"We need to demonstrate proficiency and mastery before we pursue the next thing. While shiny new toys will continue to emerge, successful marketers are strategic partners."
Laura Patterson is Co-founder and President of VisionEdge Marketing, a professional services firm focused on up-stream marketing consulting. In this interview Patterson explains how her firm helps companies of all sizes improve their marketing, and the dangers of falling prey to the shiny marketing object syndrome.
What’s your role in the company and what does your firm do?
I’m co-founder and president of VisionEdge Marketing founded in 1999. I’ve been at the helm since 2001. We’re a professional services firm with roots in data, analytics, process and measurement. We help our customers use these capabilities to gain better market, customers, and competitive insights and make decisions designed to accelerate their organic growth, create customer value and improve business performance. In 2001, we pioneered an annual Marketing Performance Management (MPM) study.
What products and services do you offer?
Our customers engage us as consultants, speakers and workshop facilitators. On the consulting front, our customers rely on our research, data, and analytics expertise to identify customer and market trends and guide product and service innovation. This includes acquiring competitive intelligence, building models for segmentation and personas, customer journey maps, dashboards, and developing customer and market strategies.
Most often companies are trying to answer questions critical to growth, such as what markets to pursue and how to enter these markets, how to grow the share of wallet among customers and which customers are most likely to buy, how to increase the adoption rate of new products, what is the perception of the customer’s experience and where do we excel and what gaps do we need to close, and so on. Most of these questions fall into what we call upstream marketing.
Companies and associations often tap us as speakers to address and inspire their teams on topics related to growth, alignment and accountability. Organizations who want to up-level their team’s skills will have us facilitate workshops, especially around planning, strategy development, operational excellence, product innovation, opportunity assessment and performance measurement.
Who do you help?
We specialize in B2B and have strong domain experience in five industries: technology, such as computing, networking, semiconductors; industrial and manufacturing; medical devices and life sciences, financial services such as banking and insurance; and logistics. Our customers include large well-known global companies and mid-market firms. What they all have in common is a commitment to organic growth, a keen focus on their customers’ success, and a passion for excellence.
What challenges do your customers typically have?
All of our customers want to grow and that means they need data-derived insights. They need these insights to support market, customer and product or service decisions. They want clarity around how to grow, acquire and keep customers, create customer value and deliver on the customer experience. Many need their marketing organization to play a more strategic role. And all of them want to know how the marketing organization and investments are moving the needle.
Tackling these challenges often translates into a need for better processes and a stronger analytics bench inside the marketing organization. Often there’s a need for a stronger connection between the work of marketing and what the business is trying to achieve. This may require a different approach to planning, metrics, and reporting.
Can you share a brief success story?
We are very fortunate to have an extensive library of customer case studies that can be accessed from our site. These are organized by the main challenge the customer wanted to address such as alignment, accountability, evidence-based strategies and operational excellence.
The TUV SUD study illustrates how an organization can use the customer buying journey to improve alignment between marketing and sales and establish common customer-focused measures and metrics. Working together, we were able to help them focus their marketing and sales around the same critical parts of the customer buying journey and mobilize them around the same measures.
What are your thoughts on any upcoming trends for 2020?
One ongoing trend I often worry about is marketing’s gravitation to chase the next shiny object. It wasn’t that long ago when we were chasing website and SEO, then email marketing, mobile marketing, then social media, influencer and content marketing. Now we’re chasing AI. I worry that every time we leap for the next thing before we’ve become proficient in the last thing that we potentially risk the marketing’s organization’s credibility.
I feel it’s important that we protect the credibility of our discipline. We need to demonstrate proficiency and mastery before we pursue the next thing. I believe marketing must stay true to its fundamental mission, which is to help the organization achieve its growth objectives, serve customers and create customer value.
The marketers who do that well think more about what is referred to as upstream marketing. They understand that the downstream is only effective if the upstream has been addressed. Upstream marketers are primarily focused on the customer, how and where to find them, how to create and deliver a compelling, relevant, differentiated offer. In today’s get “sales now” mentality, it’s easy to focus on the downstream, such as implementing events and tracking new contacts, producing campaigns and tracking engagement and “leads.” And the technology is all about the downstream.
It’s great to have all these tools available to us, but sometimes I wonder if companies are servants to their tools. While shiny new toys will continue to emerge, successful marketers are strategic partners.