Philip Kotler

Four Things I Learned at World Marketing and Sales Forum

I arrived in Melbourne full of anticipation. Having lived in the ‘world’s most liveable city’ for 9 years, it is always a pleasure to return. I was going to see Philip Kotler – the godfather of marketing at the World Marketing and Sales Forum in Melbourne Town Hall. Other influential marketing and sales speakers included Martin Lindstrom – the pioneer of branding, Jeff Thull – distinguished B2B sales strategist, Martha Rogers – relationship marketer, and Mark Ritson – a ‘forget the hype – show me the $ marketer’. I like Mark… we speak the same language.

The four things I learned at World Marketing and Sales forum:


1.   Conduct vulnerability analysis and scenario planning to avoid being put out of business

If there is one thing marketers could either start doing, or do more of, it’s vulnerability analysis. Every industry is at risk of disruption by a new competitor. To combat this threat, Philip Kotler recommends we place more emphasis on identifying how competitors can hurt us – our most vulnerable weaknesses. He also believes companies can benefit from playing out at least three different scenarios about what competitors might do, and your likely response. As Kotler states: “it doesn’t matter if your scenarios don’t actually play out… it’s the actual exercise of doing the scenario planning that will make you more flexible and resilient”.

 2.   Change the way you sell your solution

Jeff Thull put up a great slide that gets to the heart of the B2B sales challenge for many of us.

Today’s “surplus society” has a surplus of “similar” companies, employing “similar” people, with “similar” educational backgrounds, coming up with “similar” ideas, producing “similar” things, with “similar” quality and “similar” pricing.

To paraphrase… you can no longer differentiate yourself based on your solution.

So what can we do to stand out in a world of homogenisation?

“How you deliver your solution is the most untapped area to differentiate”, said Jeff.

The big challenges in the selling process are: (1) the customer does not typically have a complete, cross-functional process for making the decision; (2) buying involves changing, and change is difficult; and (3) the customer is unable to quantify the value of your solution.

Tactics to overcome these challenges:

  • Consider how your solution will affect others inside the customer’s organisation, and create a decision-making framework to facilitate the process.
  • Be patient. The change process takes time. Make it easier for your customer to progress to a decision in your favour by highlighting the critical risks of ‘doing nothing, and eliminating any doubts the customer might have about the quality, cost, and expected results of your solution.
  • Identify and correct the areas of ‘value leakage’. Is your solution designed and manufactured with the same value as originally conceived? Does your messaging collateral clearly articulate 100% of your value? Are the salespeople going to market with a complete comprehension of the value of your solution?

 3.  Create an aspirational brand

Before you B2B marketers grimace and shake your head thinking ‘aspirational brands apply only to consumer products’… let me reiterate what Martin Lindstrom said, “all brands have the potential to leave somatic markers (permanent emotional associations) in our brains that influence how we behave, particularly to how we make decisions. It’s just that most ‘Boring 2 Boring’ (Martin’s words) brands focus on the rational, cognitive decision-making process of customers, rather than their emotions”.

How to fix it:

Lindstrom created The Brand Story Model to help marketers create a unique and aspirational brand based on emotions and feeling.

The Brand Story Model

The Brand Story Model – Martin Lindstrom

Step 1: Revelation

Determine what is unique and special about your business that would prompt someone to share at a dinner party.

Step 2: Aha-moment

Identify the stories and brand characteristics that will kick-off the conversation.

Step 3: Tipping point

Discover what it is about your business that will shift an interesting conversation into a conversation about your brand.

Step 4: Show-off

Create symbols that friends use to show ‘membership’ of your special club.

Powerful brands are somatic markers.  They bias our decision-making through emotions and feeling. When your customers face complex and conflicting choices, they may be unable to decide using only rational cognitive processes. In these cases, somatic markers help them decide. Make your brand a somatic marker.

 4.    Don’t believe the social media hype

How refreshing to hear a professional marketer smash the dubious claims that social media is the ‘next big thing’ for business. As Mark Ritson, Associate Professor of Marketing at Melbourne Business School, points out “social media is distracting marketers from doing the important stuff… segmenting, targeting, positioning, and differentiation”.

Mark acknowledges that social media has a part to play for business, but only as one of many integrated marketing communications tools. His marketing mantra: it’s all about positioning… focus on 3 – 4 things only… be tight, non – generic. Amen, Mark.

The World Marketing and Sales Forum provided me with new insights that I can apply in my business to improve performance. I hope you can do the same by applying at least one, if not all four, in your business.

If you enjoyed this article please leave a comment and/or share with others. Thank you.

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