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How advisory boards can shape your marketing strategy January 25, 2013

Posted by Mike Gospe in Customer Advisory Boards, Leadership.
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The customer advisory board (CAB) is quickly becoming a popular tool for aligning a company’s vision and product direction with the needs and priorities of its best customers. If your company is thinking about sponsoring a CAB, or if you want to compare how companies are using theirs to achieve competitive advantage, check out my new two-volume set of guidebooks about CABs. (more…)

How to get strategic insight from your best customers January 18, 2013

Posted by Mike Gospe in Customer Advisory Boards.
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Many companies are now discovering that a Customer Advisory Board (CAB), council or executive forum can greatly help them develop, validate, and enhance crisp business strategies that deliver sustainable competitive advantage while maintaining customer loyalty. If you are a company with more than $50M in annual revenue, you should have a customer advisory board. Your competitors do. This post gives you the basics of what you need to know to get the most out of your CAB. (more…)

Tips to energize your marketing team June 24, 2012

Posted by Mike Gospe in Just for Campaign Managers, Leadership, Marketing Operations.
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Summer is the time for reflection and assessment. As many marketers will soon be embarking on offsites and exercises to plan for the next fiscal year, I wanted to know what best practices my readers might share in how they’ve been able to accelerate their planning process and energize their team. Here are just a few of their insights. (more…)

5 Tips for a Successful Leadership Offsite June 13, 2012

Posted by Mike Gospe in Leadership, Marketing Operations.
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How much does it cost to hold an offsite with your leadership team? More than you might think if the offsite isn’t carefully planned. It’s not just the physical costs; it’s the opportunity costs. Consider that this is the one place and time that has every member of the leadership team in attendance to discuss the strategic issues facing your company.  Yet, executives report that they spend a significant amount of time in offsites that are poorly run and do not produce meaningful results. This is especially true when the offsites are meant to focus on complex issues like:

  • What’s our competitive advantage, and how do we defend it?
  • Should we focus on five market segments or only two?
  • How do we ensure our products are ready for market so that they result in satisfied customers?
  • How do we balance our bookings target against competitive pressures?
  • Operating under resource constraints: Are we trying to do too much?

Instead of productive discussions that lead to agreement and actions, the team becomes distracted by topics not on the agenda (i.e. trying to problem-solve operational issues or getting sidelined by small tactical items). It doesn’t take many of these ineffective meetings to derail strategic conversations, stagnate decision-making, and frustrate your team. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to structure the offsite to keep the team focused, constructive, and on track. (more…)

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy what you believe.” April 26, 2012

Posted by Mike Gospe in Leadership, Positioning.
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I’ve been watching Simon Sinek giving a TED talk. This phrase comes from him. And I love it. This dovetails exactly with the positioning statement.

What he says in 20 minutes, speaks volumes about good, product positioning and meaningful customer-ready messaging. He paints a picture he calls “the golden circle” that includes the What, How, and Why of a company’s reason for being. Most companies, he says, are very familiar with “what” they do. They are even good at understanding “how” they do it. But, when it comes to “why” they do what they do, there is a pause. What’s their purpose? What are the beliefs that drives a company to do what it does? Are they in business just to make money, or are they driven by a belief shared by all employees?

He shares an example contrasting Gateway with Apple. Both companies have access to capital, access to brilliant minds and innovative staff, and can tap into the same market conditions. Yet, the way these two companies communicate are completely opposite. And their relevant success is obvious to everyone.

Gateway might produce marketing messages that look and feel like this:

1. We make great computers.  

2. They are simple to use and affordable . 

3. Want to buy one?

Sounds pretty bland, right? Now Apple. Their messaging might be summarized like this:

1. Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.

2. The way we challenge the status quo is in hiring people who share the same belief and by making products that are beautifully designed and easy to use.

3. We make computers, phones, and a variety of personal productivity tools that challenge the status quo. Want to buy one?

The secret is that Apple focuses on the “why” question first.

Simon also shares the example of Samuel P. Langley vs the Wright brothers. Langley was driven to become rich and famous and saw the invention of the airplane as a goal to achieve his wealth. Orville and Wilbur believed that flight would change the world. They didn’t work for a paycheck. They worked for a belief. This is exactly why the world knows the Wright brothers and don’t know Langley.

The lesson is clear: when you draft your company’s positioning and messaging, start with the “why”. What do you believe? Because if you don’t know, then your customers won’t either.

More on marketing best practices September 29, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Leadership.
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With the launch of The Marketing High Ground, I was interviewed by the editors of DemandGen Report. Our discussion covered a variety of topics. I’ve captured excerpts of the interview based on specific topics of interest and thought I would pass them along. (more…)

Netflix in crisis: a teachable moment for marketing leaders September 21, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Leadership, The Marketing High Ground.
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Monday morning I awoke to find an email in my inbox from Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix.  I, too, am a Netflix subscriber. The subject line read “An Explanation and Some Reflections.” I was surprised and intrigued, so I opened it. I expected to find a short email that acknowledged the customer firestorm that had erupted and offer an empathetic response.  This was not to be the case. (more…)

Leadership vs seniority — advice for grooming yourself or others for advancement within marketing September 14, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, The Marketing High Ground.
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As an executive leader, I’ve always expected and valued my “senior” staff to think beyond the boundaries of their job description. The more senior a marketer becomes, the more imperative it is that he or she be able to help unite the organization with an integrated marketing plan, to help get everyone on the same page. That means learning how to manage internal politics to align the organization (both within the marketing organization, and with sales). It also means that they have the confidence and character to ask the tough questions, like: (more…)

What does it take for a marketer to earn, then command, a seat at the leadership table? February 15, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Marketing Operations.
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This is a good question that challenges many marketers. Traditionally, certainly in Silicon Valley, companies are founded by technologists. When executive staff members are added, engineering, operations and sales leaders are often added long before a marketer. And who can argue success when a company’s products continue to sell without the aid of a marketing leader?

The irony with this approach is that its success is likely to be short-lived. According to Brian Gentile, a well-known marketing leader and CEO of Jaspersoft,

Eventually this model, driven by the engineers and salesmen whose roles were never designed to understand and target complete markets, always runs out of steam.

The answer is not to suggest that a marketer should overstep or replace the leadership of engineering or sales. Far from it. Instead, the real long-lasting value a marketer can bring is to rise to the role of leading the executive team, and by extension the rest of the organization, to the high ground. No other function is properly suited to do so.

The marketing high ground represents a special place where you know the market so well, so deeply, that you become acknowledged and valued, internally, as the customers’ advocate. With this knowledge comes confidence in gathering and interpreting market data so that the best product, service, and go-to-market decisions can always be made.

Consider life at a company where no one owns the high ground. What does this look like?

  • Unaligned marketing and sales departments which lack clear goals and objectives
  • Engineering and product management teams working in silos, focused on isolated features
  • Frustrated marketers who write, then rewrite, then rewrite again messages, never able to get them right
  • Poorly executed marketing campaigns that don’t produce the right quality inquiries and leads
  • A set of individuals who don’t behave as a team, where decisions are made based on “whoever yells the loudest”

This is hardly efficient or effective.

On the other hand, when the marketing leader steps up to take ownership for becoming the customers’ advocate and sharing market perspectives internally, a whole different type of discussion takes place internally.  No longer are debates driven by random opinions; they are founded on customer use cases, market data, and customer feedback.

The high ground is not something owned exclusively by the marketing department. Every market-driven company gains its advantage from an incredibly aligned workforce. A workforce that clearly understands the organization’s vision, its core benefits and value ascribed to it by customers, and the distinct competitive advantages. This is what it means to own the marketing high ground.

This is what it takes to earn, then command, a seat at the leadership table.

This topic is the focus of The Marketing High Ground, a marketers’ playbook that acts as a tactical guide to the marketing high ground.  The book includes action-oriented best-practices templates, techniques, and examples.

Additional blog posts will explore these best practices in more detail in the coming weeks.