David Pottruck knows something about what it takes to make a project successful. As CEO of Schwab, he was responsible for turning the company into a Fortune 500 behemoth. Since then, he has recreated himself as a bestselling business author and put together one of the Wharton School's most popular courses. That's not to mention the bevy of organizations he still serves as Board Member or Chairman.

There are many qualities Pottruck has in common with the small cohort of those who have served as the head of a big ticket public corporation--relentless drive, organization, and determination, to name a few. Yet there is one area where his path differs from that of most Fortune 500 CEOs.

He started his career in marketing.

Unlike the finance background from which most prototypical corporate CEOs come, Pottruck springboarded to that role from the chief marketing officer position. As such, he has certain insights into what it means to effectively market an organization's offerings that many do not.

When discussing his outlook on marketing, Pottruck starts with a question that he feels every business person should be asking themselves: "Whose job is it to figure out how to create growth?" he says, "In my way of thinking it's the head of marketing who owns growing the business. Getting more revenues, getting more customers is that person's job."

In other words, marketers often go wrong by focusing on the external components of what is often referred to as marketing rather than what it should really be about. "Marketing is not the same as adverting and promotion," Pottruck continues, "Advertising and promotion are about packaging and telling the story, but it's more than that. Marketing is about creating things that don't exist."

By Pottruck's definition, the ability of an organization to succeed or fail long term rests on its marketing. The best marketers start by going out and talking to their customers "eyeball to eyeball" to find out "what their dissatisfactions, unmet needs, hopes and dreams are." Then they work directly with teams throughout the organization to craft products and services that fill these needs. Only then do they concern themselves with packaging and pitching what they've developed.

So why don't more marketers take this approach?

It's hard.

Marketers that focus solely on promotion don't have to go outside their comfort zones and push for change in other unfamiliar departments. But if your goal is truly to drive growth, that's exactly what you must do.

David Pottruck sees this as one of the biggest problems in business today, which is why he's decided to do something about it. Most recently, he published a book called Stacking the Deck: How to Lead Breakthrough Change Against Any Odds, which teaches businesspeople how to make change happen at every level all the time.

As Pottruck knows from a whole lot of personal experience, it is resistance to change that keeps marketers--and so many others in business--from doing what needs to be done even when the world is screaming for it.

Published on: Jan 14, 2015
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