Building A Culture Of Marketing

Marketing is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of your business. It drives revenue, reputation, and retention more than anything else.

Disclaimer: I am in the filed of marketing. This is my perspective of 2 decades in the industry and I realize that I cannot fully remove my bias. The purpose of this is to prime your thinking and conversations in more places than I can participate personally.

I am not suggesting that the marketing department gets the lion’s share or even a larger budget, nor am I insinuating that marketing be the only discipline of focus. I simply believe that principles of marketing MUST represent and be represented by every other department, decision, initiative, and thought in the organization. Rather than being an isolated or contained department, threads of marketing should be woven into the fabric of organizations.

Everyone associated should be able to speak concisely about the brand, what it means, and where it is heading. They should be trained, trusted, empowered with tools, and able to support the brand in ways they see fit. Boundaries should be created as ways to keep everyone focused and allow for coaching/improvement opportunities.

So what is Marketing?

My favorite definition is: The sum total of all communications by a business, organization, or entity. EVERYTHING is communication – even silence.

Here are three key advantages to building a culture of marketing.

Ideal Customers:

We can start with a benefit everyone wants to have. Many of the first and easiest customers are people with a direct connection to the brand – they know someone who works there. These customers might not be aware they are interested in what we offer, but develop genuine interest. Gaining customers is good, unless the ones you gain distract from core purpose.

We can only understand our users/customers to the extent we have casual and intimate conversations with them. Interactions with sales, marketing, and customer service people are inherently biased and we often get filtered feedback. Regular employees are great opportunities to serve as listening posts and first responders, helping us obtain critical insights as to the ideal customers we want to attract.

Ideal Talent:

Attracting ideal talent is perhaps more important for growth than customers. This applies to seasonal line-workers to C-level leaders and advisors. People are the culture of the organization.

The dysfunctional relationship between marketing and sales often plays out as… Marketing says sales cant close the leads they generate. Sales says marketing provides terrible leads. The same generally applies with HR, but replace ‘leads’ with ‘candidates’.

Incorporating a culture of marketing into job postings could allow job descriptions to more accurately represent the requirements, environment, and organization. The goal is to attract talent AND passion that will facilitate/support growth.

Ideal Funding:

Whether playing in the start-up arena, stock market, privately-owned, or non-profit; the way organizations are funded has significant impact on the way it will operate and grow. The same principles of marketing that allow us to identify the right talent and customers, also find relevance in attracting the funding we need to grow.

Investors are humans. Thus they are prone to ego, emotion, preferential blindness, and every other challenge humans bring to business. In accepting investment dollars, we must also accept input, recommendations, restrictions, and preferences that may or may not distract us from core principles.

 

By creating a culture of marketing, we bring a deep sense of consistency to and throughout our organizations. Everyone is on the same page, speaking the same voice, and understanding how our small roles helps us all grow.

Feel free to connect with me if you would like to learn more about how this might work in your organization.

The Business Of Make Believe

Make no mistake; make believe is great business. Beyond the special effects of a Hollywood production or Disney Theme Park, every business is based on make-believe!

Plans And Projections

We use terms like forecasts, plans, projections, and more to give credibility and legitimacy to the numbers we made up to complete the business plan. The graphs and charts indicate trends we hope to create or capture. But in the end, they are at least partially (often mostly) fabrications.

Wall Street CEOs release quarterly projections about sales revenues they anticipate reaching. While we can assume they are based on historical evidence, they also depend on promotions, advertising, and marketing initiatives. Guess what writers, actors, producers, designers, etc. do. The are responsible for creating new ways to communicate important messages.

The amount of money given to fund the venture is a rough indicator of how much bankers, investors, shareholders believe in the plan.

Products And Services

The livelihood of every business is the products and services they sell. At one point, every single one of the products and services we buy lived only in the mind of its creator. Faced with a problem, inventors create and sift through a myriad of ideas to find the one(s) they believe will provide a worthwhile solution for themselves and others.

Stories, napkin sketches, designs, 3D renderings, dummy prototypes, working prototypes, and more are all tools for sharing ideas with others so that they might believe in it and want to participate. Even the ‘me too’ products and businesses that are nearly identical to what already exists follow the same path.

Maybe their belief is that they can do it better, bigger, faster, somewhere else, or somehow differently.

Sales And Marketing

The process of growing belief is often referred to as ‘sales’. Repeating features and benefits alone will not do it. Nor will expert demonstrations. Sales is a deeply personal endeavor that is sparked by human connection and fueled by passion.

We cannot sell without belief – belief in our own ability, in the product, the brand, the support system, the buyers’ needs, whatever. The actual belief matters very little. It is all about the way we use it to connect to our audience.

The transaction price and revenue generated from sales suggests how much customers believe in the products and the brand. Ever notice how brand names like Kleenex, Post-it, and Prada are able to claim higher prices than lesser-known competitors?

Imagination, creativity, and make-believe are crucial to nearly every aspect of business. Leaders and managers who build and maintain solid belief systems have powerful advantages over those who do not.

Let people know what you believe. Keeping the trio of sex, religion, and politics to a minimum will help conversations remain focused on making great business.

What It Takes To Own A Business

Running a business is hard. Damn hard!

If you have employees, you must be the one to lead them. You need to train them, establish policies, procedures, and protocols that will be followed. You’ll likely need to cater your operations to suit their needs and preferences. It generally takes a lot of paperwork and patience.

If you have investors, you’ll be asked to show regular and growing progress while you work towards returning the investment plus a worthy return. You’ll likely need to alter your operations to suit their needs, preferences, ideas, and connections. Yes, this too often comes along with its own share of paperwork or reports.

If you opt to not have employees or investors, it is often seems a little easier. The trade off is that you must do everything yourself. You are the one to create and live the brand or persona of the business, communicate it to prospective customers in ways that will generate revenue. You get to be the one who signs each contract, fulfills it, and accounts for the billing. Even here in the age of all this technology; it still seems to take a lot of paperwork.

You need to supply large amounts of passion, persistence, imagination, ingenuity, confidence, vulnerability, character, patience drive, flexibility, understanding, curiosity, and determination. I am certain I have left out a few attributes from the list.

Time and timing is one of the most difficult aspects of a business. Most experts seem to agree that it takes between 5-10 years to build a business to a point it develops any real momentum, stability, and/or consistent cash flow. Most businesses begin with about 6-12 months of funding.

Errors, mistakes, failures, and a multitude of broken things are going to happen when you least expect or want them to happen.

While it might come across as pessimistic or uninspiring; it is only because most owners come at business from a dated perspective. Measuring effort over time to calculate a profit.

Taking a 21st Century approach looks to maximize PURPOSE rather than profit; we see a different relationship begin to emerge. Working towards purpose gives social context needed to engage customers, employees, investors, and even yourself. Ironically, by shifting most of the focus away from profit, we get situations that are better equipped to produce profit than before.

Having a clear and concise purpose supersedes all notions of profit, marketing, operations, product development, and everything else. It actually serves as a resource for unending inspiration that we can draw from like we draw light, warmth, and energy from the sun.

Like focusing the light of even a late autumn sun with a magnifying glass to ignite a dry leaf; our purpose gets more powerful the more we refine and focus it.

What is your purpose?
How do you share it?
How are others inspired by it?
How do they live it?

Help people through these questions and you will find them building stronger connections to you and your purpose.

Differentiating Value Proposition

DVP is a business school term that I vowed to use only on special occasions. Most of the time I simply ask, “What makes your company different or better than competitors?”

I am not sure which amazes me more; business owners not having an answer, or owners who say ‘their people’ are the difference.

In theory, having ‘people’ be your differentiating competitive advantage is an ideal situation. But in practice, this is almost never the case.

1. Do you attract the best talent?
We are not just talking about the best talent you can afford; the best talent in your region; or the best available Thanks to technology on every smartphone and laptop, there is often little difference between working with a busy professional across the hallway, across town, always on the run, or somewhere on the other side of the planet.

Your talent pool just got infinitely large! Also thanks to many of those same technological advantages, great talent is often able to juggle multiple gigs on a permanent part-time basis. For some this might seem like a conflict of interest, but it brings plenty of advantages for everyone involved and it is similar to a department juggling a heavy project load.

2. Do you lead better than competitors or outside benchmarks?
Great talent demands great leadership. Great leadership is diverse – operating fairly rather than equally. Competition for talent in leadership goes far beyond geography and even industry. In order to make ‘your people’ a sustainable advantage, you must make sure you can continuously inspire them (note, this is very different than motivating them).

Research by Gallup Organization reveals that upwards of 70% of employee turnover is based on managers. Their famous saying is, “People don’t leave or stay with companies. They leave or stay with managers.”

Great leaders throughout the organization make decisions to help achieve a greater purpose – not just quarterly profits.

3. Do you meticulously build/maintain/defend strong culture?
Employers used to offer pensions, retirement plans and bonuses based on performance and longevity. As pension funds are drying at alarming rates, such perks are not offered much any more.

You don’t need to act like a technology upstart to offer a great working environment as a way to attract and retain their people. It is not about the Ping-Pong table, napping rooms, or open floor concepts, per-se. It is about creating a culture where your people feel physically, mentally, and emotionally comfortable to perform their best.

Building this environment is only half of the equation. Maintaining, and protecting this culture is the other half. Research shows that intent and consistency often brings better results than flashy or grandiose promises.

4.  What growth opportunities do you offer?
Many companies do attract great talent, strong and personable leadership, and maintain a healthy work environment; but they don’t have much opportunity to grow. I call these the ‘nice places’ because they are tend to be pleasant places to be. They have little turnover among people or customers.

This might sound like a good situation until you look at what happens to a body of water that doesn’t circulate. It slowly shifts from a great place to be towards a stagnant or suffocating environment.

Great leaders build organizations that attract and retain top talent by offering opportunities for growth.

In answering these simple questions, you can be assured that ‘your people’ actually ARE a sustainable competitive advantage for your business.

Where Marketing Begins

The beginning is the most important part of the work. Plato

This is NOT an article about where marketing began or a historical account of the practice. It IS about where 21st Century marketing concepts, programs, and decisions must begin.

Over the last several decades, marketing (usually driven my advertising) became increasingly more disconnected from the product, company, and sales processes they were promoting. Based on the hefty shoulders of Network Television; some executives gambled that they could direct a TV commercial and media budget so well that they could forgo having sales reps, distribution, and even an actual product.

Marketing is not synonymous with media budgets!
Looking at the growth of social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, etc.; we see proof several times over that a media budget of any sort is completely unnecessary.

This article by Fast Company explains how Reddit attracted millions of loyal users with an advertising budget of just $500. Period.

For many businesses/organizations; much of the marketing is done by customers and fans. Building tools and systems to empower and connect these advocates requires about 1/1000th the financial investment of a powerful media campaign.

Marketing used to be easily boiled down to 4 Ps. Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion.

Marketing begins with Leadership Team
The best marketing today starts from a deep understanding of all the people involved in the company, the message, and the products. It is in the combination of disciplines like operations, financing, long-term strategic objectives, product design and production, customer service, all aspects of HR, and training.

From here, keen marketers will refine information into a highly concentrated extract best explained by 3 new words (also starting with letter P).

Passion is the drive, dedication, or commitment to continue doing something even when it is difficult – knowing that the journey is often more than enough reward. Times will be tough for sure. Passion helps us get through the times when we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Purpose is a calling or an internal guidance system that is the source of all answers to the question ‘Why”. It connects our personal values to the work we do and is the foundation for organizational values.

Personality of an organization or brand is much the same as with an individual. It is about how we communicate with others – the timing and style of our communications and how we relate to audiences (potential customers)

Marketing radiates outwards in all directions.
This fundamental core of passion, purpose and personality is like the DNA of brand or culture. It is not the brand or culture itself, but the blueprints for how to execute building them. It provides critical reference to how we connect and interact with audiences.

This DNA doesn’t just radiate out to customers, distribution channels, and strategic partners. It is crucial that it also radiates through attracting, hiring, firing, and promoting talent that will embrace, protect, and expand the culture.

Now that we have a better understanding of where marketing begins, we can better put it to use – especially when we don’t have large budgets.