7 Things Great Marketers Do

John SculleyJanuary 4, 20133 min

I often think about why there are so many really smart people in business, yet there seem to be so few really great marketers.

Here are seven actions I have seen define great marketers:

1. Seek Deep Customer Insight

I’m always searching for an insightful data-driven customer fact. At Pepsi, it was that consumers would consume as much beverage as we could get into the household inventory. This fact led to our development and marketing focus on the first 2-liter plastic beverage container. At Apple, the early days in the PC industry were mostly about empowering people with spreadsheets. Steve Jobs recognized the opportunity to empower people with a personal publishing system that was inexpensive and easy to use. This led to the creation of desktop publishing. Today, I’m very focused on an impressive fact that my business associates and I discovered in a survey we ran last summer: 24% of the US population has visited a walk-in urgent care clinic at least twice in the past 12 months. That’s a big insight about the opportunities for disruptive retail health services.

2. Seek A Wide Range Of Expertise

The most disruptive breakout opportunity requires expertise in more than one domain. My focus currently is in the three converging domains of the complexity of health care reform + mobile and cloud technology enabling services + Big Brand consumer marketing. Most very successful big companies are focused on the domains that made them successful in the past and are under-skilled in the new domains needed for disruptive innovation. Steve Jobs had domain expertise in user experience computer design.

He recruited me despite the fact that I had no previous computer background because I had domain expertise in something Steve wanted badly, Big Brand consumer marketing. The advantage of having a leadership team with multiple domains of expertise is that it really helps us as marketers to connect the dots and develop differentiated strategies from our competitors.

3. Make An Iron-Clad Commitment To The Customer

It’s always about the best possible customer experience. Great marketers are uncompromising about not saving money at the expense of their customers’ experience. Big brands are always built around strategies that focus on customer trust and loyalty. Some of the biggest mistakes are made when companies, for various reasons, chip away at their products, hoping their customers won’t notice. Customers always find out, eventually, and they don’t like it when they do.

4. Understand Key Customer Economics

Many marketers fail to appreciate the economics of losing a customer. Several surveys have documented that it typically costs 5x or more to replace the sales of a lost customer. It costs as much as 15x more to replace the lost profits of a lost customer. I have always paid a lot of attention to the economics of customer acquisition, customer churn, and customer loyalty.

5. Seek Multiple Perspectives

Informed intuition is key. I learned from working with Steve Jobs the value of what Steve referred to as “zoom-out & zoom-in.” In the space of a single meeting, it was typical of Steve to zoom-out and talk passionately about some big world-changing idea and then immediately zoom-in on a very specific detail that he refused to compromise on. At Apple, there was huge respect for multiple points of view. You have to see something more than one way to really understand it.

6. Take Calculated Risks

Great marketers have to be willing to take risks. Marketing is a left-brain AND right-brain game. Even the most creative intuition should be backed up with careful drill-deep knowledge of everything that can be controlled. The things listed above plus product facts on customer satisfaction, sustainable product economics, and supply chain’s ability to scale are examples.

7. Value Creative Talent 

The best clients always get the best creative work. It’s pretty simple: The best creative people want to see their best work end up in great marketing campaigns. Clients who are tone deaf to what it takes to create a great marketing campaign are no fun to work for and often dismiss would-be game changing creative.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: John Sculley, Former CEO at Pepsi-Cola Co, Former CEO of Apple, marketing innovator and thought leader.

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