“More people are doing marketing badly than any other profession I can imagine. What an opportunity…” – Seth Godin
Marketing has changed more in the last 20 years than arguably any other business discipline. Data, digital and the rise of social media means we’re living in an age of 24/7 connectivity, able to be bombarded with more marketing messages than ever before. Smaller businesses have also enjoyed a more level playing field, with the potential to reach and build meaningful relationships with their customers – without big advertising dollars to spend.
Marketing expert Philip Kotler writes: ”Today, everyone markets something. Knowing how to market is the challenge.”
A challenge indeed.
Marketing can and should be a key driver of growth for any business; not just a synonym for advertising and certainly more than just the “colouring in department”.
If your marketing isn’t working, is it actually set up to succeed?
Who’s got the monkey?
Harvard Business Review originally published Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey in 1974 and it’s regularly republished as a Classic with good reason. The monkey on the back metaphor is also an apt one for marketing because in many businesses it’s regarded as just that: a monkey to get off one’s back. A cost to the business. A set of tactics to promote and sell a product or service but of limited influence in the boardroom. Marketing will almost certainly fail under these circumstances.
The scenarios we typically see:
- No formal marketing. Business has been developed from a great product, word of mouth referral and/or excellent customer service. The time has come to set things up properly and take the business to the next level.
- Some marketing has been done, but it’s reactive and ad hoc. Marketing may be one of the many hats worn by the business owner, often falling off their very full plates. The business isn’t getting the results from marketing they deserve and they need guidance and direction.
- Marketing manager or team is in place however they may be siloed or marketing lacks strategy. Business is not seeing the desired outcomes from its marketing and leaders may be frustrated and questioning ROI. For others, there’s a crucial skills gap with some but not all of the critical marketing roles For example, you have an amazing implementer but no marketing leadership or strategy in place. Or you have story-telling down to a fine art but are not analyzing the return on your marketing effort.
To set up your marketing for success, it needs to become a legitimate and integrated function of your business, aligned with your strategic goals and accountable at leadership level. There also needs to be clear responsibility for the marketing “monkey” – who’s holding it and do they have the right skills and resources in place.
Strategy vs Tactics
Seth Godin writes “Most of us are afraid of strategy, because we don’t feel confident outlining on unless we’re sure it’s going to work”. Tactics are much easier to outline and achieve, and often have a far lower threshold for getting a green light to proceed.
The problem with a tactics first approach is that it keeps marketing at arms-length from your business strategy when they should be in cahoots. Your marketing can then easily become sporadic, inconsistent, reactive and ad hoc. Worst of all, running on the tactics treadmill will typically keep you so busy that you fail to stop and assess if or what marketing activity is working and whether is having an impact on your business goals.
We believe in strategy first. Always. Marketing strategy aligns your business goals to your marketing ones. It lays out where you are and where you’re trying to get to. It fixes a view on that horizon and establishes means by which to get there. It provides a framework and accountability for all those tactics: is our messaging right? Do we understand our customers and their needs? What are the right channels for communication? Do we have the right resources in place?
Traditionally, marketing has been hard pressed to present direct measures of impact or ROI back to the business, and this has been a factor in keeping marketing subservient to other departments such as sales – or viewed as discretionary expenditure.
In a recent article, Forbes stated that “technology-enabled consumer insight has become the great equalizer, enabling CMOs and marketers to play a more important role in generating sales” (to read in full how CMO Melissa Puls transformed marketing to create an astonishingly accountable business function in her organization click here).
If you have set a strategic intent for your marketing, created a plan and put the right resources and skills in place to achieve your goals, don’t falter at the last hurdle. Make sure you follow through, tracking and reporting on the results of your marketing activity. What’s worked? Even more important: what’s been learned? What are the insight gains that will feed back into the marketing planning cycle and drive your business forward? And what metrics are being used to determine this? For example, understanding leads might be measured in website traffic or database growth. Understanding your customers might come from feedback, surveys, social media engagement, looking at retention or a measure such as the Net Promoter Score. Sales and revenue growth, of course, the ultimate measures of success.
- As a business leader you need to understand the role of marketing, where it fits in to your organisation, who’s responsible and what resources you need.
- Have a strategic plan. Marketing is aligned with your business goals, and the marketing function is integrated not siloed
- Test, measure, learn, action. Marketing is accountable to the business.
Still reading? Then chances are you’re reflecting on how well your marketing is, or isn’t, serving your business. The critical question is: how well have you set it up to succeed?
If you’re struggling with this, please get in touch. We’re experts at building capability, and passionate about sharing our strategic marketing knowledge to provide direction, focus and support to in-house teams.
Tags: business growth, business success, leadership, marketing, marketing activities, marketing management, marketing results, marketing strategy, marketing success