The Marketing Strategist:
Never Lose Sight of What Marketing is All About: A Conversation with Larry Weber
When Dave Munn, President & CEO of ITSMA, and Larry Weber, Chairman and CEO of Racepoint Global, reflect on how the role of marketing has evolved over the 25 years of their friendship, it’s surprising to discover that despite the seismic shifts in technology and buyer behavior the essence of marketing hasn’t actually changed.
“Marketing is the influence of opinion through content,” explains Weber.
In a new ITSMA Viewpoint, Weber discusses the most important changes impacting marketers, but argues that the most successful ones are those who never lose sight of what marketing is all about—focus on the customer.
According to Weber, three developments in marketing rise to the top in terms of importance and impact:
- Data and analytics. The biggest change is in data and analytics. Twenty-five years ago, we thought we knew what data and analytics were. But back then, the deepest we went was to ask the question, “What are software engineers reading?” The fact is, we really had no data 25 years ago. Fast-forward to today, and we have an enormous amount of data and accompanying analytics on how to best launch a product, connect with customers, and create compelling experiences.
- Visual storytelling. The second important change I see is the visualization revolution. All we had 25 years ago was the written word. We told our stories by writing them. Now we are visual storytellers. If a B2B technology company can’t get its story across in a thoughtful 60-90 second video, then it is in trouble.
- Marketing as an integrated discipline. The third change is that marketing as a discipline is moving across the organization. Marketing is addressing issues across the enterprise that are increasingly more complex and interesting. We are seeing business leaders engage marketing beyond sales and human resources (HR) matters. Contrast that to 25 years ago when no one quite understood what marketing was!
Ever the colorful storyteller, Weber digs into the archives to make this last point. Many years ago, he had a rare opportunity to pitch to Ken Olsen, the founder and CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). “My team and I worked on that presentation day and night until it was perfect. After the pitch, I asked Ken, ‘So what do you think?’ And he answered, ‘That was the best presentation I’ve ever heard, but I still don’t believe in marketing.’” Ken Olsen belonged to the generation of engineers that believed their products would sell themselves. Today, we know better!
Weber’s advice to marketers at different stages in their careers:
- Focus on the customer. No matter what phase you are at in your career, remember that all power comes from the customer. Your career should be about how you wake up every day and help build connections to the customers that you’re trying to connect to and work with. Always maintain customer focus. It might sound cliché, but it is worth repeating.
- Experiment with technology. You need to understand the application of new technologies. Know what software is out there and experiment with it; talk to your peers and colleagues. Try new things and don’t be afraid to fail.
- Attend small, niche conferences. There are so many conferences and meetings marketers can attend. Hardly anyone I know learns anything at the large, popular events like Consumer Technology Association or CES. Instead, marketers should find the best small, niche conferences like ITSMA’s.
- Engage agencies with open eyes. Be careful of agencies. The pendulum swings back and forth. Agencies are sometimes ahead of the curve, sometimes behind the curve. It depends on which agencies you work with, who is on your account, and what they’ve done for you lately.
- Hop around. Be open, honest, and transparent about your career. Trying different companies over time is good. The days of 10, 15, or 20 years at one company are probably gone.
- Be curious. I read all the time. I’ll make a drink at night, go into my library, and explore a topic or two. I’ll Google for an hour about a topic such as software in marketing. It’s amazing what you can find.
Mine the full impact of Weber’s insights into the progress and purpose of marketing in ITSMA’s Viewpoint, Marketing’s Progress and Purpose: A Look Back and Ahead.