Marketing is a company’s face to the world. As such, it is increasingly taking on a leadership role in many companies. But with that power comes responsibility.
At MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Summit ’10 in San Francisco, I had the distinct pleasure of moderating a session by Cynthia Phillips, most recently Director of Marketing at Rivet Software, where she discussed not only how to harness marketing’s growing leadership role…but also what to do with it.
For those heading to the MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Summit ’10 in Boston on October 25 and 26, you’ll get to hear it all directly from Cynthia and other industry experts along with your marketing peers providing real-life results.
However, for our blog readers who are not able to attend either location of the B2B Summit, I wanted to share just one of the points she made that really stuck with me. Here’s a quick interview with her about what I think is one of marketer’s biggest responsibilities going into 2011…
One role a marketer should play that I think isn’t discussed enough is being an advocate for your audience – whether that audience is customers, potential customers, or any other stakeholder.
I like the way you discussed this advocacy role in your presentation, calling it the “corporate conscience.” So how can we be a corporate conscience for our organizations?
Cynthia Phillips: The nature of marketing and the position that it takes in organizations naturally causes us to become this “corporate conscience.” This is driven by the collaboration that we lead and participate in within matrixed companies/teams, and by the fact that we are heavily focused on how the outside world perceives and receives our organizations/products/services/brands.
We have the difficult task of acting as a “filter” for what gets communicated both internally and externally. It is an honor that comes with great responsibility and reward when we do what is right for our constituents. We can be this “corporate conscience” by being proactive, strategic, focusing on delivering valuable results while building lasting relationships, and by doing what is “right” over what “works.”
Today, thanks to social media and just the Web itself, everyone is a publisher. We work so hard and invest so much in building our brands that we need to make sure our company does right by its stakeholders, or that brand equity can quickly collapse under a weight of negative tweets, Facebook comments, and blog posts.
As part of that leadership role, how can marketing deal with negative social media, both in terms of what messaging to use to address it, and how to work internally in the organization to address these problems as well?
CP: The most important point would be to ensure that we and our organizations have an appropriate presence on the social media platforms that are relevant to our business (not all are right for everyone) and to be actively “listening” as well as participating in them.
I also think we need to help our companies demonstrate authentic leadership by acknowledging and addressing issues that come up, as appropriate, head on. We need to bring them to the attention of the right people within our organizations (Customer Service and Support, HR, sales, etc.) and suggest how to respond in a way that takes ownership when necessary and the high road when offering a solution or answer.
We may also need to follow through to make sure an action was taken. Being proactive, honest, and taking action when needed will help marketing leverage social media to show value and communicate both the success and significance of the company to its constituents (customers, employees, stakeholders, etc.).
According to the MarketingExperiments Optimization Sequence, when approaching an optimization initiative, you should first optimize the product factors of your offer – ensure you have the best product available for at least one significant, describable customer segment.
How can marketing use that leadership role to help shape, not just how the product is marketed, but the very product itself?
CP: This really goes back to fundamentals – it’s not about selling a widget, it’s about solving a problem. As someone mentioned at the B2B Summit, we should always keep the end in mind. Marketing should not be about selling a product/service, it should be about identifying, finding and engaging the people who are in most need of your solution.
We have to balance the business needs of our company (most likely revenue) with providing the best solution to the market. I think our role is often being the ones to bring the needs and perspectives of current and potential customers to the table so that they are considered as something is being developed – this avoids trying to market or fit a square peg into a round hole.
We are often the ones to get everyone internally involved (Sales, Service/Support, Development, etc.) together and lead a discussion about the current and future direction of a product so that all perspectives can be shared and heard. This will help ensure a more well-rounded solution. This is the proactive, collaborative leadership role we often, and should, play.