Why marketers should think more like entrepreneurs

A while ago I did this interview for a new venture of mine (Belgian Cowboys) with Johan Van Dyck. Now before you walk away because you have no idea who that is, you should hear me out. Johan used to be the CMO of the brewery Moortgat which is most known for beers such as Duvel, De Koninck, Vedett, Achouffe, … most of which are sold all over the world. So pretty decent job to say the least, one he did so well he became local Marketer of the Year his last year on the job. And yet, one day he decides to leave this all behind to start his own little brewery. In a market that is in decline and in the country with probably already most beers in the whole world – aka Belgium – that is not an easy one.

It’s not like it was a one-day decision, Johan had become fascinated with the history of beers that had dissapeared, some of which had been hugely popular at a certain point in time. One of those beers was Seefbier, during the 1900’s the most popular beer in Antwerp. But partially due to WWI and II it didn’t exist anymore. Even worse, the recipe was lost as well, nobody knew how it was made anymore. So while at Moortgat Johan went to great lengths to try to find that recipe during his free time. Libraries, old relatives of brewers, … you name it, Johan researched all. And with succes, because he found the recipe and got to make a sample.

What started of as bit of a hobby out of control I presume got really serious then. The beer tasted actually pretty good and he started planning for his own brewery. Something he couldn’t combine with his work at Moortgat obviously so he totally went for his own adventure. Today Seefbier exists again for about a year now and it’s pretty darn good.

So back to the interview. While we were actually talking about this adventure, marketing, …  a lot of it seemed to related to a kind of entrepreneurial attitude, but from a marketers point of view. Therefore I decided to write it down that way, why marketers should think more like entrepreneurs:

  1. Manage your marketing from the POV of the CEO. Plan as if it were your own money, is if it were your own business. This way you won’t just mark todo’s off your list but you will have to care about the full picture.
  2. Know your product. I know it sounds obvious to many but still not to all. New on the job or new people in the team? Provide a way to make them learn the product very well before starting. Not with slides, but there where the product is being made.
  3. Put the hours in.  If you want to be succesful as an entrepreneur you will have to have your business on your mind all day long. Work doesn’t stop when you close the office door at 6PM. There’s not such thing as a free lunch.
  4. Value entrepreneurship and not just success. This attitude is very different in the US compared to Europe. In the US people value an entrepreneur, even if eventually things don’t work out, you will still get respect for trying. It shows courage and initative. Don’t just value success.
  5. Take risks. You would expect entrepreneurs and startups to be much more careful when it comes to taking risks – it is their own money, their own loan right? And yet that is not the case most of the times. Marketers who work with other people’s money tend to be a lot more for playing on the safe side. Don’t.
  6. Take decisions, give directions. Don’t just distribute all the work incl. all decisions to other people or agencies, in the end it is your business and you’re appointed to be able to design strategy and direct marketing yourself. People can support you on that but don’t just put all the hard issues with other people.

A last thing Johan told me before we finished our Seefbier is something I want to share with you as well. I wondered if he wasn’t scared about the size of his competitors (AB Inbev, Moortgat, …) to which he replied: “The bigger the plates, the bigger the holes. I need big competitors to be able to function. Bring ’em on.” I like. Good luck Johan!

Geek Marketer

I’m what they call a geek marketer. Steve Rubel wrote a post about this late last year in his Ad Age Digital column saying:

“Enter Geek Marketers. These cross-trained specialists are fluent in both worlds and bridge them. They are marketers by trade, yet they also have a hard-core interest in technology and social anthropology. As curious individuals, they are constantly studying how digital advances are changing our culture and media. Armed with these insights, they regularly apply them in a marketing context by working closely with brand teams to codify new best practices.”

Now I’m not saying that I’m a specialist necessarily, nor that I’m fluent in either of them 2 worlds, but as Steve stated before in the article “For those who are deeply interested in both technology and marketing, this is your time. A new kind of career is emerging: Enter the Geek Marketer.” than I recognize myself in there very much, I’ll get fluent later ;)

I was reminded of this when I participated in an internal meeting at Microsoft in Munich where Steve came to present his Open Files presentation (which he would present at the Next 08 Conference in Hamburg the day after as well – video here). In this presentation Steve talks about trends in digital and divides them in 3 categories: Faint Signals (here and now and with real business models), Watch List (new and emerging trends not ready for primetime) and the Hallucinations (trends that aren’t really even there yet … sort of). It’s during that meeting that Steve called me a Geek Marketer and I decided to change my blog tag line the same day. Thanks for reminding me Steve :)

Here’s the presentation:

Marketing accountability

Marketers have an image problem and it’s their (our) own fault. Marketers need to become more accountable for themselves and for the benefit of the business. This words come out of a presentation from Futurelab, but they’re not the only ones to realize that accountability is exactly one of the key issues marketers have to deal with.

“We can’t compete on price. We also can’t compete on quality, features or service. That leaves fraud, which I’d like you to call marketing”
– Dilbert’s boss

A couple of months ago, Gregor Harter, Eward Landry and Andrew Tipping wrote an interesting article on The New Complete Marketer, like they called it. Apart from ‘putting the consumer at the heart of marketing’ or ‘live the new agency paradigm’ (thinking also about my agency2.0 post) they focus on the ‘make marketing accountable’:

“For many enterprises, the development of accountability follows much the same path, as marketers learn to transform raw data into actionable planning. Stage one is evaluating what is being measured and how it is being measured; stage two is condensing scores of diffuse reports and metrics down to a useful few; and stage three is creating targeted analytics and a core report to gauge performance and help determine where best to focus going forward.”

Back on Futurelab Jon Miller talked about the 5 stages of marketing accountability and asks in which stage you are with your organisation. The stages are:

  1. Denial: “Marketing is an art, not a science. It can’t be measured. The results will come, trust me!”
  2. Anger: “You just don’t understand how marketing works. Why is marketing held to a higher standard than everyone else?”
  3. Confusion: “I know I should measure marketing results, but I just don’t know how.”
  4. Self-Promotion: “Hey, come look at all these charts and graphs!”
  5. Accountability: “Revenue starts in marketing.”

ANA think it’s a trend to watch in 2008 though, they think this is the year marketers will get serious about marketing:

“In ANA’s 2007 marketing accountability study, it was startling to find that, despite enormous efforts, 42% of marketers were dissatisfied with ROI measurements and metrics. In about half of the companies, marketing and finance don’t speak with one voice or share common metrics. Enough! Recognizing the critical importance of accountability, companies will appoint a czar — the chief accountability officer — to lead a disciplined, internally consistent approach to marketing measurements, metrics and productivity.”

So the question is, where are you as a marketer? I believe it is indeed something we marketers need be a lot more serious about, for themselves and the business. What’s your take?