What Security Executives Should Know About Marketing

[Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of Q&As with professors from the Wharton/ASIS Program for Security Executives. These Q&As address topics that high-level security executives need to know about working with senior corporate management. Other articles in this series are linked at the bottom.]

Why do security executives need to know about marketing? Not only is it one of the core business disciplines, essential to understanding and participating in the broader enterprise, but it has direct application to rolling out new security initiatives within organizations. We spoke recently with Wharton Marketing Professor Jagmohan Raju, who teaches in the Wharton/ASIS Security Executive Program, about some key areas of marketing knowledge of value to security executives. Professor Raju is the Joseph J. Aresty Professor and director of the Wharton-Indian School of Business Program. He consults extensively with companies around the world including Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Medtronic, Warner Home Video, and Johnson and Johnson on designing pricing strategies and developing launch plans for new products.

Marketing seems pretty far removed from the concerns of security executives. Why is it important?

We usually think about launching new products and services externally, but a similar process is used to implement new initiatives for an internal market. Security executives are often involved in promoting new ideas or launching new programs within their organizations. They need to have their ideas accepted and change the behavior of employees and managers in the organization. This is essentially a marketing challenge. Anyone involved in a change process needs to understand marketing. Where should I start? Who is the target audience? What are the benefits? These are all marketing questions, and understanding how to take a product to market can help in taking a new idea to an internal audience.

Security executives need to understand the principles of communication strategy, how people respond to ideas in the marketplace. Executives often have to address a large audience within the organization, not just the CEO, and often do not have the ability enforce new policies. Instead, they have to market these ideas. They have to use insights into the audience rather than enforceability to promote new ideas and initiatives. How do employees use their computers? How do they live their lives outside the company? The security industry is asking for tremendous changes in behavior inside companies. Knowledge of marketing can be invaluable in this process.

In addition to launching change initiatives, what other marketing knowledge is important?

Security executives are recipients of marketing activities. There are a lot of new technologies being thrown at them. They are major targets of high-tech marketing. Understanding marketing and where the seller is coming from can make them more savvy about this process.

What do security executives need to know to effectively reach internal markets?

First, you need to know how to develop a marketing plan. This begins with a marketing analysis of "the 4 Cs": consumers, competitors, company, and collaborators. In promoting an internal idea, the consumers often are the employees of the organization and the competitors might be the ideas or projects competing for attention and resources. You also need to understand the organization itself and find collaborators who can help carry the idea out to the internal market. The next step is to use that analysis to develop positioning for the product or, in this case, the new idea or initiative. How can it be presented in the best way to reach the target audience and address competitors? Then this positioning needs to be translated into what we call "the marketing mix."

What is the marketing mix in the context of promoting new security initiatives?

For a product launch, the marketing mix is traditionally referred to as the "4 Ps" - product, price, place, and promotion. Each of these four dimensions, and perhaps a few others, must be addressed in designing marketing plans. The product itself, its pricing, where it is offered, and the promotions that are used to support it will all affect its success. In launching new initiatives internally, the product might be thought of as the design of the initiative itself. Pricing is a little less directly applicable, but there are questions about what participating in the initiative will cost a given manager or employee. How much time is involved? Are there other direct costs? Do business units need to invest in new equipment or training? The price of participation will affect the uptake of the initiative, so making sure it is not more than the market will bear is critical. Place is also a concern. Where and how should the initiative be rolled out? Should it be in a large meeting or individually, top-down or bottom up? Finally, there is the question of promotion. What are you going to give to participants in the initiative to encourage them to participate? These could range from simple T-shirts or mugs to promote the initiative to more substantial offerings. You need to ask what will be the most effective approaches.

What is positioning, and how is it relevant?

Positioning identifies the target segment, the point of difference, and a frame of reference. Who is the target audience of the initiative? How is it different? And what is the context for it? Markets can be segmented in many different ways, including geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioral segmentation. The goal is to identify an attractive segment for the product or initiative, a few key benefits that the customer values and a position that is defensible. When Procter & Gamble initially launched Pringles, it was targeted toward heavy potato chip consumers, differentiated based on being less greasy, unbroken and healthier and positioned against other potato chips sold in bags. Of course, P&G later had to rethink this positioning, but this illustrates some of the key elements of positioning a new product or initiative. Positioning might be thought of as choosing the right pond. Am I in the right pond? Am I the biggest fish in this pond?

The positioning statement should focus on a unique selling proposition or value proposition for the buyer. It should be mind-grabbing and clearly stated in 30 seconds or less. It also needs to be defensible. It is not advertising or branding, but something broader.

Why is positioning important?

By itself, a great product or initiative is not a guarantee of success. You may have a better mousetrap but the world does not beat a path to your door. The initiative sometimes will not speak for itself. You need to present it in a way that clearly has value for the target audience if you want them to adopt it. Sometimes good positioning can make a winner out of a loser, and many good ideas go nowhere because of poor positioning. The cost of bad positioning can be quite high.

About this series: The Wharton/ASIS program superbly stimulates security improvement through educational reform by promoting better business comprehension and decision making by security executives. If you are interested in this program, please call 800-255-3932, ext. 4401, or send an email to execed@wharton.upenn.edu. Interviews with professors from the Wharton/ASIS security executive managment training program will be featured regularly on SecurityInfoWatch.com.

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