Growth Insights for CEOs

What do Bob Dylan, Soundboards, and "Big M" Marketing Have in Common?

Posted by Mark Coronna



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My wife has always been a huge Bob Dylan fan.  Me too, but not like her.  Years ago she bought Dylan tickets in the center section for his last concert at the State Theater in Minneapolis.  When we arrived at the theater, the usher said, “Oh, there’s a problem with your seats.  We had to put the soundboard where your seats were.  But, no worries, we gave you better seats.”  And they did—two rows from the front of the stage, right in the middle.

As I think about that giant soundboard covering what were supposed to be our seats, my mind starts comparing it to Marketing programs at different levels of maturity.  Soundboards offer virtually unlimited flexibility to the artist.  One site, in fact, offers 474,800 sounds!  Check it out.

As I’ve conducted Marketing program audits for clients, what I have often discovered, particularly in industry sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, distribution, and business-to-business generally, are Marketing programs which I’d characterize as “Small M” programs.  These programs operate using only a few of the Marketing go-to-market opportunities, options, and tools available.  There’s rarely a strategy or even a plan.  There’s often not a Marketing calendar.  You can draw a common profile of these “Small M” programs: They consist of events, a limited scope website, sales collateral, an occasional press release, and often not much more.

“Small M” Marketing programs rarely use digital marketing, and often ignore opportunities to secure brand visibility and to drive leads through highly leveraged programming.  They are tactical and relatively low value to the business, and have no strong linkage to a business’ growth agenda.

“Small M” Marketing programs are like sitting in front of a giant soundboard and using only one or two of the knobs, dials, and levers available.  I also describe this as “doing Marketing with one hand tied behind your back.”  Others describe “Small M” programs as consisting of “random acts of Marketing.”  That might be a bit harsh, but my point is this:  Why settle for “Small M” Marketing when you can have “Big M” Marketing?

“Big M” Marketing starts with a view that the role of Marketing is to drive growth.  Period.  If Marketing isn’t helping drive growth, then what is its role?  “Big M” Marketing starts with a Marketing strategy and action plan which is closely aligned with the corporate strategy.   “Big M” Marketing starts with the assumption that there is a rich set of alternative program options and tools that Marketing can utilize—like all the options available on a soundboard.

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I recently saw a powerful infographic which described 37 digital marketing program options alone!  Yes, Marketing is getting more complex as more options challenge the Marketing team to select the right ones for their business.   So, which are the right ones?  That depends on what you are trying to accomplish in your plan.  Are you renewing your brand, enhancing your value proposition, needing to dramatically increase demand generation, introducing new products or services, or launching into new markets?  These may be your goals, and you should map them to the “Big M” Marketing programs available to see where you get the best reuse, leverage, integration, and results.

“Big M” Marketing programs share other characteristics.  They stress investments AND return.  They stress the value of metrics, even if early metrics are not perfect because your team needs time and resources to develop measurement tools or your data is incomplete.

“Big M” Marketing programs drive higher results.  They are much more impactful in their ability to create more value for the business.  And don’t fall into the trap of thinking “Oh, my Marketing investment is going to double now,” because “Big M” Marketing programs measure and track results and funding can be proactively managed.  Even a small- or mid-sized business can cost-effectively access under-utilized “Big M” programs like traditional and social media and digital marketing to up their game.

One of the reasons Bob Dylan has become an American music icon was his willingness to change over time.  Change wasn’t always easy, as his conversion from acoustical to electric guitar upset many of his fans.  But, he is relevant today because he did change.

You can help ensure the relevance, success, and growth of your business if you explore moving from “Small M” to “Big M” Marketing.  Do it now, and access the full soundboard available to you! 

This article is part of a series where I share practical experience learned over 25 years as a Marketing executive.  I’m happy to engage with you if you have another view, or want to expand on these ideas—especially if you have a need, or know a company that does.

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Topics: Big M Marketing