Friday, January 17, 2020

The Eight Skills of a Marketing Rock Star

To be a "can do it all" marketer, one who is extremely valuable to an organization as an individual contributor but who can also rise through the ranks quickly to become a marketing "rock star," the person should possess these eight skills:

  1. Graphic design skills with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign fluencies and a strong sense of aesthetics
  2. Strong copywriting skills, erring on the side of pithiness and impact
  3. Storytelling skills
  4. A working knowledge of Google Ads and Facebook Ads
  5. WordPress fluency
  6. A strong intuition about customer beliefs, values, attitudes, motivations and behaviors
  7. An understanding of how to design and interpret research to achieve deep customer insight
  8. "Out of the box" thinking ability
All other skills can be acquired over time.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Marketing Training & Marketer Competency

I had the good fortune to learn about most aspects of marketing through a fifteen year stint at Hallmark Cards. While there, I learned product development, new product development, advertising, promotion, marketing research, brand management, brand licensing, trade marketing, merchandising, category management, pricing strategy, distribution strategy, corporate communications, crisis management and global marketing. This hands-on learning far exceeded anything I learned in undergrad and grad school marketing courses.

P&G, Unilever, General Mills and other "houses of brands" teach classical marketing to their marketing professionals. Many marketing agencies are good training grounds for marketing techniques and there are a multitude of conferences and seminars that share marketing case studies and best practices. CRM and marketing automation software companies and social media websites have their own training videos and webinars. You can even find marketing training videos on YouTube. My company, BrandForward, Inc., has been hired by many Fortune 500 companies and marketing agencies to train their marketing staffs on different aspects of brand management and marketing.

Despite all of this, most marketers are thrown into smaller companies and startups, in which they are supposed to be the marketing experts without any hands-on marketing training. They are expected to be experts on everything from copywriting, graphic design, website design and marketing automation to brand identity creation, brand management, social media marketing and trade show booth design. This is just not realistic. It frustrates the hiring company and creates a negative perception of marketers and marketing. This could partially account for the high turnover in the marketing profession.

Looking back on my career, there are many more aspects to marketing than one might imagine. And each aspect has its own tools, techniques, rules of thumb and body of knowledge. Everything is becoming increasingly specialized. There are SEO experts, WordPress experts, CRM experts, data analytics experts, marketing automation experts, media buying experts, event planning experts, and the list could go on and on. In fact, each software platform requires its own expertise.

Given this, companies either need to have extensive marketing budgets to hire experts in each area or they need to support their marketing employees with as much marketing training as possible as often as possible. Unfortunately, the marketing field is changing rapidly and the knowledge and expertise to stay current is formidable. And business schools sometimes have professors who have never actually worked in the field of marketing and may be drawing on syllabi that were developed years and even decades earlier.

In summary, post university marketing training is essential to ensure that marketing professionals remain current and effective in their roles. And no matter how much training a marketer receives, it is not realistic that he or she is an expert in every aspect of marketing. So startups and smaller companies that are hiring one marketer to "do it all," especially on limited budgets, are likely to be disappointed.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Business Strategy Workshops

Over the years, my brand positioning workshops have evolved to something much broader. First, I added brand mission, vision and values workshops to the mix based on client requests. After that, I added pricing strategy workshops to the mix, again based on client requests. Eventually, these workshops evolved into full-blown business strategy workshops tailored for each organization and its strategic issues. The types of issues we address in the workshops include:

  • Determining the organization's highly motivating purpose
  • Identifying "category of one" branding opportunities
  • Developing a pricing strategy the produces increased revenues and profits
  • Developing a distribution strategy that best aligns with the brand while still maximizing revenues
  • Rethinking the brand's unique value proposition and the organization's culture after a merger or acquisition
  • Identifying additional revenue streams
  • Identifying passive revenue sources
  • Increasing the value of the organization to potential investors
  • Identifying strategic partnerships that can strengthen the brand's position and increase its revenues
  • Identifying business model options that will create barriers to entry for potential competitors
  • Identifying the fastest paths to reach scale and to achieve network effects
  • Identifying the optimal sequencing of activities for sustained business growth
  • Identifying add-on sales and other upselling opportunities
All of this is accomplished by using the appropriate tools and templates and through skilled group facilitation, insuring that everyone's ideas and concerns are thoughtfully considered. Most of these workshops involve the CEO and his or her staff. They sometimes also include key board members, depending on the type of organization.

I concentrated on business and marketing strategy while at Harvard Business School and throughout my career. My approach is informed by Michael Porter's competitive strategy model, W. Chan Kim's and Renee Mauborgne's Blue Ocean Strategy approach to creating uncontested market space, Peter Thiel's approach to creating successful startups, Adam Brandenburger's and Barry Nalebuff's concept of co-opetition, Thomas Nagle's and Reed Holden's approach to pricing strategy and tactics and Alexander Osterwalder's and Yves Pigneur's Business Model Generation approach to designing business models. 

To learn more about this business strategy facilitation process, email me at

To purchase Brand Aid, click here.