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Do you have a voice-of-the-market program? How marketers can own the “High Ground” March 10, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers.
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Has this ever happened to you? 

You’re working on a lead gen strategy with peers when an exec does a “drive by”, telling you that he has a new priority.  He argues passionately, and even though your instincts tell you it’s a crazy idea, you end up abandoning your plan to accommodate this unanticipated (random?) request.  If this were a one-time thing, it wouldn’t be so bad.  Unfortunately, this happens almost every day.

If this seems familiar, you’re not alone.  But how can marketers uplevel the debate in favor of staying consistently on strategy?  This can be especially tough if the company culture favors a “he/she who yells the loudest”  approach to decision making.

The answer is to change the dynamics of the internal conversation/debate.  The answer is for marketing to own the “high ground” via a voice-of-the-market program.  Some people may confuse this idea with the term, “marketing driven.”  But, it’s not about ego.  It’s about ensuring the company is being  “market driven” — driven by a keen understanding of the customer and what’s make them tick.

What is the “high ground”?

The “high ground” refers to the area of knowledge about the customer that is acknowledged to be the truest, most comprehensive understanding of the customer environment, their pain points, their priorities, and how/when/why they make purchase decisions. 

Most companies have small armies of folks who understand the product, the technology, the application.  This is absolutely required for success.  However, many companies lose site of the customer, the use cases, and the pain points.  Without a firm understanding of what the customer cares about and how they make purchase decisions, marketers don’t have a leg to stand on when debating peers and execs who passionately propose new (seemingly random) creative ideas for lead gen.

Marketing teams need to step up and own the “high ground.”  If marketing teams invest in this knowledge, over time, their opinions are more likely to be sought out, rather than ignored.  So, how does one get to the “high ground”?

Getting to the “high ground”

Most marketing teams don’t have the luxury of a deep budget for conducting ongoing market research.  Luckily, there are some guerilla tactics that can be employed.

  • Review any primary and secondary research you may already have.  (You may have more than you think you have because market research is often conducted in a silo fashion.  Check around with your PR and product marketing colleagues; you may find some gems.)
  • If you have a subscription with any analysts, take advantage of researching their library.  Also, conduct Internet searches to find out what other analysts and editors are writing about.
  • Review relevant blogs, Wikis, and other Internet sources for everything from related trends to customer feedback.
  • Talk to your own sales reps, sales engineers, customer support specialists.  Find out what customers and prospects are saying to them.  Instead of gathering internal data one rep at a time, go one step further to design a short internal survey/questionnaire.  Collect and quantify this data.
  • Analyze competitor websites and message boards.  Find out what they’re talking about and how prospects are interacting with them.

3 Steps to get started

Owning the “high ground” doesn’t happen over night.  It takes time. 

  1. Start by taking 15 minutes every other day to learn something new about your customers and how/why you won their business. 
  2. Establish a repository of this information that the marketing team can share with sales.
  3. In every lead gen program and blueprint you build, reference any of these sources sited above to reinforce your recommendation and assumptions.

If you follow this approach consistently, you will build more credibility for your programs.  And, the next time an exec does a fly by, you can engage in a more constructive debate with more detailed, documented information to support and defend your plans.

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