Sri Lanka’s future is in good hands! This is the feeling I had as soon as I walked into the ballroom of Colombo’s Galadari Hotel on the 17th of March 2012. This feeling became stronger as the day went by to see the enthusiasm with which the 270 CIM students participating in the conference absorbed the wisdom dished out by the 4 Chartered Marketers of the Chartered Institute of Marketing [CIM] who had reached the top in organizations and the panel discussion that followed.
Deepal Sooriyaarachchi who spoke first outlined what it takes to be a ‘Future Proof Marketer’. He talked about the importance of knowing your strengths and improvement areas and making sure that marketing is the right profession for you. Then he went on to talk about the importance of knowing your job, profession and the company well so that you can market your products with confidence. Managing your career with the 4 essential steps of learning, mastering, managing and leading was highlighted as one of the essential requirements. Knowing your team was highlighted as essential for success as it is vital to have good team work for success. To top it up it was important to know your market and the world we operate in. While all of these aspects were important, I felt the key message was the need to have a firm set of ‘values’ and live by them remembering that we are human and we need to add value to humanity all the time.
Imal Fonseka spoke next spoke about ‘Leadership in Marketing’. He used examples and teachings from great business leaders and teachers. The message from Steve Jobs was that we need to love what we do if we are to do great work. He says ‘stay foolish, stay hungry’ for knowledge and success. Quoting the example of Martha Stewart from Warren Bennis, he explained the importance of integrity in leadership, mentioning that something legal does not necessarily mean it’s right. Another learning from Warren Bennis was the importance of creating a vision that engages others as done by leaders such as Adolf Hitler. According to Deborah Ancona leaders are not perfect and the best leaders don’t try to be perfect. They find others who can fill in their limitations.
Then he explained the leadership wheel that has the 4 qualities of sense making, relating, visioning and inventing with examples citing David Kelly, Herb Kelleher, Pierre Omidyar and Meg Whitman. He also used the leadership matrix from the centre for leadership studies – California to highlight the importance of leaders deciding the right approach from participating, selling, telling and delegating based on the situation of their teams and team members. Then he went on to explain the difference in leadership styles from western leaders to Asian leaders that can be described as transactional leadership to transformational leadership. The key take away was for us to adopt the right leadership qualities and style to suit our environment and marketers need to develop these to be effective in their jobs.
My presentation was on Interdisciplinary Marketing. I used my personal examples to highlight the interdisciplinary approach needed to become a successful marketer and prepare one’s self for a future CEO role. The message was that my marketing qualification alone was not enough to take me to the top. I approached the topic from two perspectives; Interdisciplinary focus and development and Marketing ‘Marketing’ to the other functions.
I highlighted the steps I took to improve my inter-disciplinary focus in various perspectives such as the social focus, leadership focus, technical focus, HR focus, financial acumen and business skills.
In order to market marketing to the other functions in the company, I applied the marketing concepts to my job by considering those in other functions as my customers and by positioning ‘Marketing’ as a mind-set essential for personal and professional success. Then I highlighted the importance of communicating the product concept both ways and showing results, i.e., delivering the brand promise. I highlighted the importance of using the opportunities that come over way to develop ourselves and give back to the universe. Click here to read my article for more details of my journey to the top.
The final presentation before the panel discussion that featured an eminent panel of marketers was by Ravi Fernando who spoke of Strategic corporate sustainability. He pointed out the impending disaster facing the world as close as 2025 facing a severed water shortage. While Sri Lanka is blessed as one of the countries with little or no water shortage a large portion of the world will not be as lucky and we need to take note of this to create businesses that are sustainable. A sustainable business needs to achieve triple bottom line success in economic, social and environmental performance. It is encouraging that in a recent survey, over 93% of CEO’s believe that sustainability issues are critical to the future success of their businesses and sustainability issues should be fully integrated into business strategy. The key message to future marketers is that they need to understand the importance of sustainability and ensure marketing strategy takes this vital issue into consideration for the personal success as a marketer.
The panel discussion that followed featured a star studded group of CIM members who work tirelessly to develop the marketing profession in Sri Lanka consisting of GS Sylvester, Failan Saleem, Yasas Hewage, Anuradha Edirisighe, Mohamed Adamaly and Dusty Alahkoon.
The conference therefore had many messages that may not be directly addressed in the marketing syllabus, delivered by four Chartered Marketers who have experienced and learnt the lessons practically on their way to the top and the equally successful panel. The future marketers are fortunate to learn these from those who have been there rather than having to learn these lessons through their own experiences.
Click here to read the story of Ranjan’s journey to the top.