from a different composition, guided by his/her sensibility as opposed to the vision, framework and guidance of the conductor in coming together to produce a great performance that will connect deeply with its audience (target-customer segment) as measured by superior business results.
Who’s at fault if the strings are not working in harmony with the woodwinds? Who’s at fault is it if the percussion instruments come in at the wrong time? The conductor is at fault as surely as the CMO is at fault if his marketing teams operate with different marketing plan, or brand positioning strategy, or creative brief, formats. The buck starts and stops with the CMO. It is the responsibility of the CMO to leverage the talent in the marketing organization to make it great.
Where does mid-level marketing management fit into marketing excellence? These are the senior product/brand managers, group managers and directors. They have a significant role in achieving marketing excellence. Their role is to institutionalize, and reinforce on a daily basis, those best practices and quality processes established by the CMO. However, left to their own devices this level of management will fail those whom are under their supervision, the CMO, and the organization. The vast majority of these managers believe they “know this stuff” and don’t need to partake in the same formal training programs as their direct reports. They feel that they have more important things to do and therefore can’t spare the time to train for, and lead their people in, the mission. It may be compared to a team captain who is so preoccupied with his own performance and stats that he abandons team play and his responsibility to galvanize the team in playing at its best. In many other instances it is immature development on the part of these mid-level managers regarding a lack of knowledge-based experience about what it takes to lead and advance the organization. Therefore, the CMO must ensure that mid-level managers get on board and act responsibly as team captains for the sake of superior team performance, and set an example for superior leadership.
Individual marketers cannot be excused in their responsibility either. It is absolutely unacceptable for a musician to begin a performance before his instrument is tuned. Likewise it is absolutely unacceptable for the marketer not to tune his instrument through continuous learning for self-development and growth, consistent with the CMO’s framework and direction for the organization. This is not merely about participating in formal training events and checking off that box. It has to be about putting the learning into action. It also has to be about creating expectations for a given marketing initiative and inspecting (that is measuring) for that which was expected. It’s about learning from everything the marketer does.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:
We’ll take-up BOATS & HELICOPTERS in Part 2. Additionally, we will share: our thoughts regarding barriers to achieving marketing excellence; the importance of creating a learning organization; and a sample migration model to help you get from where you are to marketing excellence.
Hopefully, the aforementioned thoughts will give you something to ponder and encourage you to achieve marketing excellence in a quest to help make marketing matter (more).
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney
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