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Building Momentum Part II: Focus on Where the Business Gets Done: Build from the Field, Back

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

There is a great deal of interest these days in pursuing both strategic consistency and potential savings in marketing by centralizing many activities.  Done wisely and carefully, I have seen a number of these efforts realize real quantifiable improvements on both the cost and the effectiveness sides of the equation. Building on the theme introduced in the first entry of this series (Read the Chart from Right to Left), here I want to move from discussing the interconnection of marketing and sales in general to the specific case of the headquarters/region connection. If we support the idea that as companies improve their strategic focus, specialization and eventually centralization makes sense for certain activities, we must also recognize that there are limits and there are certainly pitfalls to be avoided.  Since the theme of this entire series is “Momentum”, let’s open the discussion there.

 

Momentum

When Isaac Newton recognized that “an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest” he could easily have been describing how hard it is to get things done within complex distributed organizations. Not only is it hard to get a new idea started, it can be difficult to keep it going.  This is why innovative marketing pros must have in their toolkit a real focus on creating momentum and reducing barriers of many kinds. Most of us do not have the empowerment of Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison to get things — that we know are right — done. Could it be that at our level, “right” as we see it may be part of the problem?

 

In the vast majority of b-to-b companies, the bulk of business happens in the field.  Revenue, the fuel of company health, comes from the field. From a pure quarter-on-quarter business perspective, that’s where the action is.  It’s where the business is “in motion”.  It wants to stay in motion.  As much as possible, it will avoid things that could slow that motion.  And it will not wait for others to catch up.

 

So if the company’s momentum is most tangible and relentless in its field sales activities, marketers looking to gain momentum have to understand the field.  If you want your marketing ideas to take root in the fabric of the company, if you want to gain traction, you need to find ways to leverage the field’s momentum and avoid things that interfere with it. Thus you must orient your work with reference to the needs of the field. If you don’t, no matter how good your ideas, at best you may be viewed as irrelevant, at worst you will face outright opposition. Maybe it seems obvious to you, but there’s a lot countervailing forces that can blind you along the way.

 

Create Once, Replicate Many

Part of the “centralization” solution involves creating standardized marketing solutions.  There are a lot of similarities here with manufacturing approaches.  And like manufacturing, there is certain logic at looking first at your most successful businesses and building your standard solutions to map to their needs.  The classic case is “design it for North America and let the other regions adopt it”.

 

There are many problems with this – at least three big categories.

 

Process Sophistication:  The first is that the success of your strongest markets usually means that their practices are more mature and sophisticated than your other markets can support.  As a result, a marketing solution built for North America often cannot be executed — certainly in full and often even in part — anywhere else.

 

Strategic and Tactical Requirements:  Next is the problem that your most successful markets are also more mature with reference to your products and the category. It follows that their marketing needs are substantially different than those of less developed markets.  The “right” strategies and tactics are not the same for these opposite poles on the maturity scale.

 

Need:  Finally, because your best markets are more mature as businesses, they probably are used to a large measure of independence and empowerment.  While they want budget, they don’t believe they need help from anyone. In contrast, less developed markets often welcome any help they can get.

 

Therefore:  If you are attempting to build once and replicate many times with a type of marketing strategy or program, it makes sense to take a page out of GE’s latest playbook update.  Instead of creating things for your most developed markets and looking to others to adopt them (Glocalization) look instead to where future opportunity lies.  Understand the needs of markets with real potential. And use the clout of headquarters to design programs that these places will eagerly adopt. These programs you will have no problem replicating across many markets in need.  These programs will create immediate momentum.

 

Don’t Design (too) Big Solutions:  Another pitfall that’s easy to fall into, a real barrier to adoption and use and therefore momentum, is trying to build it all at once.  No matter how clearly you have documented the field’s needs and desires, what they tell you they “need” is usually really a huge wish list, an ideal.  When they tell you what they want or would like if you built it, this does not equate directly with what they will immediately use.  Plus, the more complex your plans, the more things can go wrong that delay the whole project. 

 

Complexity is the enemy of adoption. Adoption is the catalyst for momentum.  Therefore, no matter how complex your program vision will eventually become, to drive adoption (and that must be your paramount goal for nothing happens in-market without it) you must make initial introduction simple and immediately adoptable.  You want it in market right away.  That’s the only way to get the results it was designed to deliver.

 

Don’t Be Late

Similar to the complexity issue, no matter what you plan to do for the field, if you don’t deliver what you said you would when it was expected, it’s as if you delivered nothing at all.  When you make a deal to support the field and take their input, they are putting their trust in you.  They’re giving you your chance. If you disappoint them with late delivery, soon you will find they have contingency plans of their own that you knew nothing about.  And duplication has now crept into your marketing budget once again.

 

Design In Flexibility

“Build it once” is a theoretical ideal. Remember that there is no law that says the “it” in each market needs to be exactly alike. If you design your programs with interchangeable building blocks, design elements, formats, media and so on, the execution can vary quite a bit tactically while staying true to the unified whole.  If you make it easy to adopt your work tactically, your field colleagues will adopt it more eagerly.  You will enjoy the benefits of having ensured that all the elements fit together in a coherent whole.

 

Using the INE to get Closer to the Field

INE outputs make it very easy for headquarters marketers and their field colleagues to agree on a single view of the truth.  This is the beginning of getting close to each other and it is the raw material of momentum.  The INE can be used to support the logic for prioritizing certain elements of a program to deliver before others.  If you are involved in a ‘build once, replicate many’ process evolution, INE helps you find the commonalities between markets, between targets and even between solution categories.  You can use it to collaborate with the field on developing the marketing solutions that are right for them and right for the company as a whole.  You can agree on what will be built by one group and leveraged by others and what will need to be done by a field group on its own.  If you approach it this way, your plans at headquarters and in the field will align and become complementary instead of duplicative.  Your strategies will be followed and your tactics will be adopted.  You will build the momentum you need to sustain the direction in which you seek to move.  And your programs will be adopted and have a chance to work.