So with the recent examination of my overall social network I got to thinking about the people who responded and those that I engage over and over to learn from, either via social media or in person. To that end, I’m starting a series of interviews on Marketing, which are essentially just 7 questions. I’ve got a bunch in the queue already, but wanted to start with a key influencer to my marketing experience, Vikram Singha. I had the pleasure to have Vikram in my group for like 4 years and to work along side him as a peer during his last role I worked with him in.
Vikram is the type of product manager that looks at the numbers – the opportunity and the revenue, plus one of the best statisticians I have ever met. Vikram is one of the founding members of Global Energy Talent and responsible for Marketing. To that end, below is Vikram’s overview on how Marketing’s in the Middle from his experience:
What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?
Strategic Marketing- Federal Express; Ecommerce and logistics; worldwide
Product Manager- Inovis; B2B software and services; primarily US
Marketing lead- Global Energy Talent; Human capital services for the energy industry; worldwide
When you look at your career in marketing, what discipline/component have you found most interesting/challenging?
The sales and marketing interface. At most of organizations where I’ve worked there has always been tension between these two functions. The push and pull happens on many different levels:
- who to target?
- What markets?
- What to build and pitch?
- How to price?
- How to get to the decision maker?
The successful organization aligns the Sales leader and the CMO tightly and creates structures that allow these teams to interact both formally AND informally. The trick is to make sure there isn’t an echo chamber and that creative differences can be brought out and thought through. My sense is that short term focused organizations (typically the tech industry which tend to be more quarter-driven) tend to have more differences. Managing this is always a challenge, as well as part of the fun of marketing.
What do you feel the most important component of a successful marketing gig? (Product, Brand, Positioning)
Positioning. At the end of the day Marketing’s role is to tell the organization’s story– to prospects, customers, employees and different stakeholders in the market at large. This all boils down to how you talk about yourself, how you empower everyone in the org to tell the same story. Once you sell the vision then its easier to make the transactional sale, whether it’s a product or service.
Since you selected Positioning, how has that contributed to revenue in your experience?
Example at my current gig: Am part of a startup providing recruitment, training and consulting for the energy industry worldwide. We’re competing with both large global generalists as well as regional specialists. The only way we can get access to decision makers is to focus very specifically in one vertical domain and immediately connect with a pain point that most in the industry are generally aware of but usually don’t verbalize- lack of technical talent and the process to fill the crew gap. We’ve done this in a variety of ways and channels, and as result have entrée (and ongoing projects) at quite a few global oil majors that wouldn’t have given us the time of the day if our story was uni-dimensional. Being in the services industry (read: low IP) the value has to be defined at a very fundamental level, else it then just becomes a nickel and dime game.
What experiences brought you to this conclusion?
Trial and error!
If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?
Probably an environment where there is freedom to experiment. Ability to learn, and more importantly, institutionalize this learning. Key point is that this is not a marketing issue, rather an organizing principle at its core.
How far is this from reality?
Some companies are doing this already. Toyota, Apple, P&G, Nokia, Ideo. In fact Ideo has some very interesting approaches to ethnographic learning systems that drive marketing design decisions.