The big picture. Many take this into consideration when talking about business – you often overhear consultants or marketing professionals urge their team/boss/client to “take a step back and look at the big picture” but rarely do people take the big picture into consideration in professional development. Big mistake! Without seeing the big picture in your development (as a marketing strategist) or in your talent pool (as an employer developing top marketing personnel), you are severely limiting your work capacity, work capabilities, and ability to discover your best work potential. Perhaps more insidious is that you will lessen your leadership impact and decrease your company’s chances to achieve the big picture that you urged them to see in the first place!
The foundation of the eBC Pyramid is Business Acumen. Understand what key drivers that make up your business model. Many people mistake this for a template business plan and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an MBA education without ever learning how to put the pieces of the puzzle together in a simple language. Essentially, the business model comes from answering two questions: 1) What customer need is being met? 2) How does your company make money? As a complete marketing strategist, you can’t perform to your accountabilities if there are deficient components in the business that must be brought up first. Developing a keen business acumen will allow you to set the proper expectations for your company.
Functions Knowledge – The biggest deficiency in talent development exists here. Have you ever witnessed a meeting between the CFO, CMO, COO, CTO, C(insert letter here)O? It’s akin to putting a Brazilian who only speaks Portuguese, a Chinese person who only speaks Chinese, a French person who only speaks French, and an Aussie who only speaks rugby, alone in the same room. Communication is limited to awkward body language, makeshift sign language, and ineffective gesturing that can only be described as “pointing-to-things”. Hijinks ensue. Good for a sitcom, sure. Good for business, not so much. To be a complete marketing strategist, you must become fluent in the functional languages. This requires an understanding of the key metrics that the functional lines are evaluated on and also an empathy for the accountabilities and responsibilities of the functional heads (CFO, COO, CTO, et al). A complete marketing strategist is a change agent and change starts with proper communication.
Marketing Fundamentals – When someone asks me what they should be reading, I reply with Principles of Marketing by Dr. Philip Kotler. This is my honest answer and when it comes to the moment of facing the reality that this is a textbook that exceeds 1000 pages, most people (99% of the people who asked me this question, I’d estimate) reply with “Can you recommend something I can pick up at Borders?” I typically don’t even bother offering this recommendation anymore because most want a short, enjoyable book that they can read over a weekend. But a short, enjoyable book isn't what they need. Sure, the book was written before I was born, but it’s timeless in the sense that fundamentals are timeless. In basketball, the fundamentals of dribbling – head up, weight balanced over hips, ball on fingertips – haven’t changed from Cousy to Lebron. In marketing, the fundamentals – segmentation, targeting, positioning – haven’t either from Kotler to Mikailian. Learn them properly so you can maximize the next level.
Marketing Strategy – I haven’t run into any studies on this but I’d surmise that the best marketing strategists would be exceptional chess players. Not saying that you have to become the Bobby Fischer of marketing (thereby making you eccentric and unattractive to 90% of the opposite sex) but marketing strategy is a complete chess match. On the other end of the table sits your competition’s marketing strategist. Be too reliant on one move and you become too predictable. Be too risk-averse or risk-favorable and you may open your competitors to taking you out with an early attack or waiting you out and taking your market when you have no more ponds. I LOVE THIS GAME!
There are ebbs and flows to every strategic reality. Though a paper deliverable is a good start, more often than not, you’ll have to remain agile to adapt to the fluidity of the match. There are short-run moves (ex: promotions) and long-run moves (ex: advertising). Understanding the business engine, functional strategies and proper marketing fundamentals allows you to be creative and put it all together. Putting it together to get your result (i.e. dominate the competition by capturing the affection of the customers with minimal loss to your own company) is the game you have to love to truly “get” strategy. Did I mention I freakin' LOVE this game? Can I get next?
Tactics – I won’t belabor this for now. Facebook, Twitter, email marketing, SEO, PPC. These exist here as do most purported "marketing strategists/consultants" who we appreciate, but really, they are "marketing specialists". Please don’t get me wrong! We are addicted to new trends and new technologies. New trends and new technologies give us more options to choose from, more players to play with, when executing marketing strategy for the business/client we're serving. After all, the customers are driving these trends and technologies and you’ll need to pay close attention to the pulse of your environment. But it’s a full understanding the why and how of these tactics that transform a "marketing specialist" to a "complete marketing strategist".
More on each level of the eBC Pyramid to come on BoostStrapping. Next Monday, I will begin with a lengthy diatribe on Business Acumen.