Do you know what “marketing trace” is?
We held a discussion with Mr. Tomoki Kurosawa and Mr. Mizuki Nogita about the subject. Mr. Kurosawa runs the marketing training community “Marketing Trace.” Mr. Nogita helped establish the marketing division of Bigbeat and has helped in the marketing activities of not only Bigbeat but our clients as well. Why did Mr. Kurosawa start “Marketing Trace?” In that answer, we find the gap between the ideal and realty that any marketer will experience.
“Marketing Trace” which was born from a personal dilemma.
Nogita (N): First, I was hoping you could tell me the circumstances that brought to start the “Market Trace” community.
Kurosawa (K): I have been apart of the digital marketing world for almost 8 years.
Although it's different from what I was originally doing, I have been on the front-lines of marketing for about 5 years now working in consultation. Mainly I work with SEM and access analysis. Even while I said marketing, much of my job become about things like ad performance, maximizing conversations, optimizing channels and other micro-focused activities.
I felt like the real role of a marketer is to dynamically move the marketplace.
Because of this, I began training myself. I trained my strategizing skills by analyzing a variety of companies in what I called “marketing trace.” In marketing trace, you take the marketing strategies from success stories of companies from specials on TV-Tokyo's "Cambrain Palace" or magazines like Magazine Weekly Toyo-Keisai and Magazine Weekly Diamond and explain them in your own words.
I started to see that there where a lot of people who were getting stuck in the same way I was when posting about marketing trace on social media. If there were others like me, we could ban together and work together to train ourselves. I thought this is the way to break out of the tendency focus on the micro that often happens to marketers.
N: I see. So out of a desire to train yourself, you formed a community of people who held a variety of ideas.
But, aren’t things like optimizing channels the type of jobs that most clients request? When this happens, did you challenge yourself to redirect the focus?
K: I have challenged myself a lot.
Since we entered the digital era, I now regularly talk to my clients about how the business models have changed. The result has been that while of course there is still focus on the micro-methods of marketing, I have also been able to convey the importance of business models as a basic premise.
I am able to ask and focus on the questions of “what is the purpose of marketing?” and “What is marketing?” I have also been able to focus on creating a common language to talk about and explain these questions.
Who do you need to communicate with in order to move an organization?
N: Whenever the topic of “what is marketing” comes up, each company has a different idea and there are lots of clients whose idea differs from those.
Not to mention, marketing is not a service you can physically see. Have clients been able to understand your ideology?
K: It was not easy to get them to understand.
But, in regard to proposals that I felt had a strong value, I was able to get positive evaluations from a client.
N: So, there was someone who understood the value.
What was the position of the person in their company?
K: They headed the marketing operation of their entire company. They made think that in order to implement a marketing that will lead to success, its important to have someone who is at the top and in charge of the whole operation.
N: In my experience, many of the Japanese companies I have worked with divide the roles of marketing with several people. For example, head of events or head of SEO. But if you strictly define the roles of people like that, it can bring about negative results. People will ask things like “why did we need to that?” or “why was that KPI necessary?” There are cases where it doesn’t make a good basis for business. While I think the companies will continue to follow this model of divided roles for the time being, it has created an environment that makes it hard to for marketers to grasp the essential and long-term ideas. “My job is SEO, so all I need to think about is how to raise the search relevance” I think there is a tendency to become very single focused like that.
Are there a lot of people who have been divided into subdivisions in “Marketing Trace” community?
K: There is a large portion of members who have been put in subdivisions. But there are also a lot of members who are very ambitious. They get put into these subdivisions and wonder “wait, I’m supposed to be doing marketing.” But they are unsure of what to do about the issue.
N: They feel like even though they want to look over the whole operation of the company as a marketer and be involved in the management, they are unable to rise to that position?
K: They truly believe that “marketing has the ability to change organizations. Management is just that.” It is their desire for their jobs to be like that. But there is a really big gap between reality and the ideal role of marketers. You can’t just suddenly say that marketing and managing are one and the same. I think that “Marketing Trace” is a gathering of people who are trying to figure out what they should do.
N: Have there been people who have told you that they have been changes since they started going to “Marketing Trace”?
K: There have been. Lately, something that made me happy was hearing from somebody who works on customer success at their company.
They really like their job and understood the goal of raising LTV. But they have been unable to do any of the pre-strategizing.
They began doing marketing trace for a variety of companies including their own. They began to think about what the position of the customer success division is and what are the elements within that position they can use to create LTV. Before, in order to raise customer satisfaction, they would just hold events. They would use simple strategies like this. But now they are able to see the bigger picture and are able to take on work that has a broader range.
To me, this is the ideal change to come out of “Market Trace”
Marketing is not only a tool meant for marketers!
N: “Customer success” is a phrase I’ve heard a lot lately. But, KPI is about eliminating churn and driving LTV up. But before that you have to understand “who is the customer? And how can they succeed?” If don’t, then you will treat your customer as the rest of the masses. This results in you wasting resources on communicating to the masses and not focusing on the target customer. This results in your actions not having much of an effect. I think that marketing awareness is really important in the solution to this. Marketing is not only for the marketing department. Everyone in the company, no matter what the department, should have an awareness for marketing.
K: Marketing Trace is for anybody, no matter what their field is. In fact, we have members who are writers and designers.
One time, during a pair activity, we had a marketer paired up with a designer. They had to do market trace for an hour. The designer took it one step further by theorizing about the design elements of the marketing strategy. I got really good feedback about it.
N: The designer also wanted to gain an ability to think about marketing.
K: The ability to think about marketing is not a skill that only marketers should polish. If the people around you also polish that skill, then you can create a common language around marketing. This then becomes the ability to move your organization using the full marketing power of all the members. This is what I believe at least.
N: I also believe that would create that ability.
I think one trouble a lot of marketers face is having a message they want to convey to the market and customers, but they can’t design the message they have come up with in their mind. In order to fix that they must talk with a designer repeatedly. I think there is a big loss in communication here. But, if there were a common language that they could use to communicate, then it would be easier for the marketer to convey their idea and easier for the designer to understand. Their efficiency would go way up.
I think what we are talking about is the first step towards this better communication.
K: Designers can get closer to the user experience and customers, while marketers can increase the scale of the market and their business. It’s really important to create the chance to do that. I believe that if they can skillfully work together, then this will create business opportunities. Creating a common language is the key to this.
N: Not only marketers and designers, but a wall can also be seen marketers and those in charge of R&D and marketers and salespeople. I’ve found that without a common language, then there will be a wall between the marketing and sales division. But could marketing trace help break down the wall between marketing and other divisions as well?
K: I think there is a real positive effect. Marketing trace is training your ability to think about marketing, but it makes you think about the basics. It makes you think “why am I approaching the market?”
For example, if you were to take one person from every division and have them participate in marketing trace, what can you understand better? What is the next task and where is the market heading? These are the kind of things that by having those different members give their opinions and talk about that everyone can then have a common understanding.
The key to marketing is a “management perspective” that takes the company’s goals into account.
N: Understanding the significance of why companies exist is really important. Companies must exist because they provide something to society. Not just maximizing sales, but also following the flow of acquiring customers who understand the reason your company exist and then expanding that group is crucial to your success.
K: Yeah. Marketing trace also has a wall that needs to be broken down.
If you just sudden join from some marketing division, there is a tendency to oversimplify the analysis. “They were able to raise sales with this.” “They really succeeded with this promotion.” But that’s not marketing trace. “What is the task of the client?” “What are they paying money for and how is the progression of society changing?” If we can ask and connect these questions, then we can deeply think about the subject of marketing.
Because of this, we have to change the language revolving around the company’s goal and the value they are providing. On top of that you also must understand the structure of marketing.
N: The percentage of Japanese companies that have an established marketing department is still low. The resources in the workforce just aren’t there. I think it’s for this very reason that so many markets seek information from outside sources.
The amount of marketing focused community events is on the rise. And you can gather a variety of different information. I think this is a really good thing, but I wonder how much is the value of marketing in these companies being raised?
On one side there are these startups that strongly value marketing. But on the other side, there are these really old companies in Japan that only have development and sales divisions and marketing hasn’t yet permeated into their organization. What are your feelings about this?
K: Its really easy for marketing to take root at a startup company. When you are formulating a business plan for growth and you don’t focus on marketing, then no matter what you do there are places where you can’t succeed. Marketing is essential for their success.
On the other hand, I think organizations without functioning marketing don’t have awareness of how it will help their business grow. Their vision isn’t clear, and they can’t seem to understand why they are doing business.
N: The old days of Japanese business was in the style similar to an electronics store. You wanted someone to buy a product and then you would match a product with them and sell it. You were face to face with the customer so you would understand what the product they want is. Then because they bought the product, you could imagine that eventually they would need it repaired. In other words, I think you simply just did business with the customer and continued that business, and that’s how you survived.
But right now, there is an overflow of goods because of large quantities of production. And the difference in technology is becoming smaller. There is no doubt that Japan’s population will decrease. My impression is that the talent will flow out of the country. Companies start thinking “how do we survive in this era.” And I think that it doesn’t matter how much you innovate, if you don’t have basic marketing you won’t be able to survive.
I personally think that marketing has the power to return Japan to old days when business was great.
K: I think you’re right. It was less about making new customers and more about delivering value to customer in front of you. I think that Japanese companies were probably really good at that type of business. I think we have to deepen our style of marketing to utilize this strength in Japanese companies.
N: I think that there is also the problem where the company philosophy that is in the minds of management is not being properly conveyed down the ranks. When thinking about how to fill that gap, marketing will play a big role. In order to gain the skill needed to do this, marketing trace will have to spread.
K: Thank you!