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Brainstorming: The rules of the game

Everything is a process, just most of us don’t think of it that way. Creativity and innovation can follow a process as well. This presentation on brainstorming is a good primer on how to engage, what should be the ground rules and the process for closure and follow up.  In my group of friends after a bunch of brainstorming, we all send out an email that says: Here are the things which still sound good in the morning, if we all have one of the same listed, we pursue it. Not very formal, but a process, so check this one out:

I’m really not being disagreeable….but it’s brand: A response from Sheryl Altschuler

The Marketing IS in the Middle interviews got me thinking a bit. Positioning and product appear to be dominating the discussion as to which is the most important component of marketing. When I look at the question, I immediately go to brand.  To me, brand actually combines both product and positioning. A company’s brand is their promise to the marketplace. That promise is based on delivering a quality product whose value is articulated through positioning.

Once a company develops a recognizable brand and becomes known as reliable for delivering on their promise, it is much easier to drive revenue from new product introductions–just based on brand reputation alone. The company’s product may essentially have the same capabilities and functionality as the competitors, but brand recognition and what the company has become known for in the marketplace, will enable the business to sell it more quickly and easily than companies who haven’t developed a strong, recognizable brand identity.

On another note, in looking at the responses to the interviews, it seems that “what marketing does” can vary significantly from company to company. However a company decides to deploy its marketing function, the overall mission should be driven by the basic principles from your Marketing 101 class: Attract prospects, generate Interest and Motivate customers to buy. (AIM) An integrated marketing strategy and plan, with consistent messaging across all marketing/communication mediums, is the best path to achieving those goals and developing a brand. It takes time, so lack of patience and changing the message frequently will not yield the long-term and lasting benefits (i.e. revenue and growth) of developing a strong brand identity.

Marketing IS in the Middle: David Daniels

Before I met the next person in the series, I was facing some of the most challenging product management opportunities in my career – a new product, a legacy market and a bunch of customers who needed a little love and David put it into perspective quickly – “Jon sounds like you’re a project manager and not a product manager.”  David Daniels was right, I took his advice and put it to work in a practical way, like many organizations product management needed to be redefined under the management at the time.

David now works at Pragmatic Marketing, where I took my first course on how to improve the definition of a product manager with Steve Johnson.  I appreciate David taking his time out of his travels to participate in the Marketing IS in the Middle initiative here.

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

  • Product Manager (enterprise software)
  • Product Marketing Manager (enterprise software)
  • VP Product Marketing (enterprise software)
  • VP Marketing (enterprise software)

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

Product marketing was one of the most interesting and challenging roles in my career.  It was the first time I was really forced to think about markets of buyers rather than users.  Prior to that my focus was on users of products for which I was a product manager.  In the role of product marketing manager my thinking shift from using criteria to buying criteria, and that shift was a significant one.

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

Hands down the most important component of a successful marketing gig is to be the experts on your buyers: who they are, the different types, their buying criteria and the buying process.  Everything else you do in marketing becomes a whole lot easier.

Since you selected something I wouldn’t have listed, how has this contributed to revenue?

Becoming the expert on buyers ties directly to revenue outcomes that are more easily discussed with Sales and the management team.  Talking to customers (those that have already bought) rarely give you insight into how to sell more stuff.

What experiences brought you to this conclusion?

People start out being buyers and become customers after they buy.  By focusing on who buys and why they buy it becomes much easier (sometimes trivial) to develop a position and message that resonates with the people who have budget to spend.  Focusing on features drags you down into the weeds and encourages discussion that is more appropriate after the purchase.

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

A couple of things come to mind.  First, the head of Marketing should a peer of the head of Sales.  To make that work, the head of Marketing needs to be focused on markets of buyers and stop talking about promotional activities.  Second, the effectiveness of Marketing should never be measured on the number of leads generated.  It’s a useless and stupid measurement that doesn’t align with the real goal – revenue.  Third, Sales is not Marketing’s customer.  The sales team is an audience that Marketing needs to influence in order to achieve a revenue outcome.  Finally, put a firewall between Sales and Marketing.  Too many Sales organizations use Marketing in a sales support role, resulting in Marketing resources being spent in Sales not on important Marketing initiatives. I define “sales support” as helping one sales guy one deal.  If management understood the real cost of Sales resources they would be stunned. The old saying “everyone’s in Sales” is a load of crap.

How far is this from reality?

Light years.