By Chuck Sink
Executives and business owners will often call in a marketing company for ideas to help rejuvenate sluggish or declining sales. “We just need help attracting some fresh new leads for the sales team and we can handle it once we get them talking with us.” It’s a commonly expressed sentiment. My experience has been that once such a meeting takes place, and the marketing consultant knows how to probe, the discussion can turn into something much more profound.
Marketing isn’t a department or a function. Marketing encompasses products and services, brand(s), prices, distribution, promotion and sales. It’s most of your business activity and therefore requires the highest level of business strategy to succeed.
Small business owners are notorious for mistaking marketing with advertising and promotion and they let office managers or executive assistants “handle the marketing.” Even in large firms, the CMO – Chief Marketing Officer (if they have one) is almost always subordinate to the CFO and COO. They often report directly to the COO instead of the CEO. This makes me worry they might CCO – cease creating opportunities by having a buffer zone between the marketing officer and the Chief Executive & board.
The principles of marketing will always be pretty much the same because they are rooted in human nature and the laws of economics. The tactical marketing landscape, however, is nothing like it was ten years ago. The powerful implication here is that marketing strategy must adapt to new technologies and audience preferences. Product design must be superb. Service delivery must be revolutionary or you cannot sell on service!
New business prospect: “My current supplier does all that and more!”
Sidebar: Please stop basing your differentiation on service. Argue all you want but your service can and will be duplicated in short order. Great service must be a given or you’ll lose customers. Customers expect you to cater to them as a concierge and when you don’t, they will broadcast their experience rather than complain to you and a few of their friends.
A good marketing plan must be fully integrated in the overall business plan. A solid marketing strategy begins with a core foundation which includes:
- Market Research
- Target Audience Definition
- Competitor Analysis
- Branding (more important than many think!)
- Tactical Planing
Sounds like a lot of work and it is! I will readily admit there are successful companies that may not consciously plan out and execute all of the above but they actually accomplish these things by virtue of their innate business savvy. It helps when you have great people, driven every day to be the very best in the market! That overrides a lot of potential deficiencies in systems and processes.
There’s a whole lot more to modernizing and improving your marketing plan than trying to capitalize on social media. Feel free to chime in your thoughts with a comment. I’d also be happy to answer questions. You can even talk directly to the CEO. :)