GROW through Value-Focused Marketing 
By Jean-Pierre Aerts - Programme Director, Solvay Executive Education
What is marketing ?
Surprisingly, few people know how to correctly answer that question. Most believe marketing is communication, though communication is only a tiny fraction of it.
By going back to the origin of the word, we understand that MARKETING is choosing a MARKET and doING what is needed to impact it.
MARKET-ING therefore involves a vast number of management disciplines, in which you might get lost... unless you have a powerful methodology to coordinate everyone's efforts.
GOAL - Maximize value for all
The objectives of market-ing are (1) to create value for your target customers and (2) to capture the largest possible part of that value created.
Doing this efficiently requires that all internal departments and external partners work in synergy.
REALITY - Too little time spent on strategy / Too much work in silos
The reality is however far from that goal. Research indicates that more than 90% of management time is spent on operations (meaning that less than 10% is dedicated to the formulation of strategic questions and decisions). On top of that, most organizations have been developed around departments, and those departments naturally tend to work in silos.
As a result, most organizations are far too slow to address strategic issues and far too 'narrow-minded' (siloed) when reflecting on disruptive scenarios.
OPTIONS - Doing the right things AND Doing things right
Organizations have a golden opportunity to better balance leadership (collective envisioning) and management (controlling the execution of the vision in its various facets).
Considering the current convergence of revolutions (societal, technological, environmental), being fast and proactive to seize this opportunity is crucial, in order not to become an obsolete species.
WAY FORWARD - Address four key questions
Of course, organizations cannot afford to work at random when envisioning their future (leadership) and implementing their decisions (management).
The following questions are essential to address in your reflection process. They work in a sequence and through iterations, as any draft answer to a question must be validated or reformulated by analysing its impact and relevance through the next questions.
Question #1 - Vision: Why do we exist?
We often observe egocentric statements ("we exist to be the leader in...") or product centric statements ("we exist to offer the best product or service in our categories...") but those are risky formulations. Simply because customers care much more about their own evolving needs than about your market share or your products.
Question #2 - Valued Customers: Whom do we want to serve? Whom do we want not to serve?
Acknowledging you exist to create value for specific customers, the next question becomes... 'which customers ?'. In this respect, it is key to remember that the biggest source of business lies with non-customers. Spending time to explore why non-customers do not choose you is as important as exploring how the needs of your current customers are evolving. Besides, it is essential to understand the market segments and clarify which segments you do not want to work for. Indeed, trying to please everyone means becoming average for everyone.
Question #3 - Value Propositions: What do we offer that maximizes value for customers?
Seeing all the new forms of competition that exist, being 'good enough' is no longer attractive. To maximize value and defeat competition, organizations must better resonate with the rational and emotional needs of their target customers. Partnering with (non-)customers to investigate what really creates value in each segment is a must. In that respect, testing fast and cheap is a best practice that start-ups have documented very well for us.
Question #4 - Value Ecosystem: How do we optimize our organization to capture as much as possible of the value we created?
Start-ups understand how to leverage networks, co-creation and testing. Besides, they also initiate fascinating new forms of organizations. For example, look at how Spotify boosts agility in its structures and methods (
Opening up your minds to challenge old paradigms is an essential first step to build VALUE, impact your MARKET and GROW.
Jean-Pierre Aerts has 25 years of experience in multi-cultural environments - as manager, consultant, coach and trainer. His domains of expertise are leadership, customer centricity, value-focused marketing, change management and talent development. Jean-Pierre is Programme Director at the Solvay Business School. He develops and delivers programmes over EMEA-APAC.