An idea circulating today is that business is happening at an ever-faster pace. Pushing the pedal to the metal has an entirely different meaning when we view our business through a time lens. So if you are a CEO of a business that seems to be getting faster all the time, is your marketing dealing with time effectively?
The Economist proposes another way to think about firms. Rather than look at an organization as doing things that entrepreneurs can't do on their own, look at your firm as a time transformer. Customers, suppliers, employees, stockholders, and other parties have very different time horizons. Businesses then exist to mediate all those different perspectives on time. Customers want their goods now. Suppliers want to ship quantities to retailers and be paid before the customers buy the goods. Employees want to be paid on a regular basis. Owners want a return over quarters or years. The management of a business successfully brings together all those different time horizons and makes them work.
So where is time in marketing? A wise sage once told me that time is the most valuable thing one possesses. You can always get more money and more things, but you can never get more time. If time is so valuable, let's look at the impact of time on a business and its marketing.
Shortening the length of a sales cycle.
What would happen if we took a sales cycle from 6 months to 3 months? At a very simplistic level, you would think that we could double our sales. Now I know there are other factors in play here, but think of a bottleneck or something that forces a customer to wait. Eliminating that shortens the sales cycle and books more revenue.
Increasing the amount of time a sales person spends actually selling.
I once asked a sales person how much time they actually spent with customers or working on customer needs. The answer was a surprise to me – around 25%. If that sales person spent 50% of their time with customers, would sales double? Perhaps not, but I bet the revenue numbers would go up. One job of marketing is to make a sales person's job easier. What could the marketing department do to get the sales person out of the office more?
Decreasing the time to launch a new product.
Many great products are the result of understanding someone's need or want. Putting your new product launch through a time lens, ask why it takes as long as it does. Is marketing fighting too many internal roadblocks to get something done in a timely basis?
Knowing the customer.
Good marketing is built on understanding the customer characteristics and the journey that the customer makes to buy your product. Taking time to research the customer sometimes gets cut short. That short cut can cost later when the marketing programs don't work and we need to rethink things. Remember – it's easier to make changes in the house when it’s still in the design phase than knock out a wall after it's built.
As your marketing department creates more marketing plans and programs along with more sales efforts and product development efforts, make sure your team runs those efforts through a time test. Ask yourself where you are doing something to reduce time or use it more effectively. Remember, the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.
Thank you, Dooley Wilson, wherever you are.