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Marketing Strategy

Marketing in Turbulent Times: 6 Takeaways from an HBS Thought Leader

By November 19, 2018April 11th, 2019No Comments

marketing strategyI had the great pleasure to attend my second Women Presidents Organization workshop led by Lynda Applegate, the Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School. Lynda offers excellent advice for all business leaders. I’ve adapted some of her insights into marketing.  

Mushing is a great analogy for marketing teams.

It’s important that every dog on the team know they have an important role, even if they are not the leader. They should have the ability to bark feedback.

During challenging times, such as a business process overhaul or economic downturn, it’s important to “fan out your dogs” and spread responsibility out over your entire marketing team, so you don’t fall through the proverbial ice.  


Know what’s changing in your field of play.

Market forces and technology have significantly changed marketing over the past ten years. Now, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, and personalization demands are changing the marketing landscape at a faster pace than ever.

If you’re in biotech or healthcare IT marketing, your industry changes on a monthly basis with new regulations, reimbursements, and competition. If you are a marketing leader, ask your team what new skills you can help them learn.


Don’t let transformational change initiatives get derailed.

There’s always a new marketing campaign to launch and not enough resources to do it. When’s the last time you aligned marketing goals to business objectives, audited your brand imagery, or did a customer focus group or survey?

Once you decide on a strategic course, stay with it. Don’t get off track because of tactical deadlines and resourcing pressures. If you need help, hire an outsource marketing agency.

Customers come first.

When putting together organizational structures, first design the teams that connect the customer to the organization. Depending on how your organization assigns responsibilities, for marketing, this might be sales enablement/training materials, customer satisfaction surveys, or your website development team.

Make sure your marketing department culture aligns with the organization’s culture.

Culture is a summation of actions and decisions when leadership is not around. I come across quite a few companies that have sales, marketing, and C-suite cultures that are at odds with one another. This never works, and unfortunately, the marketing department leader usually gets the blame and the boot.  

If you want to put out comical ad videos and your leadership is dead serious, you have a cultural difference that’s being manifested in a tactical campaign.  

Only expand if you can improve margin (or another critical KPI).

Marketing departments often buy a new tech stack or embrace a new marketing channel, just because it’s sexy or customers are doing it. Before embarking on a complex implementation, have a clear idea of how that new channel or system will positively impact your critical business metrics.  


Leading marketing teams is more complex than ever. Make sure you’re taking time out of your world of tactics, to consider strategy and organizational development

Need help with your strategy or another area of marketing? Let us know!

Chris Slocumb

Author Chris Slocumb

Chris is the founder and president of Clarity Quest Marketing, where she has the best job on the planet leading a talented group of marketers helping healthcare and technology companies grow revenues and visibility. To learn more about Chris' experiences and qualifications, visit our leadership team page.

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