Wendy White recently came from Intel to serve as Motorola's director of global technology marketing and communications. She heads up marketing for all R&D, software, and early-stage technology incubation. White reports to both the CTO and CMO of Motorola and embodies the new-product-development breed of marketing champions.
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Roy Young: Tell me about your educational and professional background. Did you study marketing or come up through the marketing and sales ranks to your current position at Motorola? What best describes your path to where you are now?
Wendy White: My background is a bit eclectic. I got my first exposure to marketing in the army, where I served as a "psychological operations" officer. In that role, I learned the craft of target-audience analysis and campaign planning around propaganda, using media such as leaflets, loud-speaker broadcast, TV, and radio.
While in the army reserves, I earned an MBA and started working at Intel. At that time, Intel was growing fast and expanding into new areas, such as servers and solutions. I was able to move quickly from a corporate communications job into pioneering new opportunity areas for the company related to vertical industries and enterprise solutions.
I also got very close to our "influencer" sales organization by leading global efforts to arm the sales team with tools and messaging to help them influence Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies around the world. The goal was to influence these organizations to adopt new IT and business solutions, along with infrastructure.
Early last year, I left Intel for Motorola, again to pioneer new opportunities. But this time I'm developing marketing and communications centered on innovation—R&D, standards, software, and early-stage businesses.
RY: How did you apply your expertise to new-product development at Intel?
WW: I encourage people not to think in terms of just products. Instead, we start with an industry vision—a picture of how we want to shape the overall industry. Products are always within a context. For example, a personal computer is a professional business tool; it's part of an enterprise environment. There are seven million small businesses in this country alone, and they each need different solutions depending on the industry they're in—financial services, healthcare, retail. A PC is just one element in these many different, unique solutions that can help customers meet their key performance indicators; for example, reducing shrinkage and managing shelf life, in the case of retailers.
RY: What were some of the challenges in your group's efforts to influence Fortune 1000 organizations to adopt technology solutions? And how did you craft effective messages about your offerings that helped the sales organization address those challenges?
WW: In the early 2000s, after companies had updated their computer systems to deal with Y2K, sales of PCs and servers stalled. Everyone was saying, "We're safe. We don't need to worry anymore about our computers." But the lifecycles for laptops and PCs haven't lengthened: They're still two years for laptops and three years for PCs. After that, maintaining these products becomes more expensive than replacing them.
So, we had to get the message out to organizations that it was still important to update and replace your systems—not just because we wanted to sell more computers, but because our customers actually saved money over time by replacing their PCs regularly. We proved that by working with big systems integrators to create a "bathtub curve" showing how that money could be saved. Then we trained our salespeople to deliver that message in a credible way. We gave them the right language, along with tools like case studies of customers who had benefited by refreshing their systems on time, whitepapers, and videos of testimonials.
The right language and tools enabled our salespeople to go in and talk with CFOs and CTOs about how what we had to offer would impact their business. We always talked with them in their language about their issues: for example, how the right technology solutions could help them increase "share of wallet."
RY: In your view, how is marketing generally perceived by non-marketing executives at Motorola? And what do you think contributes to this perception?
WW: People here like to think of marketing as equal to margin—which comes from enabling brand premium and creating demand. In the last few years alone, our brand value grew tremendously. I think these results are starting to revitalize the view of marketing at Motorola. In the past, marketing was seen largely as a communications function, because of the organizational separation of channel and sales from marketing.
Now, non-marketing executives understand the importance of brand perception. They grasp how marketing creates that and how brand perception helps us tackle our biggest business challenges. And they appreciate how brand perception must be different for each customer. For instance, the people buying our Moto Razr phone feel that the product expresses their sexy, cool personality. For our government customers, the brand perception needs to be about something different: security, cutting-edge technology, trust, and reliability—all captured in the idea of "bulletproof."
In many companies, it's easy for marketing to be seen as a service organization: Non-marketers are thinking, "We'll do the work; you make it pretty." At Motorola, we focus marketing on discovering what's important to the customer and then positioning our offerings based on those distinct needs. It has also helped that our new CEO comes from a high-tech marketing background and has further revitalized perceptions of marketing. Now, our marketing team seems like one unified function, compared to the more fragmented feeling we had earlier.
RY: In what additional ways do you help "market marketing" within Motorola? In other words, how do you ensure that non-marketing professionals see and understand marketing's value in enhancing profitability and setting direction in the company?
WW: I make certain to be highly visible at all times, to measure the results and impact of our efforts, and to communicate those results. This helps people see marketing's role in Motorola's objective—to be perceived as an excellent product innovator and technology leader. I also partner closely with my R&D colleagues, for example, by sitting in on the same staff and concept meetings and spending a lot of time with engineers learning about their work and their challenges.
At meetings, I listen to understand the thinking behind the engineers' decisions and ideas, and I offer my own thinking about how customers are applying our technology. I ask business questions and help people understand the commercialization path that our technology has to travel. In short, I'm a voice of the customer—one voice that can be brought into the room.
I was very honored to be asked to serve as the keynote speaker at our recent annual patent awards. I think of myself as part of the R&D community, though maybe not as geeky!
RY: Do you ever find yourself in that classic situation in which you're trying to explain to feature-happy engineers that a feature is useless unless it delivers benefits that customers want?
WW: I was doing that all this morning!
RY: In helping to shape perceptions of marketing, what's the most difficult challenge you've encountered? And how do you deal with that challenge?
WW: I think we need to continue to correct the perception that marketing is just a service—and ensure that marketing has a seat at the table as strategic decisions are being made. The best way to continue this correction process is to be deeply involved in the business, understand customer needs, and add value in unique ways at the beginning of the innovation cycle by using our insights into the market.
RY: What steps do you take to ensure that your new-product-development strategies succeed?
WW: In an R&D and new business development organization, the most important step is to ensure that the market is ready for the product—or the product is ready for the market. We use category creation, targeted marketing, appropriate positioning, and strong collaboration with the business teams who will manage the product realization and commercialization. This last thing is key. Thanks to early collaboration between marketing and the labs team, we've been very clear early on about the "landing zone" for products, and the team has cut time-to-market in half. We've made sure that R&D isn't all alone in an ivory tower.
RY: What skills would you cite as most essential to being a new-product-development marketing champion in your organization?
WW: Our CTO has laid out a vision for the type of leaders she wants on her team: They're people who can marry business, technical, and entrepreneurial IQ with a passion for innovation. As marketers, we need all these skills—a strong sense of the business opportunities we're pursuing, the technical skills to apply the art and science of marketing appropriately and to understand the market emerging technologies, and the entrepreneurial skills that enable us to take informed risks. I would also add to that a passion for our jobs and the ability to collaborate with engineers, lawyers, and the business teams.
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