I’ve been having discussions with a bunch of people lately around what makes a good marketing leader for a project I’ve been working on. Just the other day I met up with a few of folks over coffee and the discussion got really interesting. By interesting, I mean pretty interesting as I started to see patterns in the work I’ve been doing and the things they were saying. The discussion centered on what situations, qualities and activities have made a difference in their careers as marketers.
It was such an interesting discussion, I decided to lead future conversations down this path and drilled down on it with a couple of other folks (marketers and non-marketers) over the last week or so. To that end, here are 5 items which surfaced as key lessons learned/attributes/considerations which help develop good leaders in marketing:
1. Good Marketers Trust Their Teams – One of the critical success factors for marketers is whether they can lead their organization to meet the demands of the market AND the business. To be able to support both, marketing leaders will need to enlist support from every part of the business. Too often marketers and product managers get mired down in trying to drive EVERY component of their products activities in the market and inside the business operationally which isn’t the best approach. Sometimes you need to delegate and trust the experts in each area to do their jobs effectively.
Prioritize what is really important and let the team do their job
2. Marketing doesn’t have ALL the Good Ideas – While decision making isn’t a collaborative process and a person needs to be accountable, too often marketers make decisions in a vacuum. Successful marketers take multiple inputs and decision what is best base on ALL the inputs and sometimes the good ideas just might come from sales, development or another group.
The funny thing about some marketers is that once he/she finds something that works they try it again and again and again — even if it doesn’t work for the current situation or are having diminishing returns on execution. I’ve seen a bunch of marketers say stuff like ‘this worked at X company’ or maybe they provide the ‘you haven’t done marketing’ excuse about why they are pursuing something or why someone elses idea is bad, whatever…. ultimately it doesn’t matter — a good idea is a good idea and you need to pursue those where ever they come from. Good marketers check their egos and preferences at the door when they go into decision mode
3. Nobody really cares about your product: The people that buy your products only care that they solve their problem and that a given vendor understands them. Most buyers think all the product are the just about the same, at least those on the short list.
I’ve worked at a bunch of companies that had killer technology and we walked around touting the tech and dismissing the competitors because their technology sucked, but we were still a rounding error in the market. The other companies had great exits or have grown to have great multiples even with bad technology. What’s that saying? The technology floor is littered with great products which failed or something…”
4. Tell stories: Whether it’s a new product being launched, a legacy product or a new market segment which is being pursued it’s typically the marketer with the best story, not product that succeeds. Product roadmaps, case studies and your prospect presentations are all about telling stories.
I have never won a deal on a feature or even a product, but I’ve lost a bunch due to the fact that I couldn’t get the decision maker convinced that going with my company’s offering over another made better sense in the long run of the relationship. Typically, if my story was more compelling I’ve won the deal – even with an inferior product
5. You have to be willing to do ALL the work: Many marketers come to roles with experience in one market segment or another, some may have even had other functional roles which influence what strategies they pursue and tactics they use. For example, a marketer with a sales background might put all the focus on lead generation since he/she isn’t familiar with or doesn’t like other marketing activities. Another way to put it, even though you hate crunching data/events/finance stuff, you still have to do the data/event/finance stuff so you either get good at it yourself or build a team which has diverse skills to support all aspects of marketing.
When I hire I look to balance my own soft spots and the team in general. I look for a more balanced background in applicants which have had multiple functional roles, this not only rounds them out from a skills perspective, but allows them to understand that building or promoting or selling the product is only one of the critical activities which make products successful in the market which is always a good perspective to have when you are a marketer.”
Discussion Group/Sample Overview
3. Sr Product Manager
4. QA Director**
5. Product Executive (actually his title)
6. SVP, Strategic Marketing
7. Director, Business Development***
*thinks he’s a marketer
**never had a marketing gig, but is really smart and knows a good marketer when he sees one.
***thinks bd is far more difficult than marketing, he might be right in that I know there is far more stress with a quota