Prof Dominique Turpin on creating value for customers and innovation in organisations
When you think of the word ‘marketing’, what comes into your head? Chances are, like many people, you’ll have a vague notion of what it means and little awareness of its importance for growth.
Thinking back to my days as a student of journalism, I can just about remember the ‘Four Ps’ of marketing (price, product, promotion, and place), but the rest, sadly, is lost to the lecture halls of history.
One thing is for sure: marketing is vital for growth in any industry today. Appearing on The Leaderonomics Show, Professor Dominique Turpin spoke to host Roshan Thiran about the fundamental quality of marketing.
He said, “Marketing is – and always has been – about how you can create value for the customer. Any business needs to provide value to the customer, otherwise why would you buy particular products or services?
“This is what we’ve been trying to explain to executives, although to me, marketing is good common sense. But we still have to push this idea that you create value not by asking your customers what they want – because typically, today, they don’t know what they want, and the last thing you want to hear is ‘price’.
“So, we ask: ‘Okay, can you think of how to make your customers’ lives easier, better, cheaper? If you can do three at one time, then you are in good business.”
When asked why there is some reluctance by some leaders to truly embrace marketing, Professor Turpin – currently the dean of external relations at IMD Business School, Switzerland – suggested that leaders can have a cavalier approach to the concept.
He believes that leaders can be dismissive of marketing because it appears to be simple. But, he says, golf is simple too – you have a ball and you try to get it into a hole using a stick. While it sounds easy in theory, the practice is a different story, and leaders need to recognise the important distinction.
As the fascinating conversation turned to digitalisation, Professor Turpin said that the model of digital marketing tends to flourish in countries that have a single common language and a large population. Smaller countries that are multi-lingual can, he argued, find it difficult to gain a foothold in the digital space.
He said, “When you see what’s happening in the world, digitalisation is happening where the markets are fairly big in terms of scale. So, coming from Switzerland – where we have seven million inhabitants – you don’t have the economies for scale. On top of that, we speak four different languages.
“But when you look at the United States, where English is a common language and there is a large population, this is where you see the advances of technology taking place. I don’t expect any new insights coming from smaller countries, which have other qualities but don’t have economies for scale.”
Innovation in large organisations
Addressing organisation scale, Professor Turpin talked about the effect it can have on disruption. As businesses get bigger and more complex, they find it increasingly difficult to maintain an innovative edge.
Disruptors, he said, are those who look beyond the complexities of a problem and look for simple solutions instead. As a result, they are often more agile and can act with greater speed over their competition – especially if the competition is a major brand.
Again, it all comes back to providing value for the customer, and keeping that in the forefront of your vision as a leader. The problems start to arise when business leaders lose sight of this very simple yet powerful rule.
He said, “I recently interviewed the founder of GoPro, and I asked, ‘How did you come up with this idea?’ Because Sony, Nikon, Canon and others have been in business for so long. But he said that these businesses were becoming very complex, and that all he did was to turn the camera 180 degrees to face the person who wants more of themselves on Facebook and Instagram.
“When I meet disruptors, I am always struck by how simple the idea is – and it’s always about focusing on a problem we’ve always been facing. It’s the difference between someone in the street who faces a problem, goes home and is very frustrated, and somebody who is going to take action.”
So, how can leaders maximise their skills and resources to be efficient in taking action as the markets become increasingly competitive? According to Professor Turpin, it all boils down to keeping things simple by focusing on making connections and providing value.
He said, “You need to surround yourself with talent and not be shy about surrounding yourself with people who are better than you are. If we take Bill Gates, for example, it’s one of the biggest qualities he has – he knows how to surround himself with people who are of a very good calibre.
“So, the human factor will always make the big difference. Yes, you need to think strategically and simply – complexity is a big killer, with businesses putting all sorts of processes in place and so on.
“If you’re a big company, you need to put in place simplicity, and a lot of innovation… the complexity is what’s killing great potential in these companies.”
Watch the full interview here: