I still encounter those who see marketing as at best a necessary evil and at worst a practice of smoke and mirrors with no substance.
This unwarranted prejudice is borne out of a lack of understanding of the core principles of marketing. Sceptics who poke sticks at marketers often suggest that the acquiring of customers is not difficult. Winning new business is not connected to marketing activity. They believe that by producing a quality product or service customers will return and promote to others. That method of gaining customers can often be effective but the marketing element should already be interwoven with production and customer experience and not simply be seen as a blunt instrument of advertising or PR before or after the fact. Ironically sceptics often employ marketing techniques, unaware of their natural ability to develop the business. MD’s don’t always connect their activity to marketing which they see as a separate collection of basic promotional actions.
If you were to survey 100 non marketers and ask them for a definition of marketing the chances are over 50% would reference advertising within their response. The truth is marketing, certainly for me is “The Business of Business” a little more than creating and placing an advert. To be an effective marketer you must understand all you can about your customers, the financial model that produces the product, where the margins kick in, the mechanisms involved in delivering the product and the experience of customers once purchased. The entire scope of the company, its infrastructure, inner workings and technical elements must be understood to contextualise a successful approach to develop the brand and thereby grow the business.
All too often when recruiting or appointing a marketing resource business owners go into the process with a narrow pre-determined idea of what the person will add to the mix. They focus on PR or advertising. They might also worry about the need for a better online presence rather than consider an opportunity to involve the marketer in helping with business planning and setting a strategy.
Typical Marketing Professionals Skill Set
An added challenge for many is the “hobby” marketer boss who believes they can play “the marketing game”. We all consume so many marketing messages each day it’s not surprising that a boss or client might suggest they have the answer to a new advertising campaign, website or sponsorship deal. Don’t for one minute think I’m against business owners or bosses getting engaged with the marketing activity. I’ve spent far too long in my career trying to encourage such interest to fight it; but it can be difficult for junior, less experienced marketers to put a counter view forward when the ultimate decision maker insists on having their way.
Where experienced and effective marketers set themselves apart is in their ability to distinguish “good ideas” from the ego driven project. They need an ability to swiftly reflect and analyse any newly presented opportunity, establish the potential impact and make recommendations in plain jargon free English. That particular skill can save organisations a large chunk of their marketing budget.
A very good example of the scale of the challenge for today’s marketer is their need to stay on top of the terabytes of information related to digital marketing. Without necessarily being an expert the modern marketer must understand the principles of SEO, (search engine optimisation) PPC (pay per click advertising) Social Media, Mobile Technologies, Online Advertising and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Interpreting Google Analytics and having the confidence to reject or accept digital agency proposals are also essential attributes of those holding the responsibility for marketing in any organisation.
Yes it’s complicated out there but life is these days. We can either keep up or give in and outsource management to the wave upon wave of niche agency suppliers promising to deliver success. Without the confidence borne out of our own knowledge of specific marketing processes we’re left with fingers crossed just hoping that the agency knows what they’re doing with their sizeable budget. Personally I don’t see it as an option. We owe it to ourselves, clients and employers to provide the very best level of expertise and professionalism and demonstrate that more than ever we have the knowledge and the spark to drive businesses forward.
Far from being a dirty word marketing is the discipline that business owners need to embrace wholeheartedly. They need to seek out the very best qualified practitioners to work with, provide resource and trust them to deliver. David Laud – FCIM Chartered Marketer, consultant.
When most of my fellow Generation X’s first set out on their careers I doubt many would have guessed accurately how their lives would pan out or how challenging it would be to be a success in their chosen field.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be but looking back the signs were there at a very early age. Creating my own football cards using imaginary players and actually selling them, 2p each. Re-selling my fathers confectionary ingredients in sample bags during school break times and making a few pounds from a card club that hid within the legitimate but rather more boring chess club.
After a few failed attempts in other areas, insurance and travel I discovered marketing and hey presto I’m now a marketer, one of the chartered variety actually I have a certificate that says so.
But even though my career path has seemed relatively linear; school boy salesman, marketing exec, sales manager, marketing manager, head of marketing etc.. I can assure you it’s been far from straightforward.
I’m not unusual in this reflection of my work life. Whether soldier, scientist, safe cracker or solicitor; dealing with day to day matters to stay one step ahead has become increasingly challenging.
But why is this and what of the future? Part of the issue is time or rather a lack of it. We try and achieve too much and have over exaggerated expectations of what we can do in a day. Technology is a big part to play in that. E-mail, text, tweet and facebook post make you readily accessible to a population who are only too ready to take your time.
Time moving faster as we get older is of course a perception rather than a reality but it feels very real. This is because we have lost our sense of wonder. Two years in the life of a toddler can seem as long as the average retirement, almost twenty years because a two year old is seeing most things for the first time. Everything is new, exciting, challenging, rewarding, painful, funny and days stretch on filled with these experiences.
By the time we come to retire we’ve seen it, done it, bought the XXL T shirt and possibly the XX video. Little can shock, inspire, challenge or excite us. But if we want to see time slow down we should take a different mental attitude. Be prepared to see the wonder again in simple pleasures, no not necessarily hug your nearest conifer but try and recapture that childlike innocence and strip away the cynicism and explore.
That is of course a tough ask for many. By the time we hit our 30’s 40’s and certainly 50’s we’re pretty much set in our ways, in a groove that we’ve designed for ourselves. It’s comfortable, safe and secure. Change is threatening and offers a chance to fail which we have become programmed to resist at all costs.
As young children we didn’t understand the concept of time – no deadlines, appointments, 9 to 5 mentality – and we can’t now un think that conditioning but we can try and recapture the simplicity of life and observe some of the detail that can go whizzing past us on a busy day.
It starts with removing the self imposed and pestering time wasters that are often linked to the technology we use.
I’ve revisited an old time management book, put in place a few simple but very effective rules and started to appreciate how much time is truly wasted in any given day. Now I’m winning back time previously flushed away amongst groaning e-mail inboxes and must respond voicemails.
Taking back control of your working day is just the first step. What you do with that extra precious resource of time is the next.
Time to clock off, it’s time for play … 🙂
David Laud – firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps it’s the natural born geek in me connected to the genuine interest in new marketing mediums but I’ve blogged a lot about online activity, time to consider matters offline.
What do I mean by “offline”? Well literally anything that’s not computer or even phone related, that’s my definition. Others are more specific stating online is anything internet based but with sms and app technologies I think we need to broaden that to include smartphone marketing.
Twitter, Linkedin et al are awash with marketing experts pushing particular top ten ways to…, things to avoid, the must have software all related to developing online business. True, there is a massive market out there online but we shouldn’t become too focused on this channel of activity.
Offline online crossovers do occur of course with articles and press stories appearing in online news and traditional paper based periodicals but in the most part there is a distinction.
So what offline activity should we be looking at if we’ve spent a little too long screen staring?
Events – Event based marketing that brings targets to you. Offering your guests an opportunity to experience something interesting and worthwhile that may help them in either their professional or personal life can be an ideal way to raise your brand profile.
Meetings – the opportunity to spend time face to face with a prospect customer is still one of the best methods of generating new business. With finances and time often in short supply it can be hard to persuade a prospective buyer to open their door. Preparation and an appropriate approach to each prospect is the key. These days the “hard sell” won’t get you very far customers are far too aware of the signs so taking a consultative problem solving approach can be far more effective.
TV and Radio – whilst times have been tough for broadcast media many stations have adapted to offer attractive and not always “break the marketing bank”, methods of advertising. Sponsorship of certain regular features can be a very good entry into TV or radio but it isn’t for all businesses and can still be expensive if not focused or creatively weak. This medium can still dazzle many business owners who fall in love with the idea of broadcasting their brand in this way.
Press Adverts – again publishers have been struggling to attract advertising revenues so be prepared to bargain hard if it’s a route you’re considering. As with TV and radio it can be expensive if you dip in and out rather than construct a campaign of reasonable duration unless of course you have a specific promotion and time limited call to action event. We still like to read and take in information on good old papyrus rather as well as pc although figures on readership are down generally certain local newspapers and magazines have bucked the trend.
Direct Marketing – traditional mailshots are declining. This is a result of the increase in e-mail marketing as more of us are online and the costs compared to design, print and distribution of leaflets or flyers. As with newsprint – a well designed and targeted mail campaign can still be effective. Personally I’m a big fan of a well drafted letter but many households have signed up to the mail preference service (mps) which actively prevents you targeting them for such activity. Taking the message to areas where your target market congregates eg a shopping centre, may be one way to overcome the compliance issue but again the creative execution would need to be one that makes an impact.
Not an exhaustive list but some examples of the offline activity that has worked for years and can and does still work for many businesses b2b or b2c global corporation or sole trader.
The decision to buy a product or service can be a complex one based upon a range of influences. Often it is the human interplay and physical connection that helps the customer to finally decide but subliminal supporting references gained from marketing in a variety of mediums will always help.
Online activity certainly supports the cause but it’s the traditional routes with a fresh “twist” that can help to make your business stand clear of the competition.
If you have any examples of effective offline activity we’d love to hear from you.
David Laud – Chartered Marketer