Marketing: the engine and fuel that drives successful companies

Peter F. Drucker (1909–2005), the world-renowned management visionary and guru, was fond of saying, “Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two—and only two—functions: Marketing and Innovation… Marketing and innovation create value; all the rest are costs.”

The esteemed Dr. Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and known to many as the Father of Marketing and hailed by Management Centre Europe as the world’s foremost expert on the strategic practice of marketing, has defined his life-long discipline as, “Generating the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication and business development… Marketing is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships, and create value for their customers and for themselves.”

So why does marketing so often appear as an afterthought in the world of federal contractors?

  • So many contractors—of all sizes and segments—bake marketing into their business development (BD) or sales functions or into their government relations or communications functions.
  • There appears to be very little or consistent Go-to-Market (GTM) strategy among contractors as well as limited GTM execution, management, or measurement.
  • There is a constant fight for funding of marketing staff and programs as well as infrastructure to support GTM initiatives.
  • Many contractors take a Sales-First (Inside-Out) approach to their Federal Government market—the largest buying consortium in the entire world—and treat their marketing organization simply as a cost of doing business.

Drs. Drucker and Kotler would each vehemently disagree and argue that, not only is marketing clearly a value; but, in targeting The Behemoth that is the U.S. Federal Government, critical success factors must include strong and sustained marketing strategy, planning, and execution. Contractors must take a Customer-First (Outside-In) approach.

How many senior and executive managers at federal contractors can quickly and candidly answer these basic—yet company critical—Go to Market questions:

  • Are your company’s mission, vision, and value proposition(s) internally documented? Communicated? Managed and measured?
  • When your company wins, why does it win?
  • When your company loses, why does it lose?
  • Is your company unknown to the market? Known to the market? Known for something? Known for something good? Preferred for something good?
  • How is your company preparing for the dynamic/changing landscape (e.g., demographical, ecological, economical, legal, political, privacy, social, and technological)?

It’s no secret that the most successful companies in their respective industries—Business-to-Consumer, Business-to-Business, and Business-to-Government—are also leaders in marketing strategy, planning, and execution and in marketing practices, processes, and methodologies.

Successful marketing fuels successful business; and a successful GTM strategy should include the basic blocking and tackling elements of:

  • Current-state business mission and objectives
  • Situational analysis (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats)
  • Target market (industry/segment) knowledge and dynamics
  • Competitive environment
  • Solution offering (products/services) and gaps
  • Positioning, pricing, and branding
  • GTM launch marketing plan
  • GTM launch budget
  • GTM launch goals and metrics
  • GTM launch implementation, execution, management, and measurement.

As Dr. Drucker so often stated, a “Business has only two functions: Marketing and Innovation.”

A few other successful business and thought leaders would trumpet the importance of Marketing.

  • “Begin with the end in mind,” wrote Dr. Stephen R. Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), which speaks to strategy and planning.
  • “Never invest in a business you cannot understand,” said investor, businessman, and philanthropist Warren E. Buffett, which speaks to knowing what you do not know (re: market and competitive knowledge).
  • “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing,” wrote tycoon, investor, and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937), which speaks to image and promotion, two key facets of marketing.

So, where is your company today, this very minute, in terms of marketing strategy, planning, and execution?

Is your company, for the most part, just standing still? Perhaps running in place? Or treading water?

If so, be confident in the fact that doing nothing—or doing little—means you’re going to be losing ground.

Losing in mind share.

Losing in heart share.

Losing in market share.