Five Ways Marketers Can Impact Innovation

10 April, 2018 / Articles
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The reality is that not all CMOs are responsible for innovation. In research I’ve conducted, it is actually a minority of CMOs who lead the development of the innovation pipeline, especially in certain industries such as tech. However, marketers have unique market-sensing, and consumer-understanding skills that should be valuable in the development of new innovations. To identify ways that marketers can positively impact the future direction of innovation, I turned to Amy Radin, Cofounder and Partner, Reinvent Partners and author of The Change Maker’s Playbook: How to Seek, Seed and Scale Innovation in Any Company. Below, Radin identifies five ways that marketers can have profound impact.

  1. Be clear on the business’ purpose, strategy and goals, and be sure that the outcomes you are being asked to demonstrate drive those business goals. This is not about pulling out the strategy deck created by a consultant. It is about understanding how your responsibility connects to the financial outcomes of the business. In any well-run operation there is a plan with financial projections, account targets and sales goals. What are the bases for these assumptions? Do they make sense, and where is your leverage to affect them? The answers to these questions will surface where marketing can have greatest impact on near-term goals. If these answers don’t exist, do you have a fighting chance?
  1. Set and manage expectations. “Quick wins” is an over-used and misleading phrase attached to expectations set by others for marketing results. The newer the marketing function is to the organization, the more dangerous this expectation becomes. Often times what is labeled a quick win isn’t one at all. Nonetheless, the majority of effort has to go into demonstrating the contribution to the business’ short-term goals as perceived by the P&L owners, the CFO and the CEO. Like any good marketer, the CMO should accept that these are the internal constituents and it’s their perceptions that count when it comes to valuing the marketing function. Many marketers fail to manage expectations or merchandise their results effectively enough to get c-suite colleagues on board.
  1. Be creative about ways to self-fund the path to the future. The first step is to start small but think big. Better to run a series of small, below the radar experiments that don’t cost much. To do this, you have to be on top of your budget so you can find ways to pay for the programs, and bring the winners above the radar once proven. It is amazing how much startups accomplish with so little, driven by a founder’s passionate belief in an idea and their general lack of resources. The corporate assumptions about the amount of capital required to get to a beta are being rewritten every day by how startups bootstrap to proof of concept.
  1. Use visuals to sell your vision, influence colleagues and win their support. Most people can only react, not envision. So sharing what you mean in diagrams, prototypes, and data will be much more effective than asking people to conceptualize and imagine. The latter will be frustrating to most people and will risk labeling you as a dreamer versus the contributor that any CMO can be. A quick online search on the term “storytelling techniques” will net useful suggestions on how to shift your approach from push marketing to building trust and engagement with internal constituents.
  1. Link talent decisions to what is most needed to accomplish marketing goals. Do not let your team become a reflection of the latest marketing fad, or worse, an island of misfit toys. Be disciplined about prioritizing the skills that are essential to creating the programs, analytics, capabilities and strategies driving your targets. Hire an army of influencers: people whose communications, relationship and other influence skills can be activated to follow through on your great work to get people to coalesce around a singular vision of what the brand can stand for in the marketplace.

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.

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