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Innovation is a top priority for almost every organization. But to achieve success through innovation, companies must put as much energy and investment into marketing new offerings as they do in generating them.
The role of marketing in some companies seems to have diminished in recent years, with the growth of artificial intelligence-driven algorithms and predictive analytics that offer up information, goods, and services to customers. The popularity of private label goods and products from companies like Brandless and others that seem to eschew marketing also seems to make the argument for less marketing, rather than more.
But marketing is and should not be executed merely through tactical functions of acquiring and retaining customers, as many companies practice it today. The search, content, and loyalty campaigns that most managers call marketing these days are common downstream tactics for generating or maintaining awareness or repeat purchase; the full, business-growing power of the marketing function comes way upstream — from creating markets. Understanding people’s fundamental needs and drivers, identifying customers, and developing the entire go-to-market and usage ecosystem are the essential aspects of marketing — and the ones that the success of innovations, especially breakthrough ones, hinge upon. Marketers need to be included in development discussions earlier in the innovation process.
Strategic, upstream marketing that is incorporated into the innovation development process can clearly define who to sell the new offering to and how to sell it in ways like this:
Identify unmet and even unknown customer needs.
Understand the deep-seated drivers of perceptions and behavior that are relevant to a product’s appeal.
Engage with customers through use cases and benefits instead of functionalities and features.
Develop the entire customer experience ecosystem.
Use a go-to-market strategy appropriate for the innovation and its customer.
Today’s advanced innovations such as 3D printing, bitcoin, and virtual reality have gotten some traction, but they and other revolutionary products and platforms like them need the right marketing expertise to generate the depth and breadth of market engagement they seek. Innovation alone may be enough to initiate the adoption life cycle, but marketing remains the bridge necessary to cross the chasm between early adopters to the wider group of people who will form a viable, valuable customer base.
The bigger the innovation, the bigger the risk of failure. Because marketing can reduce those risks, it matters as much as innovation — perhaps even more.