Marketing Through Change with Eric Berggren

Industry: Business School

Role: Teach B2B Marketing to Aspiring MBAs

What is the craziest or most inspirational thing you've witnessed in your marketing career?

Jim Stengel, the former CMO at P&G, talked about his first action when he got the CMO job. Rather than immediately applying what he thought worked best, he took a step back and had his team develop a “Marketing Manifesto” to establish marketing’s reason for being at P&G. My first reaction was that it sounded like a waste of time. P&G helped invent and further refine mass consumer marketing. At the time, if you wanted to do marketing, that’s where you wanted to work. If P&G didn’t know what marketing’s role was, who did? Jim thought that marketing had lost their way at P&G. They spent all their time on the execution of marketing which squeezed out the strategic thinking that was needed. The manifesto clearly laid out:
  1. P&G’s need to change,

  2. Marketing’s aspirations & key beliefs,

  3. The implications for the organization, and

  4. A call to action.

P&G went on to a period of sustained above average growth. It created an opportunity for everyone in marketing to help shape and buy into the next generation of how one of the most admired group of marketers was going to do marketing.

What is the best thing you have learned about marketing during this crazy time of pandemic?

The importance of organizations being able to pivot quickly, but to do it in a way that is still part of the company’s DNA. For example, don’t send the message to sales people that they have to change everything because they can’t meet with a customer face-to-face. Instead, have them examine what made their past customer relations so strong and look at how to use technology to do that even better. A colleague shared that his firm that sold to the C-suite was hosting virtual dinners where the customer and sales person would get a gourmet meal and a $100 bottle of wine delivered to their respective homes at the same time, and they would share it over Zoom. For a fraction of the cost of flying to the customer and taking them out to dinner, they had a unique experience which led to setting up key meetings with other stakeholders in the company. They’ve already landed a $300,000 sale. Similarly, marketing and sales should consider the biggest obstacles in the past and see if the pandemic has created new opportunities to overcome them. For example, with no travel it’s easier to get on the calendars of more senior level prospects. Sales can also make more calls and bring in subject matter experts to more prospects with virtual meetings. Finding ways to pivot that build on your team’s strengths and knock down previous obstacles will be more effective than platitudes about being agile or implying that everything that worked before doesn’t apply anymore.

What is the biggest marketing mistake you've made, and how did you adapt going forward?

I’ve been teaching that, particularly in B2B, a company’s actions (e.g., their “body language”) is more important than their words. A company can claim to have a certain value, but it won’t have an impact unless the customer actually experiences the value. I have underestimated the importance of culture to the firm’s body language. When you think about it, all businesses are service businesses. A hospital doesn’t want a bacteria detection instrument. The hospital wants to know the bacteria present in the blood of a patient. The instrument is just providing the “service” of detecting it for them. Yes, it is not a personal service, but an automated service is still a service. If you want to provide better service, grow a culture of leaders who know their power comes from their ability to grow and develop their employees and customers. This means leading to help others achieve what they can’t on their own. This line of thinking has drawn me to servant leadership as the best way to develop a winning culture. While not marketing-specific, servant leadership can improve marketing and sales performance. All the best technical marketing practices will under-perform unless the organization’s culture allows it to consistently deliver on the value promise.

When you look in your crystal ball, what advice can you offer marketing leaders over the next five years?

Don’t think of yourself as a marketing leader. Think like a line of business general manager who starts with what’s valuable to the customer and manages the business to create, communicate and capture that value. You’ll need to be data-driven, technology-driven, people-driven, empathic, etc., all at the same time. Think of marketing as integrating functional areas of the business around delivering the winning customer value. Some of those functions you’ll “own.” Other functions you’ll have to influence. Make it your job that it gets done holistically.

Any parting thoughts/words of wisdom?

Constantly look to learn from within and outside the discipline of marketing.

Favorite Marketing Book?

My two favorite books to help marketers are not really marketing books per se. One is How to Measure Anything, by Douglas Hubbard. The ability to measure hard to quantify things will improve marketing decisions and performance. The other is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini that lays out the principles of persuasion. The best marketers are good at convincing customers and their own organization to take action that might not otherwise.