4 Critical Roles of a Marketer

Harvard Business Review sends a weekly email with links to article summaries, and I enjoy receiving it to stretch me beyond the issues in the wine industry. Last week, there was a link to "Unleashing the Power of Marketing", an intriguing piece about how GE transformed the function of marketing from a support to a critical role to engineer growth by collaborating with customers, and identifying new product opportunities and markets.*

To create this breakthrough, GE had to change the way it thought about marketing -- from a support function (or worse, "cost center") to a revenue generating "commercial innovator". The company defined the "Key Parts of the Marketing Engine" -- principles, people and process, by identifying specific skills and disciplines, the essential roles and characteristics of marketers and evaluation metrics.

Most interesting to me is the second -- people, which identifies four critical roles for marketers: instigators, innovators, integrators and implementers. Despite numerous business school classes in marketing and management filled with case studies of how marketing-driven organizations operate, I've never before seen these roles so eloquently defined!

The instigator must think strategically to lead change -- practicing high level brainstorming to challenge the status quo by imagining ways to approach solving problems differently. Aptly named, instigators frequently face change resistance and must possess a fortitude of purpose and ability to take calculated risks to achieve a broader vision.

As innovators, marketers look to trends and market insights to identify areas for advancement before the competition. Instead of relegating this role to R&D or engineering, marketing actively participates in asking the questions both during and after the research to anticipate future needs. Again, consensus building skills and ability to fight for ideas is needed.

Hence the integrator role in which marketers seek to unite teams. We do this by cultivating data and presenting information in a clear way, sometimes speaking different languages with independent teams. This requires emotional intelligence and an ability to lead by combining positive, quiet force and shared interests versus outright pressure or more direct methods. A GE executive describes "war rooms" to identify potential issues and seek quick solutions before problems arose. (I realize the use of the term "war room" contradicts the quiet leadership method but these are two different audiences. The management team creates the "war room", then presents a united front to the departments.)

Finally, marketers must serve as implementers, executing the plans and using the integration skills to get the job done. This requires planning, evaluation and a measured approach -- this phase is typically more of a marathon than a sprint.

The authors state that these four behaviors must "be in concert", although "a marketing leader who has them all is rare". GE blends talents and teams to achieve this, and in some cases has two CMOs with complimentary expertise sharing leadership roles. Additionally, the company uses the process score card to evaluate marketers and identify strengths and areas for improvement.

In my next post I'll discuss the capability areas GE defined as part of its marketing process and how they can be used in the wine industry to create a marketing score card.

In the meantime, I encourage owners and operators to assess their teams given these critical roles. Does your winery have an instigator, innovator, integrator and implementer on its marketing and/or management team? Are there areas weaknesses holding the company back from growth an enhanced profitability?

In my own skill set -- without having yet officially self-evaluated, I would rate myself most highly on implementation with strong capabilities in instigation and integration. Innovation is an area I will seek to study and improve in the New Year.

*HBR provides article summaries online. To read the full article, you need to subscribe and buy an individual copy for $6.95.


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