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As marketers, we are often forced to put “the cart before the horse” and create marketing materials too soon. What do I mean by that?

Several years ago, one of the first things I was asked to do as the new product (marketing) manager was to create a new package of product sheets in a slick new brochure, which I did. The package actually won a bronze medal at some marketing thing. (That’s not a reflection on me, since I did not do the actual design. I only developed the concept, created the content and directed the final production. We had a great design team.)

The entire process just felt wrong all the way through. If my Pragmatic Marketing training had taught me one thing, it was that market needs had to come first. There is a very good reason that on three different iterations of the Pragmatic Marketing Framework, “Collateral” and “Sales Tools” are far to the right, or tactical, side.

In the situation I was in, I had little choice but to go ahead so we could get the sales team something to start with. I was able, over time, to revise and update the materials as I gathered more intelligence about the markets we were serving. This made the materials much more relevant and effective than they were at first.

Fast forward a few years… I was working on packaging and launching a new database-type service that had the potential to be needed in within every country around the world. Again, I was asked by the sales team to create a marketing piece so they could go out and sell it. This time, I had to draw the line. It was time to do some market research on the particular potential offering before we could even begin to have a piece that would be effective and informative.

  • What was the market looking for in an offering of this type?
  • How were they currently solving their need to have this information?
  • If they outsourced, what were their main criteria for choosing a partner?

These and other questions needed to be asked, or any collateral developed would be far less effective.

I continue to believe that, as with good product management and development, any new marketing collateral must start with the needs of the market. Otherwise, not only are you grasping at straws, you end up talking about yourself instead of how you can help your customer.

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