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October 13, 2004

I could be writing about Bill Gates right now.

However, Bill gets plenty of press (see this morning’s WSJ, for instance). Instead, I am going to write about the people to the left and right, behind and in front.

As marketing people we often develop a particular myopia, one that believes that the shortest and best path to a customer is a program of some sort we develop. From advertising to direct marketing to guerrila marketing, they all fall into the category of “good things to do to get customers to change behavior”. However, the classic tension (very real in the enterprise software space) between sales and marketing often causes marketing people to discount the impact of the people in the field that deal with the customer face to face every day. Whether they be sales, services, pre-sales, post-sales, or evangelism, these individuals are sometimes seen by marketing people as just another hurdle in the way of getting the “right” message to the customer.

Just how stupid is that perception? Stupid enough to be taught in business schools and become the battle cry of the newly minted MBA. Stupid enough to be the downfall of a number of companies that refused to see the value of the feet on the street. Stupid enough to warrant me writing this particular rant.

If you are a marketing person in a company with a field force, get to know them now. Become their friend. Share your knowledge and hope they deem you worthy of sharing theirs. Let them know you value their input on your programs and plans. Frankly, if you ever forget that they get to talk to the customer 1000x then you ever will, then you will suffer the fate you deserve.

I am surrounded at this moment by these people from the field. This is a room with thousands of customer lessons stored in these people. A marketing person couldn’t ask for much more.

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