There’s a lot of talk about what it takes to be a top marketer.
There’s a long list of hard skills like Content creation, data analytics, SEO, social media, etc.
Then there’s a list of so-called ‘soft’ skills like agility, collaboration and listening.
Today’s marketers are expected to be:
While the responsibilities and expectations of the marketing department keep expanding, CMO’s are under tremendous scrutiny to ‘prove’ the value of their department and role day in and day out. But when marketers are so focused on their internal audience, they have little time left to focus on their customers.
According to LinkedIn, for the second year in a row, Creativity is the #1 most in-demand soft skill amongst business professionals.
Our own research into several different industries has found that many companies lack originality. Instead, they are just copying and pasting what their competitors are saying and doing. Thus, creating a “sea of sameness” for their prospective customer to wade through, or what my co-author referred to as “copycat marketing”.
One sales rep in the telecom industry joked “we obviously have a bunch of creative people working in our industry!”
As the world continues to adjust and adapt to a crazy year of events, organizations are now presented with a tremendous opportunity to break free from the ‘sameness’ in their industry.
If all that was required to differentiate your brand and product offering was a dash of creativity, everyone would rush out and hire the most creative artists they know.
But in fact, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Dr. Simon Kelly, Dr. Paul Johnston and I interviewed and surveyed over 100 business, marketing and sales leaders across the globe to understand what it takes for companies to stand out from the competition.
What we found is that sameness is caused by a number of factors including strategic herding, branding conformity and lack of professional competence, which my co-author, Dr. Paul Johnston explains in more detail in his article.
So while company culture, leadership and attitudes are critical to ignite innovative thinking, the competencies of individuals on the team are what determines whether or not an organization will be successful at differentiating themselves from the competition.
Our book, Stand Out Marketing reveals the 5 key competencies that successful marketing and sales professionals must develop to differentiate their organizations and deliver value to customers.
So, it’s no surprise that these competencies line up to the word VALUE.
The good news is that like skills, competencies can be learned. If you are a marketing leader dedicated to your personal growth, you’ll receive internal recognition, higher marketing budgets and better results from their marketing programs.
V = Visionary
When we think of visionary, we think of someone who can paint a picture of a future world. In the marketing context, being a visionary requires imagination, creativity, business savviness and being able to see the forest through the trees. Too often organizations are inwardly focused and they ignore the signals that the market, their customers and what their competitors are doing.
We provide a framework in the book with lots of examples and ideas to improve upon your visionary abilities.
One thing you can implement now - seek perspectives from different points of view. For example, if you are only relying on the sales team to tell you what’s going on with your customer base, it’s time to set aside some budget to conduct 1:1 customer research and interviews.
If visionaries set the strategy, activators make it happen. As a marketer, this means first and foremost, the ability to get buy-in for your ideas and mobilizing the rest of your organization towards executing the plan. Yet many initiatives fail because the various departments that are needed for successful execution aren’t bought into the plan.
One of the common pitfalls we see here is that many marketers don’t understand how their programs fit into business goals and priorities. For example, the marketing team may be working on developing marketing content to promote a product that neither the sales team nor customers want to buy.
The action here -- learn the business. How does your company make money? Which customer segments are the most important? Which products are the most profitable?
L = Learner
You’ve probably heard of a learning mindset, which is the ongoing commitment to learning new things and being open-minded and curious. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s shown us that being a learner is not optional!
For marketers especially, there’s a need to constantly have your pulse on what your customers are experiencing and thinking. So if you’ve conducted customer research once, your job isn’t done. This is an ongoing process.
A simple action you can take -- dig deeper and ask WHY? For example, do you know why your customers choose to buy your product or solution over your competitor’s?
U = Useful
Being useful is about differentiating in a way that is relevant, practical and resonates with customers. Think of the swiss army knife. It’s a highly practical tool that can be used in a lot of different scenarios from opening a bottle of beer to cutting open a package.
You want your marketing content/ programs to be like the swiss army knife! This means you have to understand how to translate what your product does into how it will help your buyers Especially important here is to understand how your customer consumes information, as I’ve seen way too many examples of marketers chasing tactics (podcasts, blogs, TikTok) without first doing the research to see if its a relevant way to reach their target audience.
E = Evaluator
Finally, the evaluator can assess whether or not something is working and how to interpret the data they’ve collected. Collecting data only leads to descriptions and classifications, it never leads to insight and understanding.
Can you effectively balance what’s good for the customer with the ROI for the business? Can you evaluate the success of your marketing programs and determine what’s working best to produce results?
We agree with the Davos Manifesto that was issued in December 2019, stating that the purpose of a company is to engage all its stakeholders - including employees, customers, suppliers, communities and society at large in creating shared and sustained value.
There is widespread acknowledgement from marketing and business leaders that companies who ignore their customers, create surface-level value propositions and focus only on their own profits will suffer.
B2B Buyers are already demonstrating that they have no tolerance for working with companies that don’t add value when interacting with their marketing and sales teams. Naturally, heads are turning toward the marketing department as the source of deep customer understanding.
If you weren’t investing in enhancing your marketing competencies and skills before, the time to do it is now as the gap will continue to widen from those that ‘get it’ and those that don’t.
To learn more about how you can differentiate your company, be more relevant to customers and uplevel your career, get your copy of our book, Stand Out Marketing!