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Jeffrey Immelt redefines marketing at GE

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Harvard Business Review - Offering "the first deep look under the hood of [Jeffrey] Immelt's GE," Harvard Business Review Editor Thomas A. Stewart recently interviewed General Electric's chairman-CEO, asking him to detail his strategy for organic growth. GE's goal? "Two to three times the growth of the global GDP." As part of the interview, Mr. Steward asked Mr. Immelt to expand upon one element of a six-part diagram used internally "to explain how specific initiatives fit into a larger organic growth process":

HBR: "Another element in the growth process is 'commercial excellence'-putting great sales and marketing leadership in place, burnishing the brand, and so forth."

JI: "If we can create a sales and marketing function that's as good as finance at GE, I'll change this company. In a deflationary world, you could get margin by working productivity; now, you need marketing to get a price. Before we launched this growth initiative, marketing was the place where washed-up salespeople went. They were chart-makers. We're talking about marketing as an aligned function again. We hired literally thousands of marketers. For the best of them, we created the Experienced Commercial Leadership Program, the kind of intensive course that we've long offered in audit and finance. That's 200 people a year, every year. We also resurrected the Advanced Marketing Management Seminar at Crotonville for senior executives. We put [Procter & Gamble's] A.G. Lafley on the board. We've been learning since we acquired Amersham in the health-care business, because it's a lot closer to the pharmaceutical industry than our business was, and it's all about marketing. But it will take ten years to drive these changes. You don't just say, 'I'm a marketing company' and become a marketing company."

-"Growth as a Process," Thomas A. Stewart, Harvard Business Review, June 2006
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