“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu
I had an epiphany about marketing strategy recently—and I’d like to credit it to this quote from the great Sun Tzu, but instead, it happened thanks to a large tin-can of popcorn
Let me explain: I was working with a client that, shall we say, was not focused on strategy, and the head of marketing, shall we also say, was, instead, keenly focused on doing stuff to show their worth. In this “Marketing of Things” mindset, this marketing leader (who shall remain nameless) felt the best marketing ploy du jour was a large can of popcorn. Across the country, clients received multiple varieties of popcorn, along with a note asking for more business. I’m sure plenty of people enjoyed sharing the kernels of this marketing leader’s labors—but few, if any, made the connection to the company’s services—and even fewer picked up the phone.
Lest you think this is a one-off situation. I, and my fellow fractional Chief Marketers here at Chief Outsiders, see it all the time—a Marketing of Things (MoT) mentality. Sometimes known as “random acts of marketing,” MoT refers to the actions and tactics that have no thoughtful tie-in to the organizations’ brand, strategic positioning and messaging.
If your organization has cool shirts, pens, mugs and other tchotchkes and maybe even you execute great events, but have an inconsistent marketplace message and very few if any marketing qualified leads, you might have a great MoT organization. But, a truckload of popcorn, frankly, is no substitute for a thimbleful of solid marketing strategy. If your organization is too caught up in the “Marketing of Things,” and not marketing with a purpose, read on, and learn how to get your organization thinking strategically, and focused on growth:
Own Your Strategy: How do you want to be known to the marketplace? This is not a question to be addressed in a vacuum, or even by your company’s marketing management. Instead, your marketing and senior leadership teams must jointly determine what your brand stands for, how it is positioned, and whether customers and prospects agree, before developing and honing your message. Understanding WHY a prospect should do business with you is the key to resonating and connecting with your audience. Look at your offering through the eyes of the prospect, distill it to the most salient, high-level value that you deliver—and only then should your marketing team take the next step. One critically important key—enlist the right strategic marketing leadership with this make-it-or-break-it process. A sales leader often isn’t best positioned to think broadly and long-term, due to monthly and quarterly quota goals, but the marketing team must think strategically before any tactics should be considered.
Build Your Marketing Plan: Once your brand persona, positioning and messaging are fleshed out, now it’s time to develop the marketing plan. Resist the temptation to start thinking about the cool coffee mug you so badly want to send to your prospects, and instead, make sure the plan is focused around the organizational goals around things like revenue and customer growth, retention rates, customer experience and gross margin. Your completed marketing plan will be the tool that will drive your budget, and in turn, the thoughtful allocation of funds on tactics that will address one or more of the organizational goals. If that means buying pens—as long as they can be tied to the achievement of one or more of the goals—by all means go for it.
Drive Growth: Your marketing team will ultimately be held in account for moving the company’s revenue engine, so it’s imperative to ensure your marketing team is being strategic, thoughtful and focused. However, execution can’t just be the domain of the marketing minds—it has to be an organization-wide mindset, starting with a leadership team that is totally aligned around the plan. A great gauge of whether you have successfully culturally assimilated everyone behind this strategy is to ask three people from different departments to answer the question, “Why should someone do business with us?” If the answers are all substantially similar, you have the foundations for success. Walking the walk, before talking the talk.
So, ready to drill deeper into the specifics of morphing from a MoT to an MoS organization? Stay tuned for the next blog in the series. Can’t wait that long? Please feel free to reach out – I’d be honored to bring what I’ve learned on the subject to your organization.