As more and more B2B companies are discovering, the role played by the corporate marketer has a big impact on the success of the business.
That thinking is further supported by a recent report from the Institute for the Study of Business Markets at Penn State University and Illinois-based marketing agency Blue Canyon Partners.
The study, centered on ongoing talks with B2B marketers, identified the 10 best practices for corporate B2B marketers:
1. Drive Marketing Planning - Corporate marketing drives a systematic approach for developing company-wide marketing plans. Closely tied with their business unit colleagues, the corporate marketing leader heads the approach to engineer the planning process, and constructs the tool sets to back the marketing planning effort. This framework involves an understanding as the way to go about addressing a number of planning options. Those options include decision "rights" at different levels of the organization, expectations as to the level of detail that is necessary, promulgation of the tools to be used within the corporation, templates illustrating the recommended approach to plan design, etc.
2. Be the Brand Steward - Corporate marketing takes care of the corporate brand. Custodianship starts with clearly articulating what the firm wants its corporate brand to mean, and putting together the tools, techniques, and training to communicate this to all constituent audiences. In today's business-to-business environment, the brand is reinforced and maintained via numerous employees of the firm.
Going past setting corporate brand direction, corporate marketing also involves setting the ground rules on the use of the corporate brand, nurturing and protecting the master brand, and offering overall quality control, brand architecture, and decision making relating to building the corporation's brand equity. This includes creating frameworks for how to handle brand transitions (for new product development, for acquisitions, for sun-setting brands, etc.) along with measuring and monitoring brand equity (e.g., brand assessments, customer satisfaction, etc.);
3. Ensure that Voice of the Customer Informs Business Strategy - When corporate leadership wants to update, re-think, or re-establish the fundamental strategy of the business, corporate marketing needs to have major involvement in this endeavor. Marketing represents the voice of the market and customer as business strategies are put together, as goals are set, and as opportunities for growth -- both organic and inorganic -- are talked about. This can include the formation of a clear and genuinely differentiated statement of the mission and vision of the firm, but goes past that.
The voice of the customer championed by corporate marketing should be viewed by executives as very important to assisting build market-driven differentiated strategy;
4. Train and Develop Marketing Talent - Corporate marketing must partner with human resources to recruit, hire, on-board, train, and develop career paths for talented marketing professionals. Marketing leaders establish career paths that enable marketers to have a well-rounded view of the company, and that bring a marketing point of view -- and marketing talent -- into key positions throughout the firm. These companies aspire to have a marketing career ladder, much like the "technical ladder" where senior technical people can move to a greater level of responsibility and impact, as individual contributors.
A large number of firms that do not reach the level of world-class business-to-business firms sometimes "park" executives in the corporate marketing role, if they have no other logical place go. Stronger organizations understand that a person with an engineering background, but with no particular skill, talent, or understanding of marketing may not always be the best choice to be positioned into a senior marketing role. Progressive companies include marketing positions as part of the must-have stepping stones for fast track managers.
5. Deploy Specialist Teams - Marketing specialists can run the gamut. A number of organizations form enterprise shared services.
Other marketing organizations have put together SWAT teams that are deployable resources with strong, practical marketing competencies. These teams are often wanted by business unit leaders to take care of strategic problems or address special opportunities that might come about. These resources are called in routinely to assist with growth challenges that the business leaders face. They are trusted advisers who can see past obstacles, take a broader view, and provide a focused team of talented professionals, beyond what a business unit may be able to find (or fund) in the normal course of business.
These issues can include needing a plan to grow into adjacent markets, to grow quicker than the market, or to reposition a brand that is dealing with a crisis. This team is not empowered to simply be the arms and legs and extra resources for the business unit; instead, the goal of the team is to give the whole corporation a leveraging effect by working with business units on the big matters that can yield positive ramifications throughout the entire company.
Editor's note: Look for Part 2 (steps 6 through 10) in Friday's post.