What type of marketing people do businesses need?

I want to make a claim. I think that many marketing people are simply project managers and administrators rather than business entrepreneurs.

Part of the reason for this lies in two tendencies.

1. Being given communications tasks of any sort from adverts to branding. The aim is to sell what the firm has not generate new value propositions and business models. This is actually a passive rather than proactive role.

2. Being trained in marketing analysis and decision making on conventional business school courses. Where collection of facts and describing ‘what’ matters rather than speculating on ‘so what’ and ‘now what’.

Here are two definitions:


Workers are those who provide support to a company. This support might include general office management, answering phones, speaking with clients, assisting an employer, clerical work (including maintaining records and entering data), or a variety of other tasks


The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator, a source of new ideas, goods, services and business/or procedures. Entrepreneurs play a key role in any economy. These are the people who have the skills and initiative necessary to anticipate current and future needs and bring good new ideas to market

Read more: Entrepreneur https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/entrepreneur.asp#ixzz5UvIrzyl9 
Follow us: Investopedia on Facebook

So What?

What this means is that marketing people are deemed by the C-suite to be useful but lacking in commercial teeth and risk taking behaviour.

If you are a marketing professional you need to understand and be able to create and capture value. You need to generate commercially credible value propositions not indulge in emotional purpose and identity crafting as a goal in itself AND design competitive business models that blend value, relationships, channels and revenue making.

Learn how to create value propositions here

Be A Marketing Entrepreneur

Improve your marketing here

Free Chance to win $1600 worth of top selling marketing books


What’s your favourite theory of motivation? This is mine.

Forget Maslow and Vroom, Pavlov and Skinner this the social psychological view of motivation that unpicks intention and power. Have you worked anywhere where this isn’t the case?

How well do you know your customers?

12 (1)

Customer knowledge and insight is the fuel that drives business success. You can learn from the experts by entering this amazing free prize draw before November 15th 2018 for a chance to win $1600 worth of marketing books an online b2b marketing course and 2 free consultancy sessions.

Get To Know Your Customers


Will You Be A Winner Of These Amazing Get To Know Your Customer Day Prizes?

Did you know that October 18th was Get To Know Your Customer Day? Running with the hashtag #GetToKnowYourCustomer we’re giving away a package of business development goodies worth $1600 to the lucky winner of our competition which goes live on 18th October 2018 and runs to November 15th that includes:

  • 11 books ($395 value)
  • 1 online course ($797 value) Designed and delivered by winners of the Sheffield Business School Inspirational Teacher Award Dr Simon Kelly and Dr Paul Johnston together with CEO of Shake Marketing and co-author of Value-ology Stacey Danheiser.
  • 2 one-hour consultations ($400 value)

Check out this link for more Get To Know Your Customer


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Knowing your customer relies on the art and science of making the perfect fit between what your customers are looking for and the product and service solutions you are offering. Now I find it hard to imagine that anyone in business these days isn’t customer centric. Ever since Philip Kotler published his article The Generic Concept of Marketing  back in the 70s the idea that understanding customer needs is crucial to business success is virtually common sense.

That said not everyone is good at and not everyone cares. I’m always amazed at Gordon Ramsey’s TV programme Kitchen Nightmares where he rescues businesses from failure and 9 times out of the 10 they lack any understanding of what their customers need and how they feel about the service and food.

A few years back I worked for gambling company and the typical phrase in the buidling was about the ‘little old ladies who play our coin-op games’. The whole place ran on a myth. When proper customer research was done it was discovered that the key customer a young man, typically in a trade, single and who spent a lot of time socialising in pubs and bars. So, one of the big problems I have come across is the assumption that product designers sales and marketing know who the customer is but often a quick conversation in the company and what comes out is no one really knows. There are lots of anecdotes about typical customers and often who the customer really is (the biggest purchaser, what they really need) isn’t know.

For me there are three essential things when it comes to knowing your customer:

  1. the ability to anticipate what people in general will need in their lives in the medium to long term. What sort of fuels will they use? How will they learn? What will the new space science industries need?
  2. the ability to conduct large surveys that quantify trends
  3. the ability to conduct face to face interviews on an ongoing basis

Ultimately it’s about showing an interest and caring about what people want and willing to pay for. If you can make their lives easier or improve their business then you are on to winner.













Who should drive the sales and marketing team training agenda. The HR manager or the Sales and Marketing manager?


Image credit Medium

When it comes to developing the skills and practice of the sales and marketing team who should be driving the training agenda is it the sales and marketing manager or the HR manager?

In larger organisations the planning for staff training lies under the broad remit of HR who, following training needs analyses create people development programmes and decide whether these are ‘make or buy’ decisions.

Any sales and marketing executive who abdicates the training job entirely to HR is missing a trick. Local and specific needs are always spotted first by the people in the function. They can also see what training is relevant. If they don’t step up then team training and education is likely to be quite ‘vanilla’ such as general leadership, problem solving, or communications programmes. The problem with this is that sales and marketing professionals often think ‘so what’ about this type of training and the reputation of their HR colleagues goes through the floor.

The other challenge is the time commitment. Sales and Marketing people, especially Sales people are actively engaged with daily customer demands so time for development creates a conflict of priorities. At the heart of this problem lies the issue of formal vs informal learning.

Social learning platforms are the ideal solution to this dilemma. With an on-line course busy professionals can dip in and dip out to suit their availability and learn functionally relevant skills at their own pace.

What should Sales and Marketing teams be learning?

One of the biggest challenges faced by any sales and marketing professional is how to generate more sales and profit and deliver customer value. Fundamental to this is learning how to create compelling customer value propositions. This is crucial in the face to face context of B2B marketing.

You simply won’t get specialised training on the vital subject of value proposition design with general sales and marketing development courses and it is unlikely that the topic is on the radar of the HR manager (please prove me wrong!) This is why we have created a complete on-line informal learning course on the value proposition creation and customer value building. Something you can invest in yourself, bring to the attention of the HR manager or simply buy with the sales and marketing budget.

Based on our top selling b2b marketing book Value-ology: Aligning sales and marketing to shape and deliver profitable customer value propositions the course is made up of video topic presentations and individual and team exercises based on a mix of our commercial experience, our university tutoring and our commercial and academic research. The module content is designed to be practical, straightforward and accessible so the emphasis is on management learning not abstract academic studying. You can even do the course on mobile devices. A full explanation of the course can be seen via this link.

Click this image to learn more course details.

on-line marketing course

If you are looking for ways to inspire, engage and develop your b2b sales and marketing team then this course is definitely for you.

To craft a value proposition that works for your business, download our free ebook: how to rock your customer’s world

After reading this you’ll ask yourself why do I need to study marketing at university?

Let’s be honest, you might be interested in learning new things and at the same time you don’t want to devote time and energy into formal study and assessment. That’s why on-line learning is perfect for busy marketing and sales professionals. University and college are great places for formal learning on-line business courses are ideally suited for informal learning.

If you want to discover how to drive more sales, increase profit, align sales and marketing and create customer value our new on-line b2b marketing course will be perfect for you. It’s ‘dip in -dip out’ format means you get the nuggets of wisdom you need from short video presentations when you need them and you can follow this up with individual and team exercises that will help your business beat the competition.

Check out the course now by clicking the logo.

on-line marketing course








Did you know Customer-centric organizations are 60% more profitable than non customer-focused companies. And while that stat is compelling, we’ve found that organizations struggle to become “customer-centric”.

That’s why we are on a mission to help equip today’s b2b marketers with the tools they need to be successful in this demanding and complex environment. This online program is based on our own research, corporate experience, and working with clients over the past 15 years. It is designed to address the biggest problem facing today’s organizations:

58% of deals end in no-decision because value wasn’t articulated to the buyer

#marketingcourses #learnmarketing #onlinemarketingcourse

Cutting Edge Marketing Management Thinking in Marseille

Off to Marseille to the IMP Conference this is the leading source of thought leadership in business to business marketing.

Dr Simon Kelly and I are presenting two papers on the sales and marketing interface and the role of practice based research for doctoral research.

Delighted too as we are getting great reviews for our book:




Flying out of Manchester via Frankfurt so a bit of a round trip. Will be posting key take outs over the next three days of conference insights and inspirations

#customervalue #b2bmarketing #businessstrategy #marketingstrategy #valuepropositions #imp2018

B2B Differentiation-three things you need to know

Sea of Sameness shutterstock_212221846

So you reckon you stand out in your market sector? You are the biggest, the best, the most customer centric. The competition follow your lead, they languish in your wake, they simply aren’t as good as you.

Ever heard of differentiation? Well Hey!…here I am*…and it’s probably not what you are expecting. The fact is a huge number of B2B brands literally swim in a sea of sameness. This insight is dramatically brought home in our white paper on brand differentiation in the Global Telecoms Sector which you can download here.

Swimming in a Sea of Sameness

Even if you don’t operate in Telecoms the lessons from our research are worth looking at. It’s clear that from the buyers perspective many B2B brands simply look the same.

The classic approach to B2B differentiation

Look across any business and three things are commonly used to differentiate. Price, Product, People. These are the three P’s of B2B difference. The only problem with this approach is that it generates a massive ‘so what?’ Buyers expect your prices to be competitive, your product to provide a good solution and your people to be experienced, innovative and attentive. There is absolutely nothing that makes a difference here at all.

So What’s Going On?

Alot of B2B marketing fails to take account of the psychology of differentiation. Unless you understand these things then standing out in the mind of the buyer isn’t going to happen. To differentiate your b2b brand from your competitors you need to think about three things. These b2b brand differentiation essentials will have a massive impact on your sales and marketing effectiveness.

1. Noticing Difference

Differentiation is about ‘being separate’. It is also about how we notice something for being different in the mass of information that we receive on a daily basis. The scientist Gregory Bateson in his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind pointed out that we are mentally geared up to pay attention to ‘differences that make a difference’. This he describes as receiving a ‘meaningful signal’ from the samey information that surrounds us. Now this is central to marketing guru Ted Levitt’s idea of differentiation and something that has been lost in the wash in the decades since he published his seminal article ‘Marketing Success Through The Differentiation of Anything’. The key word in Levitt’s article is ‘meaningful’ and its been totally forgotten. Levitt urged the pursuit of ‘meaningful differentiation’ not just differentiation for differentiation’s sake. So ask yourself  do you really know ‘what  the buyer finds meaningful’.

2. Brain Short Cuts

Humans need quick and easy rules about how to operate in the world without having to re-learn responses to every situation we are faced with. Imagine having to start from scratch and learn the right the thing to do when you wanted to cross the road. Life would become unmanageable. Cognitive psychologists call the rules we use ‘heuristics’. These are brain short cuts that allow us deal with everyday situations. Psychologists Tversky and Kahneman classified several of these ‘rules of thumb’ as they are called. One type in particular is important for CEO’s, CMO’s and sales and marketing professionals and it involves self deception. In other words the way we fool ourselves into believing something that isn’t true. Technically called a ‘judgment heuristic’ and related to the ‘fundamental attribution error’ it is common for many marketers to assume that they are unique and different compared to their competitors. Just take a look at the ‘About Us/Why Us’ pages of your three nearest competitors and judge for yourself how different you really are!

3. Being Relevant

Relevance is yet another marketing buzzword. So buzzy that its lost its meaning. In social psychology and communications theory it is crucially important. Relevance is what B2B buyers  use to ‘select’ one supplier from another. It is a faculty of buyers mind that is impossible for the supplier to control. Relevance is all about what the buyer sees as their ‘matter at hand’, the most pressing, top of mind issue or problem they or their organisation is facing. Unless you understand this and show to the buyer you understand this then all you are is another grey fish swimming in the sea of sameness.

What do you think?

Do you think B2B marketers need to worry about differentiation? Does the cream always rise to the top anyway and discerning buyers who know their supply network will always pick the best?


*paraphrased from Falling Down when Michael Douglas’ character Defens buys a Wammy Burger – ‘ever heard the phrase the customer is always right, well hey, here I am…the customer’



Do UK universities provide value for money?

Addressing a fundamental question about customer value

Are universities value for money? is the question that Sir Keith Burnett the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield has recently discussed in his Times Higher article Do UK universities provide value for money?

The question is driven by impact of increases in student fees, the debates about vice chancellor pay and the method of funding of higher education in general.  The explicit defense of university value in the face of challenge and criticism is evidently new territory for many senior university management teams. The high risk move in this area is delegating the responsibility for creating the university value proposition(s) to university marketing communication departments in isolation .

Why is this risky? It is risky because when ‘marketing’ is seen as just the awareness making and customer communication role (attention interest decision action) alone rather than anything to do with the origination and delivery of student value (the domain of researchers, tutors and student support staff) a critical disconnect occurs between the essence and expression of value. If the expression of a university value proposition is left to the university marketing communication department alone it is prone to ‘facelift marketing’ couched in generic consumer values and generic consumer experiential terms rather than anything to do with educational value creation and educational delivery essence of the higher education offer. This can end up being the world of superficially differentiated promises that can be disconnected from the service reality of learning in a higher education institution. The sort of thing whereby ‘our university is near the seaside or a national park, or our university has great accommodation and a vibrant night life’.

Value is a hard thing to pin down

Trying to understand, deliver and communicate value is not new territory for anybody who has worked in the commercial sector. Nor is it  new territory for a significant number of business and management academics who could knowledgeably advise their university management teams on the ambiguous nature of value.

 ‘Value may be one of the most overused and misused terms in marketing and pricing’  Leszinski and Marn (1997:99)

Just as an example of the extent of research into this deceptively simple and perennially contentious notion here are some relevant articles:

Leszinski, R. and Marn, M.V. (1997) Setting value, not price. The McKinsey Quarterly, No. 1, pp. 99-115.

Woodruff R.B. (1997) Customer value: The next source for competitive advantage: Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 139-153

Payne A., Holt S. (2001) Diagnosing Customer Value: Integrating the Value Process and Relationship Marketing.  British Journal of Management. Vol 12 159-182.

Khalifa A.S. (2004) Customer value: a review of recent literature and an integrative configuration. Management Decision Vol. 42 No. 5, 2004 pp. 645-666

Gallarza M.G. Gil-Saura I. Holbrook, M.B. (2014) The value of value: Further excursions on the meaning and role of customer value. Journal of Consumer 10: 179–191

Understanding value is vital for all that follows. If you want to achieve competitive advantage you need to understand value, if you want happy customers you need to understand value, if you want a successful business you need to understand value. Value is a multifaceted moving target. Sir Keith points out that value is more than just the price or as Michael Porter claimed ‘the price someone is willing to pay’. I totally concur with Sir Keith and I believe that there is one very important thing about understanding value that gets lost in the wash and there is a good explanation for this which is…

Marketing courses are typically built on a particular and implicit management philosophy.

The majority of business management courses in business schools around the world are built on the assumption of management as a hard science (This is the hidden agenda of the lauded MBA for example).  Hard science is not just any old science but a particular form of objective, value free, deal with the facts you can see and measure sort of science that goes by the name of Positivism . Now this sort of ‘science’ is great for things like physics and chemistry and the other natural sciences and in the early days management researchers (social scientists) in business schools tried really hard to get academic ‘street cred’ by copying the assumptions and methods of positivism to study their subject. Doing this meant and only accepting empirical (based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience) evidence and it has had a powerful influence of management thinking since the early days. It comes with a problem though when trying to understand social things like people and their beliefs. Can you really understand something by just looking at the surface or do you look at what is going on beneath for your assessment of value? There is more to value than meets the eyeball to paraphrase Hanson in Hanson, N. R. “From Patterns of Discovery,” in Perception, R. Schwartz, ed. pp. 292- 305, 1988.

So the assumptions you hold (if you are even aware of them) have a huge influence on what you believe the issues are and what actions should be taken to address them. Often we are lead to believe that there are only two games in town.

1) The hard science positivist/ hard empiricist approach described above OR

2) The so called fluffy ‘its all relative/anything goes’ Post Modernist way of understanding the world in which language and discourse create (construct) social reality.

A third way to think about customer value creation

There is a third game though! In academic parlance this third way navigates a path between:

Positivism or Naive Empiricsm  and Relativism and is called Critical Realism

The CR approach stands on the idea that Reality is stratified, the empirical (surface) and beneath that like an iceberg the actual (stuff that exists but you can’t see it) and beneath that the so called real (the mechanisms and conditions that generate impacts at the empirical level.) Technically speaking CR is an ontology and positivism and relativism are epistemologies . 

Much of today’s management education is based on assumptions of positivism or its softer cousin (perceptions. attitudes and preferences exist but they still need to be measured) called neo-positivism rather than Critical Realism. Neo-Positivism is the driver of the ‘satisfaction’ agenda. This means that most university managers who have their MBA’s or Masters in HR or Marketing etc  operate from a very particular (often philosophically naive) set of assumptions about reality and value which generates a view of Value that is restricted to something immediately observed and experienced. The trouble with that nice neat convenient view is that most of us sense there is something more going on. So when Sir Keith remarks:

“…when a parent asks, “How many contact hours does my kid get at university?” or “How much money will they earn afterwards?”, they are really making sure that they are not being ripped off. They are trying to get at the value for money from their child’s point of view. And given that they and their children are now bearing the costs directly, who can blame them?”

This value/reality assumption set he is acknowledging here is a positivist view of value BUT  when he observes:

“If a parent wants “better value for money” in the sense that they long for their child to be taught by truly great thinkers then they need to think of education in its fullest sense. Perhaps they should be concerned at the erosion of resource for the kind of work which won their child’s university and department international respect. What academics do when they are not teaching matters for our students because their futures will depend on our reputation many years ahead.”

This is value/reality set of a more critical realist perspective. This view is about an invisible, deeper, generative subtler and longer term idea of value. It is also not just about the money and surface interactions in isolation.

The irony of defining delivering and communicating university value

There is a real irony in the definition, delivery and communication of university value.   At the heart of this conundrum lies a concern with the value and purpose of higher education overall.

Talk to most academics, look at their degree design documents and sitting there bold and proud is the aim that students by the end of their degree will move towards being independent self directed learnersThe purpose and value of a university education is therefore so much more than the collection of stuff delivered by a ‘ didactic teaching’ approach that says just fill my head with ‘knowledge of principles, tools and techniques’. Adult Educationalist Malcom Knowles observed:

““a basic human competence…is the ability to learn on one’s own” Knowles (1975) Self Directed Learning.

This is highly relevant because this competence underpins all entrepreneurial and value creating marketing management activities – the marketing executive is expected to have insight, foresight and lead the way. Learning how to become self-directed is often an unsatisfactory, risky and disconcerting developmental experience at the time. Full of what Jack Mezirow calls ‘disorientating dilemmas’. As a student you might feel you need to be told how to respond to an assignment, told which articles to read, told how to get a first and when you don’t get direct answers feel unsatisfied.  However if you are ‘told’ everything you might feel satisfied and it won’t provide any educational value at all. It wont help you develop the that capability to identify things such as channels to market in new market sectors, interpret market research, or imagine new business models.

Being concerned with value of this deeper and longer term nature is the basis of a rebuttal to questions such as ‘so how many contact hours will by son/daughter get?’. Surely the issue is will my son/daughter be able to seek guidance when appropriate not some facile metric of time spent in front of a tutor?

Zoning in on satisfaction focuses students on what they WANT rather than what they NEED. Value lies in what is needed and that need may well be invisible and unrecognised in the present moment. In that sense a concern with satisfaction undercuts the very essence of the purpose of marketing which concerns itself with the definition, delivery and communication of value (Bower M., Garda R. A. (1985) The role of marketing in management. The McKinsey Quarterly, 3, 34−46.) The mantra of satisfaction predisposes universities towards a reactive customer worship image of service delivery than meaningfully different value creation image.

So what does the future hold? What sort of value do universities provide? What sort of value will they provide? It will be interesting to see what happens if the obsession with surface interpretations of value dominate because students, employers and the country will be the losers. And all because some managerialist university manager thinks they know what they are talking about when it comes to value.


A critical realist take on value might just stop university value being diminished



Does Purpose Marketing Have A Marketing Purpose?




Alex Smith has written a neat article in Campaign about the trendy idea of

Marketing Purpose.

The thing I like about what Alex has to say is how a new generation of marketing professionals  have narrowed purpose to mean:

‘the “social good” that a brand provides’

rather than clarifying the whole point of why the business exists and as Justin Basini in his 2011 book asked…

Why should anyone buy from you?

The idea of ‘Purpose Marketing ‘ seems to me like yet another of those mystical inventions of some marketing professionals who  claim that only they have the privileged professional insight to see the magical and profound marketing reason for which something is done or created or for which the business exists.

Sagely these marketing types propose that Marketing ‘Is all about the higher purpose of your brand’…..









image credit Agustina Guerrero

Even esteemed marketing Prof. Ritso is having a pop at Purpose Marketing. In this article in in Marketing Week he cautions Om-nicient marketeers to remember the fundamental rather than the transcendental purpose of Marketing.

‘Heineken should remember marketing is about profit, not purpose. Heineken’s new purpose-driven ad might express all the right values, but marketers must remember if you don’t use your budget to create sales, you’ve failed.’

No wonder some marketing professionals struggle for reputation and credibility in organisations. Imagine this sketch:

Boss: so what you going to do to increase profits and market share?

CMO: we need to communicate our purpose – thinking ‘save the banana’ or ‘protect the navel gazers in Antarctica’

Boss: wtf?

CMO: well Boss these days its all about connecting with the ends-means, aspirational purpose drivers of Generation Z in a digitally connected hyper-real post truth society

Boss: we already have a purpose – we solve customer problems, make their lives easier,satisfy customer needs and give them great value (just read about it in Value-ology btw) and sell them products and services at a price they want to pay.

CMO: Om…it’s alot deeper than that though Boss…from a marketing perspective we need to  creatively communicate our values in the most arcane abstract way possible to show how smart and insightful we are and that we aren’t selling anything even though we are selling something…if you get what I mean.

Boss: how much are we paying you?

For me Alex nails it when he says:

‘It’s also the purpose of the word “purpose”. If a brand figures out what it’s for, and strives to deliver it to the best of its ability, then it can maximise the value it gives to the world, and thus maximise the value it receives. In this situation everyone wins – the brand is focused on value creation and innovation, which is good for the customer, and the customer rewards them handsomely, which is good for the brand.’

This line of thinking connects directly with the principles and methods of our book




Attaching some abstract ‘purpose’ to your business in the hope that customers will associate your brand with deep and meaningful values like ‘save the porpoise’ makes a big mistake in confusing Values with Value. Okay I get that Values (deeply held beliefs about what matters in life) can be valued, and they are not necessarily the same thing as the problems I want your product or service to solve for me. Also Purpose Marketing overlooks the idea of Value Appropriation (the point Ritso is making) whereby organisations also have to get value out of the supplier customer exchange. It’s not all about the customer (Marketing Fallacy #1) For more on this see:

Ellegaard C., Medlin C.J., Geersbro J. (2014) Value appropriation in business exchange –literature review and future research opportunities. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing 29/3 185–198

Does this mean that Purpose Marketing is just another ‘fad’? Another way of some professional marketers searching for their professional purpose?

I predict that this form of Marketing will soon be superseded by Cetacean Marketing which will all be about Killer marketing campaigns that ensure you don’t give your customers the hump by creating the wright value proposition.








%d bloggers like this: