What’s the best way for B2B marketers to prove their value to senior management? Position your brand against the competition – according to a survey by the ANA which was reviewed by eMarketer in a piece titled How Can B2B Marketers Prove Their Worth to Senior Management?
“According to the data, 77% of respondents said positioning their brand vs. the competition is their most important role. This led other responsibilities, such as enhancing targeting (58%) and keeping sales and agency teams informed (55%).”
Both a combination of the data and the way the eMarketer piece frames this survey has me thinking this is all backward. While differentiation and executive buy-in are important aspects for any marketing leader, those things should be the results of a focus, not the focus.
Philip Kotler, an author and professor from the prestigious Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University provides good context in a presentation summarizing Peter Drucker’s teachings on marketing:
“The purpose of a business is to create a customer.”
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
“The aim of marketing is to make selling unnecessary.”
Drucker’s emphasis is not the competition or senior management – his focus is on the customer. First solve a problem for a customer – that’s the business model – and second, tell that customer about the solution – that’s marketing.
(At the risk of digression, sometimes this involves educating customers about problems they didn’t know they have, which is a good objective for the PR side of the marketing shop.)
If businesses focus on doing these two things well, then differentiation isn’t just the way marketing positions a product, business, or market – it is the business!
Any business can call itself the “a leading provider” in positioning statement and make sure that phrase goes in every press release, but doing just that doesn’t make it so. Market leaders focus on the customer while market followers focus on the competition.
It’s usually easier said than done in the trenches of B2B marketing – given the struggle over budgets, content and turf – but if B2B marketers want to prove value to senior management, I contend that proof starts with the customer.
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