The Marketing Strategist:

A Brave New World for Marketers

March 14, 2013

Malcolm Frank, Executive Vice President of Strategy & Marketing at Cognizant, kicked off ITSMA’s 2012 Annual Conference with a prediction that the next eight years will see a shift in the IT industry rivaling the rise of the internet. The impact of social, mobile, analytics, and cloud—SMAC—means that the architecture of corporate IT is transforming and, in turn, affecting the business models of the dominant vendors. These changes also have big implications for IT Services Marketing. If they are to be successful, marketers must:
  1. Lead. If SMAC is pervasive, there will be a new services delivery model. Every one of the previous shifts is accompanied by a delivery cost savings of over 40%. This is where services firms get into the innovator’s dilemma. Do I want to sell that $10 million ERP project or go after a more nebulous $1.5 million social project? That’s where firms tend to get stuck. Leading requires that marketing be the eyes and ears of the organization. This isn’t just anecdotal, but can be formalized through customer feedback, competitive analyses, technology reviews, and empirical reviews of market trends that any good strategic marketing function should already be doing. When the data starts to run counter to what the company has been experiencing for some time, marketing needs to ring the alarm bell (or the opportunity bell, as the case may be).
  2. Prepare for battle. Once the leadership team is convinced that a change or an opportunity exists, marketing needs to help codify the brand position, services portfolio management, and internal training. This is often the quiet, and internal, “preparing for battle” part of the exercise.
  3. Create the rallying cry. Marketing has to answer the age old question, “How far in front of our headlights should our marketing message be?” This is a key strategic question that marketing needs to drive once the firm starts to engage with the market, but the decision ultimately sits with senior management. For example, IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign was just the right call, in Frank’s opinion. Although the campaign may have been one to two years out in front of IBM’s capabilities, it provided terrific air cover for IBM to build against. That was a great success. But there are also cases where the market doesn’t turn in one’s favor. Remember Cisco’s “The Human Network” campaign? The ads were beautiful, the message compelling, and the campaign a flop. Why? The marketing message was too far out ahead of reality.
Whenever there’s a transition, marketing has a mandatory role and an elective role. The mandatory role is listening to the market and making sure that others are listening, too—that the organization is not in denial. There are scores of cases where marketing failed to act and the organization had a near-death experience (or worse). And not just in our industry—in autos, mobile phones, media, everywhere. The elective role is in creating thought leadership or position-based campaigns once the market shift is recognized. As the examples show, these campaigns are high-risk, high-reward undertakings. Read the full Viewpoint, It’s a Marketing SMAC-down: Why You Need to Reposition Your Company or learn more about ITSMA’s Annual Marketing Conference.

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