Everyone Is Marketing

The size of marketing departments tends to rise and fall in close correlation to general markets. When times are good, they grow. When times get tight, one of the first to get cut is marketing – the very lifeblood of the organization. The best I can explain this phenomenon is that these decision makers do not understand the role and importance of marketing, or perhaps how it works.

I like to explain marketing as the sum total of communications regarding an organization, business, or brand. It is crucial to know that it is impossible to not communicate. Even our silence communicates volumes of information.

Since everything is communication, and communication is marketing; everyone now gets a new entry on their resume as Marketing Associate.

Here are a couple simple examples of how non-marketing departments represent and impact the company.

Leadership: The overall tone and culture is indicated by the actions of top leaders as well as management throughout the organization. No matter what is said formally; people respond and form opinions based on the actions they see. Few others get as much time in the spotlight besides members of C-suite.

Operations: The quality of the product is one of the most distinguishable aspects to customer retention and the ability to create ‘Raving Fan’ experiences. Too many organizations boast high quality while sourcing for lowest cost to produce. The result is a mixed message and unimpressed customers.

Customer Service: This should be one of the most obvious opportunities to invest in quality systems and people as this is where customers – especially ones with questions or concerns about product – look for answers. By outsourcing this volume of requests to someone halfway around the planet who merely follows a flow-chart of information they are allowed to share; organizations are essentially telling customers they don’t care!

Human Resources: The selection of applicants that get hired/fired/promoted broadcasts almost as much about the company as the rate of pay and overall work environment. The processes used throughout talent attraction also indicates the culture and priorities of the organization.

Today, consumers prefer to support brands that treat people fairly – they are even willing to pay a slight premium in product for it.

Marketing happens with every interaction between people inside and outside the organization. Every time the phone rings or door opens (even if it is a courier or delivery), an experience happens and impressions are formed. It is our collective responsibility to make sure these are positive experiences that represent us authentically.

One of the most critical aspects of making this happen in your favor is by having a refined core purpose. Rather than stringing together a bunch of idealistic well-intended words; organizations need a solid foundation in order to focus their energies towards achieving.

Delivering Value

One of the biggest challenges individuals and businesses face is understanding the value we truly offer.

In general, we tend to place too much importance on fitting in to established norms and not enough on our unique attributes. This often carries over into business dealings.

We spend so much time designing our products and filling them with great features. We take careful consideration of customer feedback (from user experiences and surveys) as well as a close eye on what our competitors are doing. For most of us; this is great fun and is supported by mountains of data.

Yet, these often fail to make meaningful connections with ideal audiences.

Value truly lives in the mind of the recipient or ‘the eye of the beholder’ as the saying goes. In order to deliver more value; we must look at how our products and services impact the lives of our customers and prospects. Because of this, delivering value is a very creative endeavor that balances between consistency and individuality as well as perception and reality.

Mercedes-Benz has built a reputation as being a luxury brand. They certainly live up to the claim with several of their models, but also have many models that actually cost less than some of their non-luxury competitors.

I just ‘built’ a CLA250 on their website and selected a few upgrades that are worth-while to me. My price was $33,575. A similarly-equipped Honda Accord was $35,515. Regardless of price, which is more valuable?

Clearly for some, it is the reliability of the Accord. After all, they likely owned a previous model or know several people who do. There is value in making this decision.

For others, they want the look and of the Mercedes. It is not the physical characteristics, per se, but the way they feel driving the car; holding the key fob in their hands; and what it communicates to others.

Value happens when we make emotional connections with people. Skipping this phase is a recipe for disaster! Too many companies simply state the facts and features and miss the opportunity to connect it to a specific part of customer’s lives.

In workshops and seminars, I often tell audiences to start with a couple simple questions. The dialogue from these will often point to some truly valuable insights.

  1. List all the pains that are eliminated by the product/feature?
    It is easy to come up with 5-6, maybe even 10-12. I really push for 50-75! These additional pains often come from listening to first customers. (knowing they will be innovators by nature, they will have some clever uses that you never imagined).

    On a scale of 1-10; rate how severe each is, and how much your product minimizes it.
    There is no need to get overly dramatic like the actors on As-Seen-On-TV ads. One tip is to simply identify the points of inspiration for the product or feature. If there was no inspiration for the feature, it might not be needed.

  1. How many ways will your product bring new benefit?
    Besides solving problems, get creative in regards to new advantages this will bring them (saving or redirecting time, peace of mind, associating with a particular group, etc.)

Each person will have different situations and concerns that need to be addressed. It is up to US to take the time to understand their needs or desires and present relevant information in ways that resonate with them.

3 Marketing Myths

Myth 1: Marketing Is Under Sales Budget
FACT: Marketing is NOT synonymous with Sales. Neither is it a subsidiary, an entrée, or feeder/filter system for sales. Nor is it customer service, technical support, sales management, or CRM maintenance. It is not even completely encompassed in the broadest interpretation of advertising.

Make sure Marketing gets its own budget.

“How much is enough?” This question gets bantered around too many leadership teams and there is no right answer. Truthfully, the only wrong answer is $0.00; yet this is quite often the default or intended target. Budgets should be granted with enough size that they could actually accomplish the desired results. The sweet-spot is the delicate balance between ‘ample resources’ and ‘swift resourcefulness’.

Marketing is the sum total of all communications by a company, brand, organization, or group.
Note 1: Listening IS part of communication.
Note 2: It is impossible to not communicate.

Every business needs overall strategic market planning (2-5 years out) as well as understanding of the tactical (daily, weekly, monthly, annual) activities to bring desired communications into fruition.

Myth 2: Marketing Is Someone Else’s Responsibility.
FACT: EVERYONE shares responsibility of marketing. Sure there is a specific budget and a department that focuses on it; but it is equally important that the accounting/billing, operations, product design, production, financing, human resources, etc. be versed well enough that marketing actually becomes part of the culture of the business.

Savvy marketers have always understood the value of building lots of connection points between audiences, business, and the products/services they offer. They design these connections directly into the products/services they offer.

Myth 3: Audiences Can Be Lumped Into Homogenous Demographics
FACT: Audiences are incredibly diverse and complex. Rather than defining them by demographics, they are best understood by their actions/activity. Every business, product, brand, organization, etc. has multiple audiences that are critical to its growth. A small brand might have as many as 30-100 separate audience groups.

Each of these audiences wants to either hear something different or hear it in different ways. This is as much about the message as the messenger. Print, TV, Radio, and Out-of-home once dominated such communication; but now yield influence to blogs, podcasts, white papers, independently published research, customer/peer reviews, social media (posts as well as responses), videos, and an increasing number of self-curated options. Audiences consume, contribute, and share information with insatiable appetites during all times of day.

However, consumers (both businesses and individuals) are selective about the information they wish to find and how they invest their attention. Brands who seek to influence their audiences’ thoughts rather than dominate them find better results.

 

Have you fallen into the traps of these myths? Feel free to share your solutions in the comments section below.
Questions are always welcome as well.