Charged with defining and communicating unique product attributes and critical elements of competitive advantage, marketing departments often fork in two directions – Marketing Tyrant or Marketing Weenie.
Why do those on the marketing bus turn one way or the other? They are usually driven by the frustration of being responsible for communicating advantage, but not having control over the existence of that advantage.
The Marketing Tyrant – “Make the focus group happy or off with your head!” Never a pretty picture, the marketing tyrant behaves as if complete control is theirs (whether in the organizational chart or not). This can lead to the communication of compelling, yet undeliverable, promises that damage brand credibility. It can also drive development that follow, rather than lead, customer behavior. (If your customer has all the answers they probably don’t need you!)
The Marketing Weennie – “Our product is a commodityeeee, we’re not doing anything uniiiiiique. Do something unique, pleeeeeeeeeese.” Without any feeling of control over product the Marketing Wiennie is left to whine and take orders. This ends with communication that is un-inspiring, wordy and lacks any impact on brand equity.
There is a third way, where marketing feels empowered to effect product and energizes the complete corporation to innovate in ways meaningful to your customers – The Marketing Persuader.
The Marketing Persuader works to drive every process in your organization towards meaningful competitive advantage by following three core initiatives, which I will talk about Monday.
Wow! It is already October. Hard to believe 2006 is winding down. For all businesses the end of our fiscal year means turning your focus on the next year’s opportunities and challenges.
Here are a couple of thoughts to help with this process:
1. If Marketing is responsible for writing the plan, who else is at the table? If you don’t have all of your business represented you are missing important insight. Remember marketing is about bringing all the spokes of the wheel together to present a solid product/service to your marketplace.
2. Remember you can’t create a brand only through messaging and creativity. A brand is developed over time by the complete relationship between customer and company. Too many businesses talk about “strengthening their brands” without ever looking at all of the pieces of the business. Xerox’s brand today comes from years of outstanding relationships, product and service to the market. If you need a “bad” example of putting the brand before the product think about “pets.com”
3. Don’t forget to look for trends, opportunities and other information from beyond your market boundaries. What is influencing other industries and how might that affect yours?
4. Don’t write next year’s plan without understanding how this year’s is performing. And remember, this year is still underway!
5. Bring your customers to the table to help understand their perspective, but remember, customers do not have a unbiased perspective. It is their biases you need to understand the most!
6. Build your budget off your plan starting at zero every year. A zero-based budget forces a business to ask hard questions and question hard-wired assumptions. There should be no sacred programs!
7. As a corollary to #5, remember great programs need time to find their momentum. You can’t judge everything on short-term performance.
8. Your marketing plan should address both your internal key influencers (employees) and your external key influencers (shareholders, media, industry execs, etc.)
9. Make sure you have measures identified along with action plans and accountabilities to ensure your plans are implemented. Also build in regular review for mid-year corrections when necessary.
10. Have fun — celebrate your successes and your failures because it takes both to conquer your market.
60% of sales professionals felt that input from marketing DID NOT improve the effectiveness of their sales cycle in a poll this year by Sales and Marketing Management. At the same time, 35% of marketing professionals felt that their sales organization DID NOT effectively use the tools they implemented for their use.
Mutually supportive groups who point fingers at each other often have process measurements that are not relating well. Marketing can be measured by output of items and meeting dates, whereas sales is evaluated continually along the sales process continuum.
Try placing each marketing tool available on the process map used to evaluate sales. Usually there are items that don’t fit well anymore and holes that need filling. Done well, enough poorly fitting tools can be identified to free up the resources necessary to provide focus on new ways to support the sales process.
In a creative organization where marketing strategy is in tune with the sales process, strong communication and planning between the organizations makes the development and use of communication tools more productive.
At today’s Economic Development Council Richard Paullin, Chief Operating Officer – Illinois Global Partnership, told us that only 12% of Illinois Manufacturers export goods. Not surprising given my earlier post on how few manufacturers in the region are working to adopt technology more fully in their business. The stat that caught me, however, was that the firms that were selling internationally on average were growing 20% faster and paid employees 15% better.
The good news is that Illinois Global Partnership is working on developing infrastructure to help smaller and mid-size businesses develop overseas markets. The question is, if only 10% of manufacturers have the management savvy enough to actively pursue technological improvement, how many businesses will jump at the opportunity to strategically diversify their business internationally?
Where does your company sit? Are you actively pursuing foreign markets? Have you tried and given up due to cost, complexity or financing? Is it in your top three priorities or somewhere on the next page?
In addition to infrastructure and opportunity the Illinois Global Partnership will obviously have to work on pushing companies strategically decide to develop overseas markets or movement will be limited to the few with a clue.
Advanced, Progressive, Struggling and Disengaged were categories given out to manufacturers at a recent Chicago Economic Development Council meeting.
Two things stand out about these categories: First, if you are in any category other than Advanced you are at severe risk of having the world markets pass you by. Second, 75% of manufacturers in the greater Midwest fall into the bottom two categories.
I found the definitions of each category to be enlightening and relevant to any organization, not just manufacturers.
Advanced – Organizational recognition of change and active pursuit of technology. (Have a clue)
Progressive – Ownership recognition of change but low implementation. (Getting a clue)
Struggling – Ownership debating the need for change. (A clue is in the area)
Disengaged – Ownership not actively involved or sees no reason to change or implement technology. (Clueless)
There are few reasons why an organization can’t move itself up in these categories, positioning itself for growth in the global marketplace. It takes a strategic vision, a creative workforce and environment and a will to compete beyond existing markets. Plus, in the midwest reagion there are dozens of grants, government bodies, trade organizations that can be used creatively to drive towards a strategic vision.
The Chicago Economic Development Council is at www.edcchicago.org.