It’s NBA finals time, and for the fourth year in a row, my Miami Heat are playing for the championship. While the big three (James, Wade, and Bosh) are extremely talented, it takes more than just the talent of these superstars to deliver the third championship in a row. To cement the Heat’s legacy and put the team in the position to claim another title as the best ever, the Heat has surrounded the big three with the right roles, staffed with the right role players. These role players on the Miami Heat know what’s expected of them and recognize the vital part they play in the Heat’s success. It’s Ray Allen hitting a 3 when he’s called upon or Birdman blocking a critical shot to keep Miami’s lead. Each member of the Miami Heat understands that while the big-three superstars may ultimately make the difference, it’s really the way the entire system works together that propels the team to victory time and time again.
And while this may surprise you, for your marketing team, it’s no different. Without a doubt, you have your superstars that go the extra mile to rev up your marketing engine. But do you have the right role players to help your marketing operating system work well as a unit? Do they know what’s expected of them? Do you know what role players you need and what to look for when you hire them?
If you have children or are involved with children, you know that just as soon as you’ve figured out how to engage with that cute little baby in the right way, everything changes. Before you turn around, that baby you knew is starting school, graduating from college, and moving on to a career of her own. And as the baby grows and changes, your approach to engage with her on her terms must change too. If you’ve ever tried to talk to a teenager in the same way that you speak to a 10 year old, you know exactly what I mean.
While we understand and instinctively know how to change our approach as children grow up, we don’t often think of our buyers growing up. But, in the post-digital age, they are growing up and changing frequently. And as marketers, you must adapt and change your approach along with them.
And that’s where my new report, “Rethink Marketing In The Customer’s Context” (subscription required) can help. Expanding on a report published on February 21, 2013, my new report provides a framework for business-to-business (B2B) marketers to recast their approach with the full customer lifecycle in mind.
Start now to update your approach and:
Put the customer at the center of marketing thinking. Today’s market realities demand that B2B CMOs replace internal sales-driven marketing funnels with a full customer-life-cycle approach that aligns with the ways customers now make purchase decisions and build relationships with their vendors.
April 22, 2014, was not just a regular Earth Day. It was also the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair, one of the most amazing wonders of the world for its time. The 1964 World’s Fair, along with the famous Isaac Asimov, set people’s imagination on fire with a glimpse of the future of technology and a series of predictions of what our life would be like in 2014. And as we reflect back to what the fair and Isaac prophesized about life 50 years into the future (or exactly where we are today in 2014), it’s uncanny how much of what was showcased and predicted are now a part of our everyday life. From satellite phones to multimedia communication, interactive 3D TV, and driverless cars, our world has definitely changed. But sadly, the infrastructure that supported it all, the fairgrounds themselves complete with the iconic 140-foot-tall unisphere, has remained stuck in the past, a relic of that historic point in 1964. And for marketers, this tale provides an important lesson to learn.
For the past two weeks, the Sochi Olympic Winter Games showcased the best athletes in the world competing to win Olympic gold and be recognized as the best in the world. So, what does it really take to be an Olympian? A commitment to understanding the competitive environment to find your edge along with a willingness to put in the hard work to continuously excel above the rest.
Four years between Olympic Games is a lifetime in competitive sports. Yet from time to time, we find success stories such as Apolo Ohno (2002, 2006, 2010), the US women’s hockey team (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010), Dick Button (1948, 1952), and Bonnie Blair (four Olympic Games between 1984 and 1994) staying at the stop of their sport year and after year. How do these Olympians succeed when so many others have tried and failed? These unique stars understand that they must learn, grow, and evolve as the sport they play in changes. Beyond keeping up with the daily physical demands and competitive nature of the competition, they understand that staying at the top and winning requires them to be agile, evolve their skills, and always be looking just ahead of the curve.
Second only to March Madness (with the latest from Warren Buffet), this is my favorite time of year for sports — conference championship weekend and the run-up to the Super Bowl. While the Patriots fell short this past Sunday and Belichick is far from my favorite coach, I have to admit that his belief that the team must continuously understand the field they play in and adapt their game plan to win hit home for me as lessons that marketers can learn.
While X’s and O’s matter in the NFL game, as I discussed in my “How To Build A Strong B2B Brand“ report (subscription required), for business-to-business (B2B) marketers, maintaining a strong brand with a clear, compelling, and relevant message is the key to meet empowered buyers’ changing needs head-on and win the battle of mindshare and wallet share. As a B2B marketer or sales enablement professional, it’s time to put your brand and go-to-market message front and center — and make sure that it accurately provides value to your customers across all of the stages of the buying journey.
As we end 2013 and look toward 2014, there is an old Japanese proverb that, in its simplicity, conveys some very profound truths. It goes something like this:
“If you sit on a rock for three years, it will get so warm that you will get used to it.”
What exactly does that mean? It means that accepting the status quo and staying within the familiar confines of 2013’s comfort zone can lead to complacency that CMOs cannot afford. The pace of change is accelerating all around you. Empowered business-to-business (B2B) customer behavior, the proliferation of engagement channels, and technology advancements all demand that B2B CMOs recognize, respond to, and exploit these changes — transforming them into opportunities for 2014 business growth.
Base 2014 strategies and plans on a strong data foundation.B2B CMOs must base product, messaging, and marketing execution decisions on data insights. Gut feelings, instinct, or “we’ve always done it this way” won’t cut it any longer.
Regardless of your politics, you had to be amazed at the depth and breadth of the discussion around the impact on the Republican brand during the recent government shutdown. At times, it seemed that the health, survival, and credibility of the Republican brand generated more press than potential resolutions to the crisis at hand. And with good reason. The strength of the party’s brand — and the messages it represents — will have a significant impact on its success going forward.
Maintaining a strong brand with a clear, compelling, and relevant message is a universal challenge, whether you’re marketing a Fortune 500 company or a political party. As a business-to-business (B2B) CMO, it’s time to put your brand front and center — and make sure that it accurately represents your company strategy, provides value to your customers, and delivers on its promises. Why now?
Strong brands deliver strong results. B2B companies with strong brands deliver 20% higher financial returns than those with weaker brands. Case in point, IBM, the world’s strongest B2B brand, has consistently grown its brand value since 2006. In a world where CMOs are held increasingly accountable for business growth, developing and strengthening your brand must be a key focus.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of moderating panel discussions on the importance of a strong working relationship between CMOs and CIOs at the Direct Marketing Association 2013 Strategic Summit and the Forbes CMO Summit. Both panels were composed of a mix of CMOs and CIOs from some of the best-known organizations including Google, IBM, Microsoft, Akamai, Motorola Solutions, Collective and more. All of the participants reinforced the critical need to find a way to work together more closely. But they describe it more as a marriage of necessity than a relationship they are excited about.
It’s clear these two C-execs haven’t reached power couple status quite yet. In fact, a recent Accenture report confirms that while on the surface, CMOs and CIOs seem to agree, only one in 10 marketing and IT executives in that study said collaboration is at the right level. Taken together with my panel participant’s comments, it’s clear that only some progress is being made to align. In my new report, The CMO And CIO Must Accelerate On Their Path To Better Collaboration (subscription required) for which we partnered with Forbes to do our own investigation into this couple’s dynamics, we find that more collaboration is still needed. In other words, the relationship between CMOs and CIOs is in need of serious couple’s therapy.
I was fortunate to participate in a recent Forbes CMO Network invitation only event designed to explore how technology is presenting new ways for CMOs to think about, plan, and execute their marketing strategies.
The event, “Funding the Next Wave of Digital Disruption: An Insider’s View of the New Companies & Technologies Transforming Marketing,” hosted at the offices of leading venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) provided a unique insider’s view of the newest cutting-edge companies and technologies coming out of Silicon Valley.
I left the event with an even stronger belief that marketing and technology are forever intertwined. And, as highlighted in my "The CMO’s Role In Technology Purchasing" report (subscription required), it’s time to ramp up your technology IQ now or risk being left behind. Why now?
I was fortunate to take an extended vacation this summer to visit my daughter who is serving in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, with a stop in South Africa and Victoria Falls on the way. Although you see amazing animals while on safari, experience the incredible power of Victoria Falls, and find the undiscovered treasures of Madagascar, it was the beauty of the night that really struck me. Without city light pollution, you find yourself immersed in a night sky full of the most incredible stars. A clear view of a streaking Milky Way and a strong Southern Cross just takes your breath away. Night after night, the stars are there to light up the sky.
But being in the Southern hemisphere, the North Star that I am so used to seeing was nowhere to be found. That got me thinking about how comfortable we are in this half of the world with having the North Star to act as a beacon to guide navigation to true north.