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5 Realizations which will help moving forward in your marketing career

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

1. CTO*
2. COO
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

Marketing IS in the Middle: Ben Cody

Oh development – they HAVE to be the problem, that’s the common believe in a good deal of companies.  The next expert in delivering his take on Marketing being in the middle is one the of best technologist I’ve worked with and a development leader writ large, Ben Cody.  I call him Benji, mainly in my head, but he is a what I refer to as a practical visionary.  Ben transitioned from be being a developer leader with great ideas I depended on for years to an industry leader in B2B technologies and BPM.  I trust Ben on every level because he provides input, improvement and access to his ideas and team, not a common thing for a marketer (my opinion) and why I think it is important to get his marketing insights.  Ben currently is VP of Product Management at Global360 and continues to change the industry, glad to know him – glad he participated in the interview below.

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

Various roles in Product Management, Product Marketing and Field Marketing in the enterprise software markets, with a predominant focus on Financial Services and Manufacturing.

When you look at your career in marketing, what discipline/component have you found most interesting/challenging?

Although not what I do day to day anymore, the field marketing.  Demand generation is a challenge – getting people to respond to various programs – was one of the more fascinating studies in human behavior.   A given tactic works for one product, but not the other.

What do you feel the most important component of a successful marketing gig?  (Product, Brand, Positioning)

I came out of development, so I’m definitely a Product person.  The product is the hardest one to change and takes the longest to build right.  The right product with the right capabilities which solves problems is all that the market can ask for.  But this often isn’t the product that marketers are positioning.  Buyers see through lipstick on the pig these days like never before, so stretching capabilities in a data sheet or simply polishing the UI doesn’t work in a competitive marketplace.  Too many were burnt in the last big wave of enterprise IT spend back around the turn of the century, so Product is the key component.

What experiences brought you to this conclusion?

I’ve worked multiple markets, in various stages of maturity, from new markets to laggards and with varied targets, such as the SMB or Enterprise. To that end, I’ve spent a good deal of time taking legacy products and repositioning them has taught me the hard way that lipstick wears off.  Not that much fun, profitable, but not fun.

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?

I’ve worked multiple markets, in various stages of maturity, from new markets to laggards and with varied targets, such as the SMB or Enterprise.   Along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some industry leading, incredibly innovative solutions, as well as my share of also ran’s and legacy products.  No matter how hard you try, lipstick wears off and the pig over time, and the pig will show his real face.  In many ways it’s like cooking, if you don’t start with quality ingredients, you won’t be satisfied with your meal in the end. If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?
It’s the leadership and how they view investment, market pursuit and strategic planning.  Leadership starts at the top, so in my experience the #1 thing by far is that the CEO needs to have a vision for the market and the company that they pursue above all else.  And that vision needs to be something more than a targeted earnings per share.  Typically these leaders come from sales.  They do occasionally grow up through the product ranks as well.  What I’ve seen fail is a pure P&L oriented mentality that is typical of leaders that grew up in the finance office.  In fairness I’ve known a one or two finance types that were good CEO’s.  But finance types are the ones who ran GM, Ford and Chrysler for the last 20 years.  These are the leaders who didn’t feel there was enough $ in hybrid cars (forget the environment) or that “good enough” quality was good enough.  – need I say more?
How far is this from reality?

It is the reality today in successful companies…