When the CEO asks questions such as...
- How can we bring products to market faster?
- What can we do to eliminate development mistakes?
- How can we ramp up sales faster and lower the overall cost of sales and marketing?
- How can we improve our customer retention and referral rates?
- What can we do to create better product margins?
...the CEO is asking product-marketing-related questions. These questions go to the heart and soul of marketing and actually go beyond what Marketing has evolved into—a function that has come to mean communicating the company's message and creating and implementing a product promotion strategy.
But if this is all Marketing has become, then Marketing has lost its way and is no longer doing its job for the organization.
Peter Drucker, the father of contemporary management, said "the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself."
The essence of marketing requires that Marketing understand the market problem, enabling the company to create products people want to buy. Understanding the market problem is what drives product decisions, the messaging for these products, the key elements of selling, and Marketing's ability to encourage people to buy from your company.
From this perspective, marketing is knowing what to build and for whom; subsequently, a market-driven customer-centric product strategy can be defined.
This competency of defining and bringing market-driven customer-centric products to market use to reside within what was traditionally known as product marketing, a role that is disappearing from the marketing function.
Yet if marketing is knowing what to build and for whom, then this role, regardless of what we call it, is at the cornerstone of everything we do in marketing. Without this capability, Marketing will fail.
Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.