My recent study of B2B CEOs revealed three types of CEO, each determined by their orientation towards marketing. One of these types, the ‘Marketer CEO’, believes strongly in the strategic impact of marketing.
For B2B marketers, understanding the views of these CEOs can provide vital direction that will better equip them to meet the CEO’s expectations and contribute most value to the business.
In the study, Marketer CEOs were identified by their own admission of their belief in marketing. Each of these CEOs was then analysed according to a number of parameters describing his or her impressions of the company’s capabilities and priorities.
These attitudes were then compared to help identify similarities and differences. This is represented in the figure below, which tells an interesting story. Marketer CEOs appear to share a high level of development within particular parameters.
So what is important to these Marketer CEOs?
Looking across these parameters and analyzing the qualitative data obtained from these CEOs revealed four main focus areas. Here, I’ll describe the first two and I’ll cover the other two in a later post.
1. Customer focus
The first characteristic of Marketer CEOs is that they have an unrelenting focus on the customer. It is clear that of the three value disciplines described in the seminal study by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema*, customer intimacy figures highly.
Managing customer relationships well is a means of achieving customer intimacy in B2B markets. Marketer CEOs have, or are developing, formalized processes for managing relationships. This includes formalizing customer relationship strategies at executive management level and greater use of IT tools, such as CRM systems, to support those strategies.
At the same time, it is interesting to note that the use of CRM systems is still at a very basic level. Excel and Outlook are still used avidly!
Interestingly, marketing has a role to play in customer relationships for these CEOs, but marketing does not usually own customer relationships.
Customer-focused value proposition
Delivering a powerful, differentiated customer-oriented value proposition is top of mind for Marketer CEOs. For them, this is very much based on the power of the story and the conviction of its delivery.
It goes far beyond differentiating technical features of their products, but into the value that they can provide to customers’ businesses. They used phrases such as “customer-focused attitude”, “open platform”, and “extended value chain”. One CEO even went so far as to describe his company’s offerings as a “life saver”.
2. Marketing’s capabilities
The second main characteristic is a focus on marketing as a core strategic capability. It is not merely a support function.
Marketing can indeed provide competitive advantage when the company’s marketing efforts communicate and demonstrate the value of its products and services better than competitors. This type of differentiation is a vital part of influencing buyer behavior.
Crucially, this is why Marketer CEOs believe that marketing can make a significant and tangible contribution to company performance.
The most ambitious CEOs aim to align marketing both internally to the business strategy and externally to the customer’s purchasing process, but they admit that this is a huge challenge, requiring a significant long-term effort.
In fact, there was a tendency to be highly critical of their marketing capabilities, particularly as B2B marketing is undergoing such rapid development. Marketer CEOs have a desire to make significant improvements, for example, by hiring people with appropriate competencies, which may be different than competencies traditionally associated with B2B marketing positions.
While this suggests that the Marketer CEO has high standards of execution and is realistic about the company’s actual capabilities, it also supports the notion that the CEO sees marketing as having unique competencies that can drive performance in increasingly competitive B2B markets.
These CEOs typically appoint a CMO, or at least make sure that marketing is represented actively at management level. Despite this, not all Marketer CEOs could boast significantly large marketing departments. While some did have significant resources (typically, the larger companies in the sample group), others indicated a desire to allocate more towards marketing resources.
While all allocate significant marketing budgets, the approach differs. Some have fixed annual marketing budgets, while others allocate per activity. Trade shows appear to be important for interacting with customers and a large part of the marketing budget.
Marketing performance and market strategy
(* In an article in Harvard Business Review (1993, January-February edition), Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema describe customer intimacy as one of three value disciplines for achieving market leadership. The other two are product leadership and operational excellence.)Like this post? Subscribe now and get notified about new content!