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April 28, 2016

Batter Up: Why Marketing Should be on First in the Game of Innovation

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

It seems Peter Drucker’s inspired insight has been lost in the sands of time. It should be a no-brainer. Marketing and innovation are two cogs in the same wheel. But looking inside most of today’s organizations, you would never know it.

Historically far-removed from R&D, marketers are looped into the innovation process in the 9th inning, at the tail-end of the innovation game. They’re pinch hitters, expected to knock it out of the park and bring home the win with a product they know nothing about. Sometimes it works. More often than not, however, the game ends with a disappointing loss – in time, money and reputation.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Innovation is a strategy, and the best companies put marketing and sales at the center of it. After all, great products, even when they’re priced right, don’t sell themselves.

When marketing is part of the process from the start of ideation, they’re sharpening the message rather than figuring it out; they’re focused on building an awesome experience for a product they already know customers want, priced at a point they know customers will buy. It all comes back to value.

Dräger Safety does it right – and well. After the medical and safety technology company creates a robust product concept, its next monetization task is to create the all-important messages for marketing and sales campaigns. The first job here is creating selling stories, narratives that articulate the product’s value to each influencer and decision maker in the purchasing process. But before it starts printing marketing and sales collateral – indeed, even before it starts developing the product itself – Dräger Safety gauges customer reactions to its selling stories, which give the company an informed sense of how much they want the product and what they’d shell out for it. All these conversations happen before a single product is put through the manufacturing process.

Not every product makes it to engineering. But as the adage goes, isn’t it better to fail early than late? CMOs, get your team engrained in the innovation process. If marketers and innovators don’t work hand-in-hand, both become costs too. Heed our (and Peter Drucker’s) advice. Don’t sacrifice results – and revenue.

What’s your company’s batting average when it comes to prioritizing marketing alongside innovation?

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