Marketing with Purpose
Updated: May 28, 2019
Ric Navarro is the Global Director of Marketing and Communications for engineering services firm Norman Disney & Young, a Tetra Tech Company. As an engineering journalist, I had many dealings with Ric over the years and was pleased to see him come sixth in IDG's Top 50 Chief Marketing Officer list for 2019.
He was the only engineering marketing manager in the list, among the few technology focused B2B organisations. Ric also made the global list of Top 40 Most Influential Marketing Leader awarded by the World Marketing Congress in 2017.
In reaching out to Ric, I discovered that not only is he an accomplished marketer, he is something of a thought leader, having just published his first book, Marketing with Purpose: A C-Suite guide to being truly customer-centric.
In his book, Ric highlights something that I think is missing from much the discussion around the marketing complex products and services – purpose.
It doesn’t matter how innovative your technology is, if you don’t understand the deeper purpose underlying your communication then you will leave your customers underwhelmed and your staff disengaged.
At the heart of Ric’s approach is the non-negotiable focus on customer obsession and the underlying value proposition. With consumer technology, marketers aim to delight the customer, but this is not a pervasive attitude in the business-to-business (B2B) field.
Some business leaders believe that as long as an application addresses the bottom line, that is enough. That might be true in areas of low competition, but emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) is dramatically increasing the number of players in every niche and vertical. It’s no longer enough to solve a problem; it must be done in a way that delights the customer or user at every touch point.
Ric Navarro has a few key messages that aim to improve the marketing focus for everyone in the B2B space, and it's particularly relevant for complex technologies.
Firstly, it's critical to communicate the value proposition in a single, instantly credible sentence. Can you do this for the product you promote or your project proposal? And do so in a way that is all about the customer?
Can you communicate your value proposition in a single, instantly credible sentence?
The value proposition needs to explain the relevancy, how it will solve a problem, the concrete benefits, and how it is different from the alternatives. Critically, you should communicate this authentically, so your audience does not dismiss it as marketing spin. That’s where brand purpose comes in.
Ric says that “as brands compete in an increasingly crowded market, brand purpose can be the defining factor to influence customer choice”. His key message is that meaning matters. Brand purpose makes you “examine whether the world actually needs your brand, and why”.
A focus on purpose reminds me of Simon Sinek’s famous dictum of “start with why”. Too many developers of technology start with “what”(the problem is) and “how” (they are going to solve it) and never get to why any of it matters in the larger scheme of things. As Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
For me, the most thought-provoking element of Ric’s book was the link he makes between brand purpose and what he calls “internal marketing”.
“Brands cannot to expect to understand and delight their customers if their own people are not part of the customer experience journey,” he says.
This issue is particularly challenging for an organisation with a large number of technologists who, by nature, tend to focus exclusively on their part of the business. Such focus has its benefits but can create debilitating silos that create a massive frictional drag for the organisation.
“Your employees, more than anyone, must have a clear understanding of what makes your brand purposeful. They will be your strongest advocates if they do, and your weakest link if they do not.”
So modern marketing needs to encompass both an external and internal orientation. The more complex a product is and the more complicated the B2B market it is targeting, the more an internal orientation is required. In such an environment, there are multiple touch points between an organisation, its products and services, and the ecosystem it operates in.
Employees are critical in driving the customer experience at all these touch points, reflecting the deep understanding of why your message is important to customers while simultaneously generating that same deep understanding of the customer’s needs.
What underpins Ric’s refreshing take on marketing is the recognition of emotion as a strong influencer in B2B procurement. He says, “even though B2B purchases are commonly assumed to stem from rational decisions, in our experience they hardly ever do”.
If you are involved with complex technology in any capacity, from product development to business development, I highly recommend taking a closer look at Marketing with Purpose and begin to understand your “why”.
I have no vested interest in promoting Ric’s book, but if you want a copy, visit his website at www.marketingwithpurpose.solutions .