It always surprises me to talk to decision makers and learn how they view marketing. They see it as a silo of responsibility within their organization, not really recognizing how marketing is integrated throughout the organization. I have used an awkward turn of phrase here in describing how marketing is intertwined within an organization, “throughout”; and to trade on a quote from the Princess Bride, by Inigo Montoya, “this word does really mean what I think it means.”
“Throughout“, talks to the idea that marketing touches on all the vital business processes within a company, ranging from the product manufacturing and new products & services to customer and employee satisfaction. Marketing plans and advertising strategies are defined by a wide range of factors. All too often business owners believe that marketing is a smoke and mirrors process that acts independently, usually on an as-needed basis. Companies tend to put in place processes for evaluating their company or organization and fail to undertake an objective review that will reveal hidden factors that will affect company prospects.
Today’s customers have more choice, new technology is evolving daily and employee and stakeholder relationships are complicated; and drumming up an initiative or a marketing plan to suit the demands of the moment may not be the best way to grow your company. When I meet with clients and begin to ask questions, the business or organizational leader is not really prepared to answer the kinds of questions I need to ask. They see the process of marketing as an isolated component of their business, to be respected and addressed from time to time. They may have a process but does it really evaluate the company “throughout”?
Rather than have top decision makers determine a marketing plan, it is essential that the sum of the parts of a company influence how, when, why and by who a product or service is delivered and marketing can have a significant impact on this. Think of the process of developing a marketing plan as a conduit; now begin reverse engineering the company by seeking to understand all of the influencing factors along that conduit. Start at the end, when a product or service is delivered to a customer, and work your way backwards through the process, evaluating all of the factors that affects the production and delivery of a product to a customer.
When you are developing a marketing plan, you should seek to uncover opportunity gaps by exploring the influencing factors that affect the “conduit”. This will include gaining an objective understanding of areas such as current and historical sales, previous marketing strategies, customer service, business process, organizational culture, management philosophy, industry competition, stakeholder insights, technology, succession planning and more. Most businesses operate in a kind of “bubble”. Inside this bubble they can’t really understand how they are viewed or influenced. Frankly, who is going to tell them the truth? So, in the absence of real quantifiable feedback they often resort to simpler “data” metrics such as sales, margins and personal performance that offer only a part of the overall picture.
Let’s take a moment to explore a case study to understand how the strategy is applied. You have a company that is successfully producing a product or service. You appear to be doing well. It may be the result of a relatively new product that is in demand; and you are getting many new customers so sales and margins are good. You may have periodic meeting with senior staff to review progress through some standard metrics you have established, such as sales, profit, cost of production, etc. By using this methodology of examining the performance and productivity of your organization you fail to understand some influencing factors that may not immediately show in your metrics.
An objective viewpoint may reveal product development pipeline issues, increased marketplace competition, introduction of new technology, changes in customer demands, unsatisfied vendor relationships and reduced employee motivation. All of these may not readily be apparent in your current metrics and your management team may not be forthcoming when they observe these influencing factors at play, particularly when they are viewed in isolation of each other.
By thinking long term about the business conduit and establishing a periodic review of the process, from an objective point of view that is outside of your normal reporting and metrics review, you can identify and address these issues before they become significant growth impediments.