Marketing - It's a Limbic Thing
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Why every marketer needs sales experience

One of the key tasks of a good salesperson is to take advantage of a proper sales process. Within this process, especially important for good results is to identify latent and explicit needs of the customer. These emerge from situational and problem-related questions and create a bridge between the customer's business and your solution - a bridge you and the customer need to pass to reach a mutually acceptable agreement upon your future co-operation.

I've written earlier how important it is for a company that its marketers do not passively sit behind their market research reports, plans and campaigns. They need to involve themselves in the creation of relevant offering to the customer. They need to participate in the sales process by not only generating interest towards the brand but also convincing the customer of the value they are offering. This way, salespeople will have a little more easier time finalizing the actual sales negotiations.

So marketers are involving, but why do they need actual sales experience? The first argument is obvious - it's a lot easier to sympathise across functional boundaries when you know what it's like at the other side. Secondly, good salespeople continuosly train their analytical thought processes and solution building skills by asking good questions subsequently identifying latent and explicit customer needs. A marketer can devise so much better marketing messages and research that much more intelligently if he/she is aware of how to pose proper, insight-gleaning questions for the customer.

The same logic applies even if the marketers have little opportunity to involve themselves with the customers. In this case, the domain of knowledge are the salespeople, who have a holistic but tacit understanding of the customer. The one sequence of the sales process can be repeated internally, where marketers approach and ask the salespeople for the same information. Here, internal selling occurs and salespeople are sparred about their market knowledge at the same time. This leads to the third argument. It helps to share a common language between marketers and salespeople, and marketers are more able to learn the language of sales if they have the experience.

Processing Market Data into Insight and Competitive Advantage

I'm currently constructing a possible foundation for my master's dissertation. I've noticed how helpful to the idea creation process it is when people ask you what you are about, and you try to explain the idea in a concise, understandable way. Thus I'll be writing a little about my plans here as well, to gather my thoughts.

I'm generally interested in how, where and by whom market information is gathered, analysed, disseminated and finally utilized as Market Insight in private organizations. By "market" I mean both customer-related data, competitor intelligence and PESTLE (political, economic, social, technologic, legal, environmental)-related data all combined. These actions, gathering, dissemination etc. can be labeled as a data-to-value process - here raw data is made sense of and translated into something of value - Insight of the external world that assists the organization in reaching its business goals and beyond. Some academics even call this Insight a strategic asset.

It would obviously be too massive a dissertation to try to envelope and discuss the entire issue of Market Insight creation and utilization. After all, the maximum length of a dissertation paper in Cranfield University SOM is merely 16,000 words. Therefore I've narrowed my focus down to the management issues of creating Market Insight. In my sights is the measurement of the data-to-value process. How do companies measure how they go about with the market insight creation and utilization process, and how are the results, the outputs and value of the process, measured?

As it seems, there is a great amount of academic literature covering years of practical experience that focuses on knowledge management and customer insight. There are lovely books and articles describing the data-to-value process and how companies should control theirs. But none I've come across offer valid frameworks or metrics for measuring the process and its outputs. I'm a Druckerian in a sense that I believe what you can't measure, you can't manage. And what you're not measuring, you're dismissing, and I believe not listening to the outside world is not something a respectable company cannot sidetrack. Of course, I'm not allegating the majority of companies of lacking market understanding, but as a Manager, I'd be keen to make sure my organization would be both as aware of its environment and well-equipped to utilize that awareness as possible.

During the coming Spring I'll be writing a lot more on the issue of Market Insight. I think it's a valuable one which strategists, marketers, line managers and even entrepreneurs can enjoy as useful - after all, the final purpose of Insight is to create competitive advantage and foster those market breaking ideas..

My best of luck to all my fellow MSc. students in Cranfield who are beginning their dissertation projects!

Blast from the past

I've always forgotten until now about this. With my year in Cranfield moving into a stage where I need to start really thinking about my Master's dissertation, I was again reminded of a thing I was supposed to do: post the abstract of my Bachelor's dissertation for online reference and storage. The 112-page, 24 500 words of a brick was titled "Strategic Customer Relationship Management of Growth Companies", and I was really happy with the end result. Though with the benefit of hindsight, I'd do a lot differently.

But here's the abstract at last. I have also a 1000-word executive summary available.

Customer relationship management, or CRM, is often understood narrowly as a technology or a utility. In a more recent theoretical discussion it is however understood from a strategic perspective or as a fully-fledged business strategy that requires implementing CRM from a strategic point-of-view and combining it into the company’s other business strategies cross-functionally. From this perspective, the focus is on what CRM offers to growth businesses that are mostly thought to gain their growth by acquiring new customers.

This thesis understands CRM and customer management from a process-based, holistic and innovative point-of-view. The core of its theoretical basis is a framework of CRM that determines its five most crucial processes. Another important element of the theory used in this thesis involves literature that describes and studies rapid-growth companies, especially in the field of information technology.

The purpose of the thesis was, with the help of a theoretical framework and a thorough study, to establish what is “growth-oriented” CRM of growth companies and how the theoretical framework suits their needs. The qualitative study, conducted by themed interviews in the summer of 2007, involved five Finnish ICT growth companies.

The study revealed that typical to growth companies’ CRM is a project-based, short time-perspective method of managing and examining their customer relationships. Taking into account this and their demand for growth, it is concluded that these companies have a challenge in forecasting their business accurately, as one interviewed company told. Perhaps one of the most important observations was that these companies have grown profitably via their old customer relationships. Additionally, this involves that how companies manage their older relationships and the success of their acquiring new business are very closely interconnected.

This thesis describes and gives a justified opinion on CRM of growth companies, basing it on leading literature and observations acquired with the study. The thesis also views literature from the viewpoint of the reality of these companies and thus makes new suggestions and findings to it. Furthermore this thesis gives concrete development suggestions so these could develop the profitability of their customer relationships.

Keywords: CRM, customer relationship management, customer management, rapid growth, growth company

Thesis mentor: Dr. Seppo Leminen

PS. The conceptual framework of CRM I used was the model of Dr. Adrian Payne and Penny Frow.