Jane Lansing on the changing role of marketing and sales executives

Sept. 14, 2006
Jane Lansing, vice president of marketing at Emerson Process Management, first talked about why she accepted my invitation to speak to a room full of competitors. It is the same reason that doctors and lawyers get together and benchmark their industries. I'm glad she decided to do it, because she has a fresh viewpoint. The title of her talk is "Engineers Are People Too." She showed pictures of engineers and technicians and noted that while they do science and engineering on the job, they are ...
Jane Lansing, vice president of marketing at Emerson Process Management, first talked about why she accepted my invitation to speak to a room full of competitors. It is the same reason that doctors and lawyers get together and benchmark their industries. I'm glad she decided to do it, because she has a fresh viewpoint. The title of her talk is "Engineers Are People Too." She showed pictures of engineers and technicians and noted that while they do science and engineering on the job, they are also people with hobbies, likes, dislikes, families, and lives. She showed a picture of a multipath ultrasonic flowmeter. "We tend to come into our customers 'meter first' instead of talking to them as people." "Since 1983," she noted, "the top 25 oil and gas companies basically eliminated a million people from their payrolls." "800-person engineering staffs are reduced to, say, 10," she went on. "They've been downsized, rightsized, to the point that people who remain need to take on generalist roles and have a much broader sense of responsibility to their plant." "Inside my organization, inside yours, we have divisions of experts: people who live and breathe flow, level, software...we are a room full of people who represent the expertise...this is where the expertise has moved, from end users to suppliers," she noted, "but there is a little blessing and a curse in that. Ideally, we are the experts so our customers don't have to be," she said, "so why doesn't this create marvelous partnerships?" Because, she said, this isn't the way we market. "It looks, pretty much," she sighed, "that we are marketing to ourselves." Jane picked on advertising to make a point. "You start with an image of strength (she showed Mt. Everest) and put logos in the picture, then put your hero product (hopefully with its own logo) on the top of Mt. Everest, and then you fill up the picture with features and specs. If you are a real marketer, you put a graph in the picture." This was her view of marketing, shortly after she became vice president, nine years ago. It was at that point, she says, that she had her epiphany. Emerson serves a lot of different markets. Emerson started in the motors business, and one of their divisions sells to the pool and spa market. Their product catalog replicated her advertising example, with the hero product, the logo, and the specs. And then, Jane said, she saw their competitive brochure and she gasped. "They looked so smart, so sophisticated, so savvy...so like they understood what they were doing. Everything was still technical, but these guys were trying to relate to their audience-- as people." Looking at the two brochures, she asked herself which would you rather buy from? Do you want to buy a motor, or do you want to buy safety and clean water for your family in the pool? "I am an engineer," she said, "I'm as geeky as the next guy. When I buy something I spreadsheet it to death. But I want my vendor to meet me half way." We are too busy looking in the mirror-- marketing to ourselves in so many ways. But the decision makers wouldn't recognize an ultrasonic flowmeter if they tripped over it in the parking lot. Yet it can do a tremendous amount for their business. "When we shape our message around ourselves, we are doing a disservice to our customers!" Jane referred to the Marketing Leadership Council for best practices, tools, and networkng for the world's leading marketing executives. She recommended people check out this organization and join. She talked about a Whirlpool case study she saw there. Whirlpool was struggling with the problem that their product focused marketing could not differentiate the product from their competition. They were able to differentiate themselves by producing the Duet laundry: a combination washer/dryer. She illustrated by showing a conversation between the product manager (very spec focused) and the brand marketer, who was holding his head in his hands, trying to figure out how to make it meaningful to his customer. What the brand manager came up with was "16 pairs of jeans." That's how those specs translate into a message that reaches the heart of the people who will buy the product. The challenge is coming up with the critical insight that allows you to position your product in such a way that you can translate the product specs into the message that makes people buy. The challenge is to figure out what our "16 pairs of jeans" is, and then Execute, execute, execute. We don't seem to have the discipline necessary in the automation industry, to engage in the relentless execution necessary to make this kind of marketing work. But your pushback is going to be: you showed us consumer examples and there are differences between technology products and consumer products, and the purchase cycles are significantly different. Consumer products generally have simpler purchase cycles. But there are two really important similarities. 1. "The most important thing to learn from consumer branding is the unrelenting focus on the customer's perspective" -- Chuck Pettis TechnoBrands "You do this by knowing who your customer segments are and speaking to them in terms that are important to them." -- Jerry Gibbons You don't do this by taking the picture of Mt. Everest and substituting "industry wall paper" like a refinery shot. We have to go beyond the wallpaper, to the critical insight of connecting our technology to the business and emotional needs of the customer. 2. Pettis, again, "The technology industry has a lot to learn from consumer branding in gaining the discipline to work on annual and longer-term plans and make sure the measured objectives are met." Coming from a product marketing background, she said, "I have been guilty of random acts of marketing. We all have been." "We owe it to ourselves to turn marketing into a rigorous science, like operations, or logistics. There are key metrics that our CEOs are tracking, but where are the marketing metrics other than sales?" Where does this fit in the marketing work flow? If you define this "sweet spot" ahead of time, you don't commit those random acts of marketing. When you know what your center point is, the rest of your marketing plan is easier. When you know where you are going, you have a way to benchmark and yardstick all of the ideas and strategies. You can define not only what you are going to do, but what you are NOT going to do. Creating High Impact Marketing --cultivate industry sounding boards --trust your agency --ask your product manager, "So?" at least three times --create a spirit of collaboration --be prepared to put in the time --show it to your mother --execute with discipline This delivers not only high impact marketing but also high value marketing. If you guys raise the bar, I will call you and raise it again, because it is good for our customers.