Innovarketing: Marrying Innovation and MarketingBy Douglas E. Rice

Management philosopher Peter Drucker famously segmented businesses into two essential functions: Innovation and marketing.

Innovation is building the product, and includes organization–from accounting and HR, to operations and IT.

Marketing is distributing the product and promoting the organization–from sales and marketing, to customer service and PR.

Drucker’s framework is helpful for setting job responsibilities and organizing roles.

After all, who wants accountants talking to customers or salespeople messing with the books? From the perspective of handling daily tasks, such a distinction certainly makes sense.

But when it comes to organizational values and culture, this compartmentalization is absolutely detrimental.

Breaking Down the Silos

When we divide workers into innovators and marketers, we send a clear message to each group.

To innovators, we say, “Your job is to make stuff. Let the marketers worry about how to sell it.”

To marketers, we say the opposite, “Your job is to sell stuff. Let the innovators worry about how it’s made.”

This creates a gap between what an organization does and who it does it for. The sharp distinction between one part of the organization and the other translates as a rigid barrier between the organization as a whole, and its customers.

The people who buy the stuff aren’t getting quite what they want, because the people who make it aren’t talking with the people who sell it.

“Innovation” is not enough. “Marketing” is not enough. What we need is Innovarketing.

Enter Innovarketing

Innovarketing is the marriage of innovation and marketing.

When everyone in the organization views themselves as “innovarketers,” they see everything through the lens of building things people want.

“Making” and “selling” are not two linear steps in which different departments play a part.

Innovators make stuff with selling in mind, and marketers sell stuff with making in mind.

Everyone becomes an innovarketer.

What does this look like in practice?

Let’s say your organization designs small plastic household storage containers. The “Innovation-then-Marketing” organization goes about its business like this:

  • The designers and engineers collaborate with operations to create molds that look nice and ship well.
  • The product is turned over to marketing. The graphics department creates pretty pictures for the catalogues and packaging, the copywriters wax poetic about whatever benefits they can think of, and then the salespeople use this information to sell the containers to retailers.

Sounds like most organizations, right?

Make, then sell.

The “Innovarketing” organization does things a little bit differently.

This organization sends researchers into people’s homes–asking them questions about what they would like to see developed in containers, and making observations about how they currently use them. These researchers bring the information back to the team to build these expectations into the production and marketing.

Every quarter, researchers will go back out to collect more data, and the cycle repeats itself.

Does this sound like any organization you know? Does it sound like yours?

Building the Right Products for the Right People

Innovarketing, in the end, is all about creating a culture of organizational curiosity.

It’s about pausing to ask, “Is this even something the customer wants?” before shipping and selling.

It’s about being market-driven rather than product driven.

It’s about facing the realization that, as much faith as you have in your product, it could be irrelevant to your market.

More than anything, innovarketing is about flexibility–adopting the willingness to change long-held traditions in the face of new customer demands.

How about you? Are you ready to bring innovarketing to your organization? Are you ready to bridge the gap between what people actually want from your product, and how your company produces and pitches it? Then, speak up. All it takes is a simple question.

Just ask, “Why are we doing this?” every chance you get. The rest will take care of itself.

Image courtesy of ufozoo on Flickr.

Douglas Rice

Douglas E. Rice is a marketer, writer, and researcher striving to live the curious life. He is the author of The Curiosity Manifesto, a book about learning new things and keeping an open mind.

View all posts by Douglas Rice