Do you need a Marketer in your business?

There is a trend globally not to have "Chief Marketing Officers" in large companies but rather other titles, such as Chief Growth Officers (the title at Coca Cola).

You can't help but wonder: do you, as a business owner, even need someone with the title "marketing" in your company?

My answer? Not necessarily.

But do you need marketing, as a business skill, in your company!

No business can survive without marketing. There is no debate about whether marketing fundamentals are still relevant. Being focused on the customer; defining a clear value proposition; having a strong, well-recognised brand and clear messaging. These things are not in dispute.

But do you need someone with the title "marketing" to make these things happen? Not really.

Arguably, the best marketer to have ever lived is Steve Jobs, and his title was never "Chief Marketing Officer". He was the CEO of Apple but understood the essentials of marketing very well and implemented it brilliantly. This talk by Jobs is indeed the best marketing strategy video you'll find on the internet.

Of course, like any field, you get the odd genius to whom the art comes naturally. For the rest of us, we need to do the reading and the practising to make it work. Not everybody is a Steve Jobs. So, although you may not need a marketer, you certainly need someone in your business to engage with marketing as a subject and understand the principles.

Often the most important marketer inside a company is the Owner or the Chief Executive. They need to know better than anyone how to promote the business!

Marketing is more relevant than ever, even if the title eventually disappears.

What is a marketing strategy?

In business, when you don't know what to say, you use the word "strategy".

Do we have a strategy?
What is the strategy?
Let's have a strategy workshop.

It's an overused word that means: I'm not sure what to do, and desperately need to look confident. Strategy time!

But do you really need a marketing strategy, or is it just a fancy word for hot air? Let's answer this by starting at the beginning:

In business, you want to make investments, not incur expenses.

An "investment" is similar to an "expense" but with a long term benefit to the business. To move from pure expense to investment, you need to think deeply about how you spend your money: where are you spending it, why and what should the results be? I regard this process of thinking as "strategy".

Too many businesses don't think through their marketing, meaning it remains a pure expense, with little upside.

This is why you need a marketing strategy - to see long term results from the money (and effort) you spend on marketing activities.

But realistically, what are some of the results you can expect from a sensible investment in marketing? If done (reasonably) well, over a sustained period, an investment in marketing should deliver a little miracle for you - two, in fact:
  1. It will enable you to raise prices, and still be competitive,
  2. It will allow you to attract customers instead of having to find them.
Gravity-defying stuff.

However, it requires something before you start: a strategy.

What marketing activities will you be doing on Monday?

I was at a function last week when the owner of a small business told me he was struggling to make sales.

I hear this often, but what made it different this time was that the business had an existing contract with a big corporate: MTN, the multinational mobile operator. How do you struggle for new business when you already have such a large customer on your side?

Like most entrepreneurs, this one also had a lingering feeling that maybe better marketing could be the answer, but precisely what needed to be done? I decided to try and help with some practical advice:

My first question:
Where do you want to get new business from?
(he needed some time to think - like most entrepreneurs faced with this question)

Other telecoms companies.

Me: do you have a list of such "other telecoms companies"?
Him: no

First recommendation:
Get someone to prepare such a list.
(a good idea, he thought) 

Me: once you have your list, do you know what you are going to tell them?
Him: Not sure...

Second recommendation:
Write down how your business helped MTN make more money (or save money) and communicate this directly to key decisionmakers from your target list.
(again liked the idea)

You see, it's not that I had the answers - I was lucky to add value in a short space of time - but that this is what marketing should be: practical steps to take that tie straight back to a significant sales goal.

Marketing is not some magic wand you wave through your business. It is about doing real stuff that makes a real difference. 

What steps are you taking on Monday to generate sales? 
What marketing will you be doing?

The frustration with marketing is real

I was in a meeting this week with an owner who was clearly frustrated with the marketing results he had seen over the years. He was at wit's end with all the "e-marketers" that has been through his door, none able to help him grow his business. From my experience working with entrepreneurs, many share this frustration.

Yet, despite its poor track record, successful marketing remains an ideal that many entrepreneurs are hoping for as they try and grow their companies. They tend to give up on marketers, but not on marketing. Fundamentally, there is an understanding that surely a pure sales based approach cannot be the only way.

A sales only approach is inefficient. Hours on the phone trying to secure meetings. More hours on the road driving to meetings, waiting in reception areas, often just to be told to come back later. And once you get into the meeting, there is the inevitable fight over price with margins disappearing quickly.

A sales-based approach is fundamentally inefficient. There must be a better way; maybe it's called marketing...

But how to make marketing work in a business? Here are three things I am convinced of:
  1. You can't bring marketing into your business willy nilly and "quick, quick" and cross fingers that it works. It requires a major shift in how you structure your business development activities,
  2. Achieving results requires a strategy before you start with the inevitable activities. There is a well-established roadmap for developing a marketing strategy that most businesses don't take, yet they complain they don't win,
  3. Half-hearted marketing doesn't work. You need to commit to an "investment" to see results.  It happens over the long term, needs proper funding and careful management.
Are you frustrated with your marketing results? Maybe it is time to take a different approach and start with the fundamentals - an old fashioned strategic marketing plan that describes your ideal customer, competitors and unique selling proposition.

Strategy first. That's how marketing works.

Irrigate your sales garden with marketing water

Let's think about your sales situation as a garden. Most businesses have a bone dry garden. There's hardly anything growing, or the little that is, grows too slow. How to improve this situation?

Surprisingly, most entrepreneurs will admit they should sprinkle a dose of marketing water over their sales garden to stimulate growth. But there is a problem...instead of piping the water in, many entrepreneurs dump it in, or drip it in.

By dumping the proverbial marketing water into your sales garden, the marketing is all over the place with lots of spillage and erosion. No one knows what is going where and why. Today it's Facebook, tomorrow Google Ads; then a few events, followed by nothing for months. On the contrary, dripping the water in results in too little activity happening. You spend a couple of bucks here and there hoping to see a change.

With both dumping and dripping, the results are poor. Neither has a measurable effect on sales. You need to pipe the marketing water in to see a difference.

When you water your garden with a hosepipe, you know where the water is coming from, how much you are using, and where you are adding it. The process is controlled and specific. This is the role of "strategy" when it comes to building a marketing plan. It is one thing to say "we need to irrigate" but an entirely different thing to do it in a manner that is deliberate and measured.

Admittedly, you may hose a specific portion of your sales garden and still find nothing happening. At least when this happens, you can use a process of elimination to determine the real problem. You know you have given the plants water, you know how much water you have provided, and yet nothing happens? Is it maybe the soil? Could there be a bug eating the plants? Is the sunlight not enough, or too much.

You shouldn't just do marketing. You should do strategic marketing. Pipe some marketing water over your sales garden to see better growth. Be strategic.

Who is responsible for doing marketing in your business?

It is one thing agreeing to do marketing. It is a whole different thing, actually doing it. Most small/medium sized businesses don't do marketing, because - get this - they don't do marketing. That's right; nothing happens, because no-one is doing it.

I see this all the time. My client agrees to update their website; then nothing happens; post to social media, nothing happens; write a monthly article to establish opinion leadership....nothing.

Marketing requires someone in the business to do something, or someone outside the company must be tasked with doing it. Bottom-line, something needs to happen. "Sales" happen when someone picks up the phone and makes a call to a prospect and goes to visit them. Manufacturing happens when someone flicks a switch to start the machines. Marketing happens when someone writes something, designs it, posts it and promotes it. It doesn't "just happen".

If you believe that marketing is an important component of how you grow your business, then you must ensure someone takes responsibility for it. It becomes their job, and if they don't do it, there should be consequences.

It is easy to claim that marketing is "fluffy", yet so often I see how businesses treat it in a fluffy manner. Marketing is no different from any other business function. It deserves the same treatment.

Who is responsible for doing marketing in your company, and what are their key performance indicators? Are they doing their job?

If you want to do marketing, someone must do it.

Find your next sale in your (past) network

We’re all looking to find new business, but how much potential sales sit in your existing network?

If you had to send a short email to everyone you have been dealing with over the last five years and told them you’re still around, still focused on solving the same problems, only difference: you’re now better and more experienced - how many of them will re-engage with you? Essentially this is what a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool is all about - extracting value from relationships.

The more I am building my own consulting business, the more I realise the importance of going back to reap, where I have already sowed. It is not just about establishing new fields.

In your company, do you keep a list of who you have been dealing with and periodically touch base again? Interestingly, I don’t believe it matters whether these contacts had a good or bad experience working with you. There could have been a massive fallout, or a disastrous outcome - the fact is time is the great healer. A new start is always possible.

No matter whether you are in the B2C or B2B space and whether you sell products or services, there’s money in your network, and it is typically much easier to re-establish old bonds than forming new ones.

Aren’t we all too focused on finding new business?

We should value our social capital more and nurture our connections. Time to reconnect and say “hey, I’m still around…. just better…how about a coffee?”