The 4Ps of marketing leadership

Millions of marketers master the famous 4Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. But if you’re a marketing executive, you won’t get very far without also tackling the 4Ps of marketing leadership: productivity, purpose, pull and power (from my cmo.com column).

The 4Ps of marketing are a powerful toolkit that has given marketers a clear steer for generations. It’s actually pretty neat. The basic message? Marketers must create an attractive product, price it well, leverage the right distribution channels, and promote it effectively. Job done. But something isn’t working in today’s world of marketing. Recently, one of my CMO clients called to vent his frustration.

‘I need a new job,’ he said. ‘We’ve done a fantastic job researching this new product. We know consumers love it. Everything’s in place. But now they’re challenging my budget. And the CEO wants to make more changes to my campaign. This is crazy. I don’t have enough influence on decision-making.’ ‘But surely that’s just as true of customers?’ I asked. ‘You can’t force them to buy.’ ‘No, this is different,’ he said. ‘With customers, we can design products to suit their needs, ramp up distribution, build up campaign pressure. There’s a lot we can achieve with the 4Ps of marketing.’ My next question stopped him in his tracks: ‘If you can influence customer decision-making, why can’t you do the same internally?’

Think about it: marketers influence people’s behavior every day. We never complain about customers’ freedom to choose. We see it as our job to make them buy our offers. So we create a better product, a lower (or higher) price, better distribution, a better campaign. We’re the experts in influencing decisions. So why don’t we do the same internally? Why do so many marketers struggle to build influence in their companies?

We must accept that marketing is not the center of gravity in many organizations. Unless you work for one of the consumer goods giants, chances are that the marketing department has limited influence. Often, you can’t control short-term sales (that’s Head of Sales), you don’t generate confidential financial data (that’s the CFO), you may not control the product, and you don’t have a monopoly on creative ideas (everyone pitches in). The organizational reality often makes it hard for marketers to call the shots.

You can rage about the injustice of the system. Or you can accept it and start to build influence, just as you do in the market. The sooner you start, the better.

So how does a marketer gain influence?

The research I recently conducted with experts at INSEAD Business School shows a pretty clear pattern: outstanding marketing leaders are very productive in their field. They’re 4P experts. But they also have a strong purpose, create internal pull, and build power.

These 4Ps separate the best from the rest. So how about you? Can you demonstrate the 4Ps of Marketing Leadership?

Productivity – create visible marketing & business results.
This one is simple, but still tough. Senior managers give power to people who deliver, so being on their productivity radar really counts. Productive leaders are highly results-oriented. They talk about achievements, not process. They’re tenacious and hard-working. Most importantly, they’re strong team managers. Do you listen to your team? Do you know what team members need to perform at their best? Do you set clear targets? No matter how great you are, your team is the key to success. What’s more, when you do great work, make sure people see it. For introverts, this doesn’t come naturally. But visible results are your gateway to power.

Now, productivity is fairly obvious. The next 3Ps are less obvious, but even more crucial:

Purpose – know what you want to achieve in the market, for the company and for yourself. 
Great leaders know why they get up every morning. They have a vision, a dream. Ask yourself: If I left the company today, what would the press release say? Think big. An inspiring vision is the only way to inspire others. Get family, friends, and coaches to help you define and sharpen it.

Pull – inspire others based on your vision.
If you’re not in charge, your first priority must be to find followers. But people won’t follow for nothing. They need to see that following you leads them to a better future – either because they want to be like you, or because they’re inspired by your business vision. Once you have a vision, it’s vital to package it well. Think about it: the best stories are short and positive. Concentrate on your key message, and give others free rein to spread your story. The best marketers are great storytellers!

Power – get close to the decision-making process. Power grows when you have access to things that other people want. You can increase your power in three ways:

Have courage.
As a top automotive CMO recently put it: ‘If they don’t like my vision, let them fire me’. Many marketing leaders fail because of their desire for harmony – but you aren’t paid to keep everyone happy. When your convictions are at stake, lay your cards on the table. People follow leaders who stand firm.

Be relevant.
What’s your CEO’s agenda? What matters to the other stakeholders? And how does your role help them? Whatever your views, people will give you limited attention if you’re working on issues they see as secondary. Sometimes this means repackaging what you do, to make clear how it helps. So, for example, don’t talk about the ‘gross rating points’ of a campaign, but about ‘future sales’. At times, it may be better to force an alignment, even if it means adjusting your plans.

Work with the best people.
The best universities attract the best students. The best companies have the best leaders. There’s a reason for this: the best people will simply deliver more – even if they’re sometimes challenging or hard to manage. It’s worth it. Are you really surrounding yourself with the best team, the best agencies? If not, change course now. You’ll see your own power grow far more quickly.

Marketers are experts at creating market influence by applying the 4Ps. But this alone isn’t enough. It’s just as vital to gain influence internally. Successful marketing leaders therefore master the 4Ps of marketing leadership: purposepullpower and productivity.

Want to gain more influence? It’s your choice.