Stop Being a Capabilities Manager - Think Like a Product Manager

by Sat Duggal

In our line of work we have encountered many members of corporate functions, particularly in corporate marketing roles. Many such roles are designed, profiled, staffed and measured on building marketing capabilities across their organization. The ones that end up having a substantial and sustained impact on their business tend to view and approach their role differently than just capability development. They tend to apply the principles and approach of product management to create, launch, manage and renew their marketing excellence product.

Here are some of the key differences in using a product management versus capability development approach:

    1. Think about your brand, not just your program – Marketing excellence is more than just a framework with associated tools and training. It is, first and foremost, a brand. One that has to appeal to its target audiences and build a trusted relationship with them. Also, like other brands, it has to compete for mindshare and resources against its competitors (e.g. other corporate programs). While all capability development programs should be conceived and managed as brands, this is especially true for marketing excellence programs given the heightened sensitivities of the marketing community they serve.

When we reflect on our experiences in working with various companies and the dozens of marketing excellence programs we have seen, the difference between the ones that sustain over years versus ones that slip quickly into ignominy is the effort taken to create a branded program.

      1. Manage the portfolio of offerings – Every product manager knows that they need to create and manage a portfolio of offerings to serve different needs of the market. The same is very true for a marketing excellence program. For instance, training offerings need to be a mix of foundational classroom-style training, project-based learning, leadership workshops, online refreshers and more. Each of these serve a different need for a varying set of contexts.

Additionally, just like every portfolio manager knows the importance of differential resource allocation to the performance of their portfolio, a marketing excellence portfolio needs to be similarly managed with the resources allocated to those offerings in the portfolio that contribute to positive performance.

    1. Keep a pulse on the market – Product managers, at least the good ones, are always plugged into the markets they serve – What are competitor’s doing? How are customer needs evolving? How well are our products satisfying customers? Managers of marketing excellence programs need to have a similar approach – spending more time and energy with their customers to understand what is going on and how they can be better served.

    1. Measured in PNL impact – No Product Manager could report results in terms of “number of likes” or the number of customers engaged and hope to keep their job for very long. They are measured in financial measures – topline growth, margins, profits – and the impact they have had on the overall PNL of the business. Somehow most capability managers feel they are exempt from such accountability. However, if a marketing excellence product hopes to sustain its presence, investments and resource commitments over the long-term it has to measure and report its impact in financial terms.

    1. Renew the offering – Every product, no matter how good, has to be refreshed and renewed so it can meet the needs of the evolving market. The same is very true of a marketing excellence program – e.g. the tools have to be refreshed to reflect the rapidly changing media landscape, learning experiences should be re-imagined to reflect the new possibilities of mobile and social tools, varying regional and business needs have to be addressed, etc. An outdated program will only perpetuate its rapid progression from maturity to decline in its product lifecycle.

It is only with the mindset and skill set of a Product Manager that the modern capabilities manager will truly be able to succeed in establishing marketing excellence in his or her organization. 

For further direction on making this a reality, see our white paper, On the Road to Marketing Excellence.

Free Guide: Using Brand Promise to Achieve Marketing Excellence

Keywords: Custom Marketing Framework, Market and Data Analysis