Competing For Customers and Capital: Wrapup

by Chris Kenton on December 4, 2006

It’s now time to wrap up our online Book Discussion of Victor Cook’s Competing for Customers and Capital. This has been the most sustained coverage I’ve hosted on marketonomy of any single topic, and I know it’s left a number of readers scratching their heads. It’s a technical financial topic. It’s an academic topic. It can be hard to follow if you’re far removed from your last class in accounting. Why spend so much time drilling down into the nitty gritty details on a marketing site? Why? I firmly believe Competing for Customers and Capital is one of the most important business books in a generation, and certainly one of the most important marketing books of all time. If that sounds overheated, let me explain why.

Marketing today is a profession adrift. After decades of outward-looking focus on customer trends, market research and branding, marketing has been caught flat-footed by a sea-change in business management that demands operational efficiency, performance accountability, and a mastery of business processes that drive shareholder value. These are practices that corporate strategists have focused on for decades, and delivered robust methodologies over the years including TQM, Lean Manufacturing, the Balanced Scorecard, and others. The best marketing has been able to do is respond reactively–and reluctantly–to the demand for accountabilty, and not very robustly at that. Most marketers today spout ROI terms and concepts with no real understanding of the implications beyond campaign efficiency metrics for customer acquisition. Hardly any understand that most popular metrics of ROI are entirely internally focused, and make no contribution to competitive market strategy. I’ve said it so many times you’ll be tired of it by now: using most ROI metrics, you can be masterfully efficient at winning the wrong customers.

With the recent rise of the title CMO, marketers are becoming more transparent in their desire for a seat in the boardroom, but they have no roadmap to get there. Most CMOs see themselves as future CEOs, and yet marketers still can’t agree on how, exactly, to define the fundamental contribution of marketing to the corporation. The only seat most marketers have a hope for in the boardroom today is the hot seat, defending their budgets and performance to a room of skeptical directors.   

Competing for Customers and Capital is the first marketing finance framework that gives marketers the tools they need to contribute meaningfully to board room discussions–beyond having to justify performance. Victor Cook’s framework is not a hastily written trope to bank on the best-selling fads of ROI or customer-centricity; it’s the culmination of 40 years of groundbreaking ideas connecting market strategy to enterprise finance. It’s the first framework of marketing finance that provides a set of outward-facing metrics to guage competitive market performance, and that connects product and capital markets.

This is a critical book for marketers, because it drives a heavy stake in the ground right on the dividing line that will separate the marketers who will be relegated to managing campaigns and the marketers who will take a respected seat in the boardroom. Yes, it can be a challenge to tackle and comprehend new ideas, like those put forth in Competing for Customers and Capital, especially when you have to go back and relearn some fundamentals. But the stakes are high, and the payoff is clear. You either want it or you don’t.

While this ends the discussion of Competing for Customers and Capital, I’m hoping to continue dialogs and discussions in collaboration with Victor Cook. We’re reviewing a few ideas to put together a roundtable and/or seminar on Enterprise Marketing early next year. If you’re interested in getting on the invite list early, drop me a note and let me know what areas of this discussion are of greatest interest to you.

Thanks to everyone who joined us to read this book dialog; a big thanks to everyone who posted; and a huge thanks to Victor Cook for being available to respond, and for putting together his narrated powerpoints to support the discussion.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ron Strauss December 11, 2007 at 10:01 am

Congratulations Chris on a job extremely well done. I chair the AMA’s Brand Strategy and Management Special Interest Group’s online discussion, so I know the effort that you and Vic have put into these series of posts.

I think that you’ll find, over time, that these posts and discussions will have outsized value and impact. I urge you to keep this material available over the long term – people will discover it over time…

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