The Best Marketing is Collective Leadership


By Andy Marken



“Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.”Narrator, “The A-Team,” Universal TV (1983)


We attended a recent DEMO Conference which focuses on emerging technologies and new product innovations. It’s hard to miss the eagerness, the lust in the eyes of the presenters who put their hearts on their sleeves and money on the table to be tomorrow’s cutting-edge technology marketplace winner.


All of the speakers said they had a sound handle on the technology, the market, the pent-up demand. About the only thing that was missing from the event were the “Dancing with the Stars’” judges paddles.


It was nice for the ideas to get the exposure, but it had nothing to do with making the product/service/idea a success.Very few of the people making the presentations were good marketers. Fewer yet were great marketers. The great ones were the exception, rather than the rule.


True marketing isn’t the goal of DEMO participants – it’s all about getting funding – but it should be, or at least for the VCs who are going to fund them, because marketing is the key and its tough today.For the most part, selling was being confused with marketing by the vast majority of companies making presentations.



Winding Road – All of the company’s stakeholders want to go from struggling start-up to marketplace leader as quickly as possible. The problem is it seems like every morning the market landscape, the business climate shifts, meaning marketing has to steer the organization’s day-to-day, year-to-year activities accordingly. Sometimes it’s tough to keep the destination in sight; but that’s what separates so-so, good, great marketing folks. Source - magneticbusinesswoman


It’s especially true when we’re talking about today’s fast moving, fast changing Internet-sensitive industries. In most organizations, the most outgoing engineer, programmer or MBA is given the title and responsibility of vice president/director of marketing.


For the most part, among the presenters, the job of marketing had fallen to a salesperson. There’s nothing wrong with selling. In fact, without good salespeople to close the loop, nothing is going to happen for an organization. But selling is just that...selling.  It’s the hard, elusive task of helping the customer articulate his/her needs and showing how the product/service uniquely satisfies that need.


That’s tough!


Marketing, on the other hand, knows where the total industry is going, what is being developed in their specific industry, what products/services are going to be wanted and needed in specific market segments and how to coordinate the relationship between the company and the customer.


Blended Talents – It takes more than just a business degree to be a good marketing executive. In fact, the degree is “a little down” the requirements checklist. Effective marketing types have a fire in their gut to creatively produce positive results. That means a sound mixture of passion, ability to work with/stimulate people, a strong sense of purpose and more than a healthy dose of paranoia to stay on the leading/bleeding edge of plans, programs, activities that “may/should” work.


Today's Types

There are several types of "marketing professionals" running today's companies.


Most are good to darn good sales/marketing managers. People in this broad group can be broken down into four categories.  They include: 


    Those who don’t grasp all of the marketing functions and surround themselves with experts. They listen to input and rely on others to provide ideas and concepts which are based on logic.  They monitor, but let their experts run their part of the show.


   Those who don’t understand marketing but are certain they do.  They took courses in marketing, advertising and writing. They’ve heard of things like market segmentation, branding and positioning. They’ve been told about the interrelationship of R & D, finance, corporate direction and selling. But to them there are distinct areas--advertising and selling -- and they are mutually exclusive.  They will attempt to run the show.


    Those who are excellent salespeople and also understand that their companies need a position, image, brand identity and research to properly sell the company/its products. They concentrate on their area of expertise and oversee marketing’s plans, programs, progress.  They lead and get out of the way; and, as a result, are usually protected from their shortcomings.


    Those who know they have goals and objectives because management gave them their sales targets for the year. They know they have budgets because finance gave them the figures on what they could spend in the coming year.  If the two have any relationship, it is purely coincidental.


Unfortunately, management is often satisfied in having any one of these types.


But there are a few CEOs who have an instinctive understanding of the role of marketing -- the hub activity for the company.


Marketing people really have the responsibility of managing the day-to-day business of the firm.


Gentle Giants – Leading the company’s marketing activities requires a rare blend of strength and gentility. Knowing they can handle any situation, challenge that comes their way, the strong marketing types have the ability to use the gentle touch to make things happen for the company and the team. Source – unaatimes


With the right marketing leader in place, staff groups – engineering, finance, R&D and production, service/support -- can look to marketing for leadership and direction.


The reasons are simple.


These people are results-oriented.


They understand (or should understand) finance, economics, selling, R & D, and know how to tap into the customer’s wants, needs, impressions to determine what the next generation of products/services will be.


These people seem to be able to magically determine where the market is going so they can have solutions available before the demand (and the competition) arrives.


They are concerned about not just having new, additional products/services to sell, but how to fit these into market segments (today and tomorrow) and how to package them so they are appealing to the people in those segments.            


They don’t think in terms of taking what engineering has developed, going on the road to make a few calls and selling some product.


They want to "sell some product," but they want to sell that product to the same target audiences again, and again, and again.


Today's Alternatives

Determining the best marketing leader starts with everyone’s favorite subject – self awareness.


Self awareness is the starting point for effective leadership and the primary leadership tool is effective communications. That means how well we listen, how well do we help people align expectations and ultimately, how well do we produce results.


In other words, the marketing leader’s work life is made up of a ton of complex and unending interpersonal relationships.


Insanely great marketing folks are best described by Nick Petrie, senior faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership in the U.K…self-reliant leadership.


Leadership is an illusion of control but continually changing/expanding your perspective based on everyday experiences by drawing from the team around you.


Marketing management today is collective rather than individual leadership, and it’s a tough job.


 It’s vital in today’s environment because collaboration, teaming, social networks, and bridging generational gaps are what set companies and individuals apart from the competition.


The really great marketing folks use their communication skills to create organizational alignment and effectively execute a given strategy.


They understand what happens on the front lines.


We’ve seen too many marketing types who don’t really understand the business they are in and what people are facing every day that they don’t earn the respect they need to do their jobs effectively.


What is that job?


It isn’t to hold meetings.


It isn’t to micro-manage.


It isn’t to withhold vital information – good or bad.


It’s to assemble the very best team of winners, set the big picture direction, communicate the direction and get out of the way.


Key Attributes

Unfortunately, there is a critical shortage of these people in the industry who can:

·       Communicate clearly, openly

·       Take the blame, pass on the accolades

·       Make teammates feel appreciated

·       Empower, mentor and teach to get better results

·       Skip the power trips

·       Let team members take ownership of a project, program because then they have both authority and responsibility



Ahead of the Team – When a confident, competent marketing executive has the right team, it’s time to lead by getting out of their way and letting them achieve their goals for the company. That’s often the toughest part of the job. Source – Walt Disney Pictures


The key is to make certain the company, team is heading in the right direction and communicating with them so the firm sees and achieves its goals.


Great, even good, marketing is risky; but then, it’s always risky when you’re trying to make the future happen.



But when it does, it’s like Hannibal said, “I love it when a plan comes together!”