You Can’t Hide from a Marketing Problem

There has been an ongoing discussion during the past few years about the integrity of business. (Think Enron, Haliburton, etc.) I think this conversation has been somewhat overstated given that the majority of business owners in the U.S. are honest and trustworthy people trying to succeed in a very chaotic marketplace.

For the past several years, the marketplace has seemed to reward businesses that have a great “presence” but not always a strong delivery system. I have always hated the phrase “they can talk the talk but can they walk the walk?” But, for many businesses, the past decade focused on the talking and not worrying so much about walking. And I think it is because marketing has, as a discipline, taken a different role in business than traditionally wielded. We have, in some corners, become more about communications, ‘Q’ scores and “buzz” and less about building and growing a business.

In the more traditional marketing model, marketing set the standards around which the product was delivered. This vision drove manufacturing, operations, inventory management, finance and sales. Marketing was responsible for bringing the marketplace opportunity and the business ability together in successful execution. Only a small part of marketing was the communication side of the discipline.

In recent years, businesses began to look to different disciplines within their business model to find their advantage and their focus – programming, finance, sales channel, delivery system. The right things to do certainly, but marketing didn’t lead the effort, guaranteeing that the organization and infrastructure was strong enough and focused enough to deliver a product that enough customers want in a way that is financially viable for all.

And because of this, it was easy for businesses to set aside their infrastructure/ marketing problems that occurred when business was good and the immediate consequences minor.

“So what if our service ratings have fallen…”
“So what if our quality perception scores are down from last year…”
“So what if our product is backordered for 60 days…”
“So what if our billing system only has a 75% accuracy rating…”
“So what if …”

I think the 90’s allowed businesses to follow the “Field of Dreams” philosophy – build it and they will come. But too many forgot that it isn’t whether they will come or not but whether they will buy.

Marketing, as a discipline, has followed the same creed. Too much time and money spent on creating an image instead of creating the product. Coca-Cola is a mega-brand not because of the money spent on advertising this year but because of the decades of delivering a high-quality product that satisfied their customers’ needs and desires. Their marketing team has been an amazing example of success – not because they do great advertising…but because they deliver a great product to build a great business. And, even Coke can’t rest on its image and not worry about the product – hence the disastrous New Coke of years gone by. Marketing’s responsibility to its organization is finding the right balance between the great idea and the great business.

It is time to return to the idea of marketing as the discipline of the whole business. It is about the product and the marketplace delivery system; the communications and the manufacturing/service development; the promotion and the customer care. Marketing is about how your entire business works together to deliver a great product or service to the marketplace.

Marketing should represent both the marketplace and all of its demands as well as the business and the need to deliver products and services profitably. Is there a need? Is there a gap? Is there an opportunity? What are the benefits? What would they spend? Where would they buy? What would it cost? How does it have to be delivered? What are the inventory pressures?

Facing the problem, when you learn about it, in an honest and assertive way will guarantee a brighter future for you and your business. Don’t bury your head (or the messenger) in hopes that it will go away. Dig into it; understand the impact on your business processes and your customer. Ask questions and look for answers – both short-term fixes and long-term solutions – they both count.

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