David Roman, CMO and SVP, Lenovo, on smart strategy

Are you creating a marketing organisation for the long or short-term? Brands need to ensure they keep balance between immediate and more visionary ambitions.

I’ve never done anything but marketing in the technology space. It’s all I know. If you look at marketing as a discipline, at school, all the things we learn are based on the fact that an industry evolves in a certain way and matures.  In technology, things change so much that it breaks that mould.

Therefore, there are two levels where we drive marketing. One is supporting our sales goals and that tends to be the short-term return on investment in each quarter. The other part is building the company and moving to where we want to be in a three-year time frame.

If you stay too focused on the short-term, your decisions will always be sub-optimal in the long-term.

Match development with strategy

If you look at our new tablet and notebook products, those are new categories that are relatively high-end: they are not high volume products. If we wanted to optimise volume and sales we would be promoting more mainstream products to sell at high volume.

On the other hand, if you don’t have the new categories and products you are not going to move towards where you want to go. In marketing one of the challenges is maintaining that balance.

We are absolutely focused on supporting the short-term sales, as we need that business momentum to continue to fuel the growth. We also have to balance that with starting to position ourselves in the spaces where we want to be successful over time.

However, when a company is growing fast, it’s much easier to do. When a company is in a downward spiral and you are losing business and missing targets, then the pressure of marketing becomes tougher because then you tend to cut anything that is long-term and focus on the short-term. When the company is doing well, it’s a great position to be in.

Find fast-moving markets

The UK historically has been a great market to adopt new technology as trends take on very quickly. The opportunity is huge for Lenovo because we are starting from a relatively low base on the consumer side; there is a lot of upward potential.

The key thing is focus. Often when people say ‘marketing’ you think of the marketing communications telling the market about the product.

Equally important in marketing is getting insight into what the market really wants and what is going to be relevant, so you have the right product in the first instance.

In our industry products create brands so you have to know where you want to go and have something that anchors the story. Having actor and technology fan Ashton Kutcher as a product engineer is a huge plus for us. He not only helps us develop the product, he also helps us make the product relevant to the market.

Ensure you create a strong brand story

The easiest mistake to make in marketing is if you don’t clearly define the part of the market you want to be relevant to, especially when you are a relatively small player. You can waste so much effort and dilute your story.

For example, if you have 10% of the market one way to define your opportunity is to say there is 90% of the market that you want. In actual fact you are not going for the full 100% – you actually want to grow to 20%.

The more tightly you can define the next 10% that you want to go after, the more likely you can come up with something that is truly relevant to people and truly compelling. That is the key to success.

It’s an easy thing to say but when you are in it, it’s a difficult thing to see. You look at any opportunity as one to chase and go after but you can end up diluting your story so much that it becomes insufficient and that doesn’t help you build over time.

Think carefully about who you are focused on, who you are targeting and who are going to be your best customers. Once you have that, everything becomes a given because you know what products to create, which channels to use and the storyline you need. That focus is the most important thing.