Sep 29, 2012

Developing Next Generation Marketing Leaders

Reinventing Executive Development
for a New Era of Global Marketing Leadership
These are exciting times. Social marketing. Big Data. Globalization in new forms. Gender-based programming. Experiential selling. Real time pricing. Ecommerce of all shapes and sizes. Crowd sourcing. Cloud offerings. Multi-channel distribution.
Marketing is changing. Profoundly. The management implications are changing. The corporate role of marketing leadership is changing. The question is: How prepared are today’s complex global organizations to keep up with, let alone get out ahead of, the high-speed evolution we now see in marketing?
Many senior executives recognize the challenge and are prioritizing inter-regional efforts to raise the strategic marketing competency of their next-generation leaders . This white paper describes the coming need they see for Global Marketing Leadership. And in response it proposes an integrated, cross-border program to structure and enliven the extended development journey these future leaders will have to make if they are to be fully effective in the 21st century’s marketing-saturated world.
Marketing in the 21st Century. New technology possibilities and new customer demands are changing the marketing conditions that make a business model successful or not.  As a consequence, an unprecedented transition is rocking the discipline of marketing. Consider, for instance:
•    Cloud computing is changing the work of hardware resellers from “moving boxes” to selling subscription services. What’s the best way for a technology innovator to move into cloud offerings without bankrupting its channel partners?
•    Online recommendation site reports that over the course of a single day retailers on changed prices on a Samsung 43-inch plasma television four times, between $398 and $424. Around midday, Best Buy boosted the price to $500 from $400 before dropping it back down, while Newegg in the morning raised its price to $600 from $500.  What’s the right approach to price management for companies navigating such a chaotic marketplace?
•    Procter & Gamble is moving the headquarters for its beauty business from Cincinnati to Singapore. What’s the best way for a company to organize and manage far-flung resources for advantage as global markets reallocate and new centers of customer power take hold?
• has launched a new B2B industrial supply venture in an effort to cash in on the fragmented and comparatively competition-light industrial supply market served by thousands of small-to-midsize distribution businesses across the U.S. and hit the ground running with over 500,000 products. What are the channel implications for traditional B2B product makers and their traditional distributors?
•    Haute couture “runway” events in Paris and Milan are now being live-streamed from apparel-makers’ web sites to remote invitees. What are the pros and cons of new digital marketing avenues for global luxury brands?
A hundred cases like these could be cited on all sorts of dimensions to illustrate that companies are under immense pressure to make big shifts in global marketing strategy and execution. Some are doing it by choice. Others, by urgent necessity.
Either way, a more fundamental trend is clear: Marketing leadership is in ascendency. From a tactical functional role it is taking the  lead on the corporate growth agenda. The growing diversity, complexity and importance of global marketing challenges mean that functional responses have to be led, and with at least as much single-mindedness as product design, development, and manufacturing have always commanded.
Overcoming Shortfalls in Marketing Leadership. While strategically placed new executive hires can certainly make a difference, no company of any global stature can rely on pinpoint talent acquisition as the sole means  to spur tangible shifts in its global marketing leadership. Sustained improvement in corporate competence must at its core be organic, it must be developed and embedded. This means that at key levels in the organization, next-generation leaders, whether they come from sales, marketing, finance or operations, will have to take on the 21st century mindset of a strategic global marketer. Today few managers in most corporations would make that claim for themselves. Even in the marketing department itself, a field sales management background is common
Conventional senior executive development paths can be helpful here but they really speak most effectively to more generalized corporate management challenges such as innovation, culture, and Leadership with a capital L. These programs tend to be oriented toward  soft skills.  Developing next generation strategic and executional competency in  Global Marketing Leadership requires something else, a development path that integrates together the following elements:
•    Best-in-class thought leadership from a mix of academics and admired practitioners that is contemporary and incorporates the latest and biggest marketing issues facing global marketers today and in the future. A company’s next-generation leaders have likely already gotten a business 101 MBA, so studying yesterday’s cases and frameworks is no longer adequate in moving the strategic agility needle.
•    Customization to a company’s own business in ways that adapt outside expertise to the specifics and nuances of both the complex global organization and the mind-boggling variety of market environments the company plays in. When it comes to learning, relevance trumps generalization in today’s high-stakes global environment.
•    Fast-cycle concept application that makes hands-on apprenticeship and in-market activity inseparable from the next generation leader’s real business issues and global growth, profitability, differentiation and market share accountabilities.
•    Effective cross-border engagement for future leaders consumed today with the challenges of winning in vastly different regional markets and operating dimensions. Forming cross-market, cross-geography, cross-functional learning models is only step one. The greater challenge is to keep the leadership development process moving forward in a high-touch, sustained, and high-intensity way.
A New Executive Development Approach:
Global Marketing Leadership
Winning companies will demand a new form of integrated leadership development solution that enables next-generation executives to assimilate dramatic new forms of marketing leadership competency while they tackle the global business challenges of most significance to their company’s  success longer term. The best academic and practitioner experts, an optimal global learning structure, the newest engagement technologies and the most relevant learning tools.
All of the pieces must be integrated into a single tightly-managed development journey for any company’s cohort of next-generation leaders.  Shouldn’t the development of forward-looking global marketing skills in your next-generation leaders leverage new-style executive apprenticeship? The process must move smoothly toward its agreed-upon developmental and business objectives. Executive learning simply cannot stop at the offsite classroom.
1.   In-person global learning events that are optimally structured and judiciously spaced in critical markets around the world. The goal is to unleash, amplify and expand the engagement and learning potential of these in-person learning events by integrating them into a cohesive overall competency journey.
2.   Academic and practitioner curriculum design that is tightly tied to issues of top priority in the company’s fast-evolving marketplace. Sessions delivered by leading academics from across schools, pace-setting frontline business leaders in relevant fields, and far-flung experts in the global organization itself – cannot be backward-looking amalgams of conventional practices. They have to be joint explorations of what initiatives and programs have the best chance of working in the rapidly unfolding future of 21st century marketing.
3.   Leadership curriculum highly customized for the company’s own global business in terms of its learning objectives, its structure, and its materials. That means working side-by-side with a company’s line business leaders to surface global marketing challenges, develop customized learning cases, and working with instructional academics and practitioners to create tailored teaching materials.
4.   New executive learning technologies that enable higher-touch interactions between in-person events, and deliver faster progress in demonstrating real application of marketing leadership competency and improved results.  A technology platform that leverages exciting new developments in live, interactive executive engagement from any location. The dynamic media environment must be professionally produced and tuned to the quality standards, entertainment styles and pace of today's contemporary information revolution.
5.    New mechanisms of accountability that highlight  how well future leaders are developing new global marketing leadership techniques and putting them to work in their own very real and immediate business situations.
These are elements that must be orchestrated for complex global organizations. There is also one more element, which the corporation must commit to itself to ensure a successful global marketing leadership:
6.    A corporate learning environment that makes it more than just “ok” for managers to work their marketing leadership development assignments day after day, week in and week out for up to two years. This environment must be kept vibrant and sustaining, by signaling that what each next generation leader does on his or her development path is far more than an offsite exercise. It has real consequences to the company’s future. C-suite leaders must actively mentor and ensure accountability of how well things are progressing.
21st-Century Engagement
Pressure is intensifying on complex global organizations to find ways for highly dispersed managers to interact and build close working relationships as they once might have done in a corporate hallway. Distanced as they are, they still need to build trust and collaborate easily with people they rarely see face-to-face. And they want to cultivate more intimate working relationships with top company executives who can move help them navigate their increasing accountabilities and ultimately move them into more challenging positions.
But 21st-century marketing skills are best built with 21st-century tools and technologies that move beyond the old constraints of co-location and video conferencing. New technologies for close engagement and engaging information sharing are becoming the next generation’s preferred style of interaction. Why? Because frequent new technology-enabled touches maintain more personalized channels, more coordination of activity, keep people more current and connected, and use time more efficiently.
Like the 21st-century teen, the 21st-century marketer wants his or her peers and teams to get things done now and in the moment. . . so everyone can move on to the next important thing. Waiting for in-person interactions feels quaint, if not plodding, to tomorrow’s marketing leaders.

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Strategic marketing leadership to the degree we believe complex global organizations will need takes new sorts of knowledge, at minimum. More than that, however, it really has to become internalized. And that takes persistence, practice, and peer interactions. 

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