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How Marketers can help create a competitive edge?
Sunder Madakshira
Sunder Madakshira
Vice President, SAP Labs
Sunder is Vice President - Marketing and Communication, SAP Labs India. His passion is generating... more>>
 Marketers are custodians of three strategic issues for an organization:

 •         The customer/consumer need that the organization is trying to address/satisfy 
•         How to satisfy the need
•         The environment that it is operating in

 The marketer’s approach to answering these questions and driving the organization to action are his core functions.  If there are functions that are more core to an organization, it will be interesting as to know them!
 A marketer can help the organization attain a competitive edge in the following ways:
 1.       Being  a business environmentalist and weather forecaster: Business contexts are complex with multi-level competition, changing political landscapes in geographies, need to make specific strategic choices and act fast.  A shrewd marketer will internalize the scenario well and drive the organization towards the chosen goals.  
The marketer seeks a proactive competition intelligence build up (not clear)  and be able to predict competition moves.  This is of strategic  importance for any organization.  At a basic level, the marketer creates a competition battlecard for the sales team to be armed with.  A battlecard is a document which compares and contrasts company offerings vis a vis competition, advising the salesforce where and where not to take on the competition, accentuating companies strengths.
 
2.       Being  the voice of the customer inside the organization: Let us face it- organizations struggle to  put customer at the centre of their business.  Pressures to achieve financial results, a tough business environment, volatile technology landscape have only made it that much more difficult for organizations to focus on what the customer really needs.  Marketers have the responsibility to cull out the insights from customers and progressively make them the raison d’être for the organization.  Sales teams meet customers more often than marketers and are equally capable of performing this function.  But two aspects deter them from doing so – the pressure to close the deal prevents them to systematically synthesize the assimilated customer views and secondly, the fact that most organizations do not consider this to be their primary function and often ignores many inputs.

 3.       Being  the Business Incubator: Most progressive organizations have incubation centers to help develop new products. In my considered opinion, the incubator  (should it not be the marketer?) should have a significant involvement and width to play in this incubation centre.  Why so?  The need to position the newly developed products is probably as important as product development from a business point of view.  There is simply too much information lost if  marketers stay away from the product development process when the teams are seeking valuable information from the market and developing features to address the needs of the customers.  To expect marketers to come in at the end of the entire process reduces their role to producing colorful  product brochures and website designs.  This is a gross under-utilization of the marketing prowess and thoroughly avoidable. The marketer can play a significant role at every stage of the product development and therefore  should be co-opted as early as possible.
 Is all this very obvious?  The answer is yes.   But unfortunately,  most organizations and marketers  most often are unclear on putting this into practice and making it  simple for everyone.  What else would explain the fact that most organizations have now created a multitude to functions to substitute what the marketers traditionally did – strategy office, marketing intelligence, office of corporate economist, new product development, customer councils etc. It would be best to integrate all these functions under the marketing function and vest it with end-to-end responsibility
 The next question would be – Are the marketers ready?  They have to be, if they do not want to glorified event managers and brochure printers.  This is the choice the marketer will have to make.
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