A continuation from our previous article, we held a discussion between Mr. Tomoki Kurosawa the founder of the ‘Marketing Trace’ community, a group dedicated to training its marketing skills. Joining the discussion from Bigbeat is Mizuki Nogita who handles the marketing activities of Bigbeat.
This time, the two discussed why marketers should have the same wider point of view as management and the value of marketing and its budget.
Nogita (N): I think the key to marketers having the management point of view is filling the gap between marketers and management. What do think about this Mr. Kurosawa?
Kurosawa (K): I think it’s difficult for marketers and management to have same point of view, but this is a problem of time. You have to extend the time you are looking at.
Management is always looking 3 to 5 years ahead. But for the people who are working now, they are only thinking about how to get results within the span of a year usually.
If you can take that time frame and stretch it out a little, to 3 years for example, then their point of view would most likely change.
The kind of idea training we do in ‘Marketing Trace’ is not necessarily practical and it more delusional. You can be as delusional as you want. (Laughs).
Its about being able to easily image 3 or 5 years in advanced. I think with this training you will begin to naturally think about 3 to 5 years in the future without actively trying.
I think its very natural to focus on the work that is directly in front of you. That’s why it is necessary to practice the skill of seeing further in advanced to things that aren’t necessarily practical now. It would be good to create change through this.
N: Salespeople tend to think about how to focus on raising their sales that month and think about what they can do to raise sales for half a year or a year. They don’t usually have a long-term viewpoint.
But sales are not the only important thing to think about. In 3 years, what will the market be like? How will this product change? What if a new competitor enters the market? It’s also really important to think about things from those points of view.
Not only marketers, but salespeople and all the other departments should be trying to see things from the wider management perspective of the overall operations. I think if you can get your company to that point, your productivity will go up, and the value you can provide will change.
I want move Bigbeat into that stage quickly.
I think that time (that I’m working) is a horizontal axis and the company philosophy and goals are the vertical axes. How do you improve along your horizontal axis that is you time working while trying to reach the vertical axes that are the company goal and philosophy? I think it would be good for people to think about that on a personal level.
K: I think it has become an age where the will of the private individual can easily move the market. As social media has become more prominent, the way a market expands, and works has drastically changed.
Because the world has become this way that people in ‘Marketing Trace’ are able to think ‘I want to change this market.’ ‘I want to provide this value.’ If people can experience success with the idea of ‘If I do this, then the market changes the way I envisioned it would,’ then they would start to feel more motivation with changing their own company.
I think if that circulation can begin to bud, then it will lead to good business. I think it’s the same as your horizontal and vertical axes.
N: Our CEO, Hamaguchi, always says if you can’t skillfully weave the vertical and horizontal axes into a tapestry then it won’t be a strong cloth. If either is weak then the whole piece will be weak.
I Think if your axes of your private life and work life are messed up and not working together, then it will cause a lot of pain. If you have to work in that state, then you will need to change something eventually.
I think this is deeply connected to recruitment.
If a company can effectively convey its philosophy and values, then it will be able to gather people who want to work together to reach the company’s goals.
N: The best part of marketing trace is not mastering frameworks. It is analyzing corporations, processing the information, and imagine yourself years in the future and asking yourself, ‘If I was the CMO, what kind of management plan would I make.’
K: You have to train yourself if are going to hypothesize on how to change the market. If you are a marketer and you don’t train yourself , when someone tells you “take some kind of action” you will only strategize on a smaller scale.
I was raised in my job with the philosophy, ‘think of yourself as an executive two levels above your current position.’ I think it is important to build that habit of widening you point of view.
From there you can connect your ideas to reality.
N: I think that people want a simple and straight forward reality where 1+1=2. But in marketing there are times when it’s 1+1=10. Then ‘this hypothesis has no answer’ becomes a task for everyone to try and solve and the difficulty of marketing is born. Then there will be no action if you don’t leave your comfort zone. Do the people who facing this task think, ‘what should I do to take the next step forward?’
K: It’s a difficult problem. In marketing trace, after analyzing the corporation we then hypothesize about potential marketing strategies, so there is a high level of abstraction.
It is not about following a decided process be led to a decided conclusion.
I think you need to draw out a hypothesis from yourself with the unsolvable problem.
It is tall hurdle to overcome. I think you have to come with the mindset, ‘I came to Marketing Trace because I am interested and have a job in marketing.’
If you can make that the obvious position to put yourself in, then your resistance will most likely go away.
N: It would probably do well as a training program.
K: I think it would be good for superiors and their juniors to do, not just for training.
It is similar to when you train for sales, you role play. When you train as a designer, you do UI tracing.
I think that ‘Marketing Trace’ puts all marketers on the same level. I want it to be used by not only people with a high level of awareness.
K: Recently at ‘Marketing Trace’ I talked about how I think that studying theories and case studies and then practicing is the best way to learn.
For example, in the actual training of marketing trace, case studies are like your inner muscle training. If you don’t train those muscles everyday then you won’t be able to actually practice.
I think the different ways of marketing that are possible for you do to come from the way you were trained. I’m also interested in if the training systems people are being put into are working well or not.
N: I don’t really hear much about it.
In the case of marketers when being evaluated, even if you are looking ahead in the long term, the evaluator asks, “what have you done in these past 6 months?” You can only talk about how you have strengthened the channels. Or about how many events you held. I think these types of cases where they don’t evaluate on anything else than that is common.
I think we’ve come to the step where we need to change the standards on which we are being evaluated.
K: Job evaluations are also a difficult problem regarding how much budget is given. It begs the questions ‘what is a marketing budget?’ ‘Who decides the budget?’ and ‘how do you decide to raise it or not?’ They are difficult questions.
It becomes about strengthening channels because it is a place that you can easily see the effects of your budget. At the current moment there isn’t anything else like channel strengthening so it always goes to that.
N: Marketing budgets are really difficult. It's an investment, so you won’t see profits for 2 to 3 years. Because of that, it can be hard to get a good budget.
K: In the case of marketing, when prospecting for new clients it’s about making a plan for future profits. You have to thoroughly research how much it is worth to invest money into it.
If you are able to get new clients, then it is easier to get money for investment in your marketing. If you can get money, then it can get others to start moving with you.
N: Investment is a difficult thing.
Creating fans of your brand, and then getting those fans to spread you brand is true engagement. But if you are to look at that from the long-term point of, it takes a little time for the result to become clear.
Its easy to start building that fan base without using a lot of money and keeping it simple. But it is hard to see how much those activities have raised sales after 6 months. I think in those areas we have to change the way we are evaluated.
K: Everyone says investing in ‘prospecting’ is the best way, but I think that we should invest more in marketing. I think it would be interesting to dig into why things aren’t working. Is it our business models? Is the culture of venture capital?
N: They say there are 4 steps of learning.
1. No awareness and no ability
2. Awareness but no ability
3. Awareness and ability
4. No awareness but ability
The highest level is being able to do something sub-consciously, or step 4. ‘no awareness but ability.’ There are very few people who actually reach this step but its important that you at least reach step 3 ‘awareness and ability.’
But if you aren’t aware and can’t do anything, then you are at step 1 ‘no awareness and no ability,’ then you can’t recognize the issue and you can’t move to the 2nd and 3rd steps.
In marketing trace, you first have to recognize that you are still on the first step and do something to get yourself to the step 2. From there you need to work to step 3, where you can begin to slowly start improving your ability.
K: Step 4 is an interesting stage. I want to create a community that can manage itself on the 4th step. I think it would be interesting to measure how much the output is changing each time someone goes to ‘Marketing Trace.’
N: Like a ‘before and after picture.’ You do marketing trace 10 times and see how your output changed each time.
K: There are definitely people who have participated 10 times and their ability is drastically different from the 1st and 10th time. After 2 years they were able to get so far. I really admired them.
N: Do you have any parting words for the marketers out there?
K: For those who call themselves marketers, I think it’s incredibly important to do your job with the intention of changing the market. You must work with that intention and responsibility. I also think that for myself.
N: It is important that you work with the idea that ‘I will change this market’ and ‘I am the engine of my company’
K: The key phrase here is ‘crossing boarders.’ You have to overcome organizations. I think that is position that marketers must take. For that reason, you have to set big goals and understand how you want to become and change.
I want to create and environment where all of Japan can think in that way.
N: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
―――The most consistent point in Mr. Kurosawa’s discussion was that “you need to hold the management point of view.” Marketers are on the same level as management because their work requires to them to have a wide point of view. And they require a strong intention to the change the future of the company.
But in order to do that, inner marketing is necessary.
You need to make sure that every department understands the company philosophy and goal. And you need to do ‘marketing trace’ training with them. The best way to get closer your envisioned way of marketing is by making sure the entire company has a common understanding of the goal of marketing.
If anything in this discussion resonated with, please take it with you and start training your marketing muscles today.