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So often these days, more and more companies are attempting to become "marketing focused/led" rather than sales or financially driven.

Most organizations, large and small, are taking their cues from benchmark companies such as Starbucks, Harley Davidson, Southwest Airlines and FedEx in the attempt to replicate the tried-and-true business model that all marketers and companies so adamantly covet.

However, most company executives often underestimate what it truly takes to implement such a dramatic shift of a company's overall strategy. The successful implementation and execution of such a strategy hinges on whether it becomes an essential part of a company's DNA from top to bottom, inside and out—including long-term resource commitment (financial and personnel).

So what does it mean to be marketing-led, and do most companies understand the consequences of implementing this dramatic shift in strategy and culture?

Let's start with a basic understanding of "marketing-led." Marketing-led companies focus on the key initiatives that will sustain growth in the new, buyer-driven environment, whereas a sales-driven approach is what is often referred to as the "bag 'em and tag 'em" approach.

A bona fide, world-class marketing-led organization has a clear long-term focus on core items such as retention, customer satisfaction, customer experience management, and lifetime value of a customer. Conversely, a sales- or financially driven organization is primarily focused on acquisition, revenue, market share, and price/costs.

Two obvious hurdles that many companies experience during the shift to a marketing-led approach are cultural and financial. As a result, what they sometimes end up with is a hybrid approach that is part marketing-led, part sales-led and part financially driven. This can (and usually does) cause confusion not only internally but also among customers and channel partners.

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Jeff Mucci has over 10 years' experience as a marketing professional, including with Fortune 500 companies such as Alcoa, Inc.