Good to Great Marketer

By Failan Saleem, MD/Principal Lecturer, The Knowledge Factory

Welcome to a function that nobody understands and everybody thinks they know better than you do. Marketing is often perceived as a creative industry - not one in which there are significant elements of number-crunching, analytical and technical skill. As a consequence, marketing often recruits imaginative people who are then ill-equipped and ill-prepared to engage with the scientific side of the job.

This is a major illusion in Sri Lanka, where most of the marketers are glorified advertising and communications managers, this trend, is also highlighted in the areas of short sighted advertising awards, which recognize brands which do not have a real marketing backbone , but rather great creatives, flamboyant new product development and short term sales growth.
This is not to deny that marketing requires creative input. And not everyone sees the profession as purely creative. But there is a perception that this is the case and it is this perception that is causing problems.

If one ask the question as to why I chose marketing? I didn't; it chose me. It was sort of a natural progression from sales, brands, marketing and entrepreneur.
I think it helps if you have a good right brain - left brain balance.
Looking back on a long career, I learned a number of lessons that I think contribute to being a successful marketer. They dispel some popular myths and you'll notice some common themes. It's hard work and there's simply no way around that, but it's worth it.

An effective marketing department requires a strategic mindset, familiarity with measurement techniques and an understanding of how marketing can contribute to bottom line growth. It needs these qualities in addition to a creative attitude that can inspire effective communications, foster innovation, and connect emotionally as well as intellectually with the customer.

Marketing is often seen as the soft end of business, widely regarded as one of the more dispensable elements of the company, and often not fully appreciated by other departments. And, just as we need to act to change this perception, the level of scientific emphasis that is required of marketers is escalating rapidly.

Marketers are working in an environment that is increasingly bound by regulations, is more technological and is more meticulously measured. As a result, marketers need to have the scientific skills to operate effectively in this more sophisticated environment, and this means that the nature of the job is becoming as scientific as it is creative.

10 Rules for Being a Great Marketer
Go to bed with your customer. The good companies have the ability to smell their customers ,they understand that the customer is the final arbiter and not prioritizing the key customer segments and delivering consistent value to them would result in failure. For example if one looks at the success of The Apple I pod it is not the unit itself, but how it has made it ultra easy for the end user to download, share and mix the best the music through its I Tunes site.

Sales is Important. There is "natural tension between sales and marketing" in many companies. Sales should finally own the customer relationship. As a marketer, one of your key functions is to facilitate sales' ability to sell your products. You need each other and your goals can and should be aligned.
For example, working across many sales models, including Pharmaceuticals, FMCG, IT, Consultancy, Mobile Communications and Education, during this period I experienced the critical importance of this alignment. Again this is a cause for concern in the Local context, since most of the marketers come from advertising and brand backgrounds with little or no sales experience. They take a DIY approach to implementing a brand strategy.

The Links in the company makes the chain stronger. The executive staff, your peers, product development, manufacturing, sales, finance, HR, employee communications, they're all stakeholders in the marketing function. Treat them as customers, one weak link would mean weakening of your value delivery process, for example if one takes the Travel & Tourism Industry and take Singapore as a benchmark, they get roughly around 10 million tourist , their aim is to get at 12 million, We are at 650,000 at best targeting One million. You figure it .

Feedback is important. Strong leaders and managers often tend to be controlling individuals. That means they can become easily frustrated with things they don't understand, as said before tend to take, Do It Yourself approach, research shows that, by explaining the, why for, the decision you can get better ownership from your team rather than concentrating on the ,what.

Measure and communicate results. The biggest problem that marketers have is that they are not accountable, where marketing is that expense black hole with no metrics to measure results. Therefore you need to be disciplined. Invest your budget on metrics for key programmes and take the time to communicate results - both good and bad - to stakeholders.

Make market visits not field visits. The enormous change we have seen in the market environment explain today's pressure for greater management effectiveness, and a greater need for marketers to balance internal focus with external focus. That doesn't mean waste customers' and sales' time to suit your agenda, something important - from their perspective, not just yours - to discuss. Ask open, leading questions and listen to their feedback. It's invaluable.

Knowledge sharing . Successful marketers are strong communicators and educators. Spend as much time sharing knowledge and educating internally as you do networking and meeting with customers externally. The marketer is the voice of the customer in the organization. As a brand manger responsible for Smith Kline & Beecham vaccines , We launched seven vaccines in just 15 months , including Asia's first combined Hepatitis A & B Vaccines as well as Chicken Pox, learning from other markets tells me that going direct to the customer would be the best option to build growth, We even recruited a key account rep who would go to companies direct and communicate the benefits of vaccination and vaccinate the employees with a Doctor , KAM was never followed at Smith Kline Beecham. The learning for this came from IBM during my years as a product executive for Keells Business Systems.
Today the vaccine business is the single largest contributor to the local company.

From 2003 -2008 ,I was Director/GM for mobile -maker Samsung During that time, I had to bond with some of the best marketers in the world, work hand-in-hand with sales to penetrate top-tier customers and develop new nationwide channels, compete head-on with Nokia, be a spokesperson, and usher in a new era of high- end fashionable mobile phones into the Sri Lankan market ,that benefits all of us, to this day. We achieved much and got to 16% market share and also created a new model for mobile phone marketing.

Collaborate with your competition. Most companies do not have marketing collateral to fight alone, they need to work with their competitors to share cost and build value for the customer. The opportunities available in the North and East can be a great platform. Get the best out of your competitors at the same time know where they are strong and weak, know where to hit them , when you need a market share.

Learn to let go of Unprofitable customers. Most companies are of the assumption that marketing is all about treating the customer as King, not all customers are profitable and keeping them would mean loss of profitable ones, especially if they demand a whole lot more for their investment, so prioritize .
Engage the media. PR and the media can be an incredibly powerful tool, but like all tools, you have to learn to use them properly or they can work against you. I'm not saying be reactive; it should fit into your overall communications goals, strategy, and messaging.

As much as I am positively inspired to share my experiences with you , I am also aware that there can be much debate on the rules and some additions such as morality, networking, supply chain collaboration and off course leadership . I wish I could go back in time and relearn them . Who knows what rules would dominate the new world?

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