Over the years that I was in marketing leadership, I experienced the variety of misconceptions that companies had with marketing. It was rare to find a company that viewed marketing as a profitable tool to communicate the vision of the company. Instead, they expected marketing to compensate for their shortcomings, and somehow convince customers to prefer us despite our failures.
If you tried marketing in the past and it didn’t work, it’s very possible you did it wrong because, when done correctly, marketing works. I’ve had clients spend a fortune on something they call marketing, and after it failed, then vow not to do any more in the future. Even huge companies like Radio Shack and JC Penney have created marketing plans that failed because they tried to present something they are not, or ignored the trends and expectations of their market.
Marketing, very simply put, is the ability to align all your existing resources around a clear and compelling VISION. Let me break this down for you.
Alignment requires that EVERYONE in your company be going in the same direction. It doesn’t mean that everyone sees things the same way, but that they filter things through the lens that is based on who you are (or are committed to be), so everyone is headed in the same direction.
Alignment lets your team anticipate and quickly react to issues to resolve them in a timely manner. This allows them to know where the company is going and be proactive in finding new opportunities, avoiding conflicts and resolving issues quickly without having to ask you for everything. The synergistic effect of people aligned in the same direction makes every action that much more productive. Contrast this with the results of people chasing in a variety of directions trying to do what THEY think makes sense.
Alignment also means you don’t chase random opportunities that are not part of the vision for your company. You only work with the right type of clients in the markets you desire to serve that offer the products and services for which the market is asking. By focusing the team on reaching your goals and objectives, you will see great results.
You may not have the budget to run ads in the Super Bowl, but there are lots of creative marketing efforts you can use to reach your goals. One example was when the CEO of Mini challenged Porsche to a race. The video was created using a simple Flip camera and posted to YouTube, and had fantastic results. (Click the photo to see the video.)
Work with what you have and consider marketing as an investment, not an expense. Think about it this way, when a company decides to buy a new manufacturing machine, they create a pro-forma to show how many units they will need to manufacture over what time period in order to pay for the machine, then the rest becomes profit. Marketing should have the same ROI, or don't do it! Coca Cola can afford to spend money to build brand, but the rest of us should expect a measurable return on every marketing effort in which we invest. I know that Chief Outsiders has proven itself and is happy to agree on a deliverable like this, and you should expect the same from your team.
Too many companies throw money at “marketing stuff” that is not the BEST marketing choice. Don’t just do something because everyone is doing it or someone else had great results with it. Take time to understand your particular market, current trends, your product’s life-cycle, your competition, new technologies to reach your customers, as well as your budget and time constraints. Start with a great strategy, and find service providers to help you get the most out of what you have. This is where your vision is key.
Simon Sinek has done a great job opening the eyes of some business leaders to the need for a “WHY” in our business. A clear vision reduces internal battles that most companies have as people jockey to defend their position, instead of pulling the troops together to conquer the market. Your job as the CEO, Owner or President is to create a clear and compelling vision for your company so everyone is on the same page and pulling together to win the war.
Your company’s culture is a powerful marketing tool. If you’ve ever called Zappos to order something, you know what I’m talking about. Zappos’ vision for their company led them to create processes and teams that treat their customers in a way that creates “Brand Evangelists” who cannot wait to tell others about Zappos. (Click the photo to learn about the Zappos vision.)
Marketing should be a part of your plans from day one. Don’t build something and then decide how to market it. Marketing research can be as simple as talking with customers, searching on Google, asking your sales team for guidance or doing a face-to-face event. This can help you decide what you will sell, to whom, through what channel and at what price. Bring in your marketing team as you start to fine-tune your company’s vision the vision. Let them help communicate this to your internal team first, and the market second. If everyone in your company understands and is passionate about your vision, they will not let down the market as they interact with them.
Do you remember Ford trying to convince us that “Quality is Job One,” while their cars didn’t drive well? You can try all you want to convince the world you are a loving, caring company, but if your employees hate their job and pass this attitude onto your customers, no one will buy this. (I highly suggest you read the book Raving Fans and learn how your vision affects the way your team delivers excellent Customer Service.)
Don’t expect Marketing to make you look like something you are not. Instead, create a vision of your company that your team can follow with a passion. Then teach, train, and model this internally so every touch point is living out this vision. Once you own this, take your vision to the market and they will beat your doors down. At this point, the marketing team is charged with finding creative ways to share your story, not create one to cover who you really are.
So start today by evaluating all you are doing, applying what you know and learning more as you go. Use what you have today, and commit to invest more as you achieve successes with various marketing activities. If you need help to do this right, I’m sure Chief Outsiders would be glad to meet with you and talk about your options. Start with what you have, and align all your resources behind a clear and compelling vision, and reach your goals in 2014.
Robert Hunt is a Forum Leader and Business Partner for Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas, www.REFDallas.com. His career has been in Marketing and Sales Leadership, and he has carried this into his new role leading Peer Advisory Groups for CEOs, Owners and Presidents in the DFW area. You can connect with Robert on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook.