The Value of Marketing
Marketing is powerful. Marketing is influential and persuasive. It is quantitative and qualitative – the product of deep analysis, planning, strategising and a great deal of creativity. In essence, marketing is communication but the message and the medium are blended to create a powerful, compelling proposition to an organisation’s audience.
Furthermore, the proposition is often formulated through consideration of consumer behaviour – the psychology, the concepts, the self-actualisation, the needs and wants.
But marketers must also be acutely aware of the environment in which they operate – internally and externally. The organisation’s own ability to deliver, its organisational capacity for change, technical expertise and financial limits, competitor strategies, supplier relationships and a whole host of other external pressures must all be considered.
Why do we engage in marketing? Fundamentally – to sell. But in today’s crowded, volatile markets, this alone is a difficult task. Moreover a sale is no longer enough. We need to build relationships with customers and this takes skill, tenacity and a very different approach to that of the now beleaguered ‘traditional marketing’ approach.
How Marketing is Changing
Traditional marketing was much simpler! It took a top-down approach. It was uni-directional, involving a narrow range of media channels and was an instrument only for organisations with sizeable budgets.
Nowadays the topography has changed radically into a bi-directional ‘network’ where everyone can broadcast a message – using (mostly) the same technologies and the same platforms as each other.
The approach is more conversational, more organic and it levels the playing field significantly between the buyers and the sellers.
All this means that “it’s chaos out there”; there’s more noise to fight through from both the buyers and the sellers, plus stronger, faster-changing competition.
This revolution has had a profound impact on marketing. Consumers have more power, the hierarchy is flatter and as commercial organisations we simply must try harder because ultimately the paradigm has changed. It has shifted towards customer value connection and to achieve this we as organisations need to better understand our audience. We need to enhance our customer intimacy and we do this not just by creating and broadcasting our marketing message across a few standard media channels but by ensuring a smooth and coherent brand experience across all customer interfacing points of our operations.
This includes advertising and mass media, point of sale, customer service and even billing and correspondence.
Why Change? The Problems
Try not to think of this as a need for change but more as a need for evolution.
Marketing doesn’t always properly understand the customer. It isn’t always intimately connected to its audience and this, we note, isn’t always the fault of the marketing department. Budget restrictions, organisational restructuring, disruptive strategy changes, supplier delays and many more issues can all lead to badly designed, poorly executed, ineffective and potentially damaging marketing initiatives which equate to a waste of money.
We have all experienced weak and often annoying marketing content such as adverts with poor scripts, ineffective messages, bad dubbing or an irritating musical score and we have all felt turned-off and uninterested by weakly targeted marketing campaigns but what about the organisational marketing efforts which we are not even aware of because they never make it to our eyes or ears – these are examples of marketing failures.
The key word here is experience. Marketing is experienced by customers in so many ways, at different paces, at different angles and with different moods. Broad, traditional marketing loses step here because to get all of these element right requires the entire organisation, not just the marketing team, to live and work in-sync, with real customer intimacy.
To really deliver world-class marketing requires a clear and coherent vision translated into effective marketing strategies – which are cascaded down throughout the organisation from the top tier CEOs to the front-line delegates.
This alignment in combination with true customer intimacy, helps us to achieve the right balance and to streamline our activities to make outstanding and lasting customer connection a norm rather than a rare occurrence.
So where do we start?
Building Customer Intimacy Through Marketing
Like the body’s nervous system, the processes behind great marketing are simply not visible externally (by the client), yet they impact every part of the organisation and when necessary, can instantly produce a visible, co-ordinated and seemingly natural and effortless reflex at any point where contact is made with the customer.
This fine-tuned ‘spark’ is the product of a lot of effort, including careful selection of market segments, forecasting, strategizing, decision making, formulating and executing operational plans, quantitatively and qualitatively analysing the current environment and monitoring the impact of marketing efforts.
The full repertoire of marketing activities requires the development of skills, behaviours and the mind-set itself of marketing team members with consideration of each marketer’s competencies – and it can be organised into 3 main categories, as follows.
Enhancing Customer Intimacy
The outcome of this category is based upon a solid understanding of the principles of marketing, in other words building the capacity to anticipate customer’s needs and requirements so as to be able to meet them, make a profit, and achieve other key organisational objectives.
Developing customer insight is also critical to building customer intimacy. Understanding what matters to customers as well as what drives their behaviour is crucial to creating competitive advantage for organisations. It is important as it can transform assumptions and hunches into validated understandings of customer behaviour. It is also very important as it helps managers understand their customer needs in order to develop and offer better products, achieve customer loyalty and facilitate future innovation.
It is important to properly embrace and understand customer value-driven marketing in order to grow customer intimacy which in turn maximises a valuable asset – customer loyalty; this is because companies that deliver value via customer intimacy build bonds with customers similar to those between “good neighbours”.
Lastly, using strategic marketing, in combination with segmentation and positioning, is important to help aim the company’s marketing efforts to optimally impact the market and to achieve the necessary marketing objectives.
Branding, Media and Digital Actions
This is a broad category which includes developing customer-centred brand strategies, customer-centred lifecycle management, public relations and nowadays more than ever, digital marketing.
Most of the profitable brands come from customer centred organisations – which provide exactly what their customers want and thereby retain customers and grow relationships with them. This requires not only the accurate design of products and services but careful management of all interactions the organisation has with the customer.
Additionally, a deep understanding of the lifecycle of each product and service provides managers with valuable foresight for planning and deep insight into their customers’ behaviours and purchasing decisions.
Public relations, or ‘PR’ is based on the idea that people act according to their perceptions of facts. So by managing, controlling or influencing people’s perceptions, we can effectively influence their behaviours and thereby achieve the organisation’s objectives.
Last but not least, using digital media for marketing can enable businesses to expand their reach and connect with more customers. It is common and popular these days for customers to interact with brands through social media, so having a strong social media presence on the web has long since grown from a ‘nice to have’ into what is now a key part of corporate communications and crucial for developing customer intimacy.
Evolving Potential of Marketers
All of the above skills are important but as marketers we must be able innovate, to develop and make best use of our political awareness and to present our thoughts effectively and persuasively to others – all within the context defined by our keen sense of business acumen.
Innovative entrepreneurial marketers are frequently very effective observers, and have an ability to recognise the right opportunities at the right time, to dare to take risks and to make meaningful results out of them. Marketing innovations are aimed at better addressing customer needs, opening up new markets, or newly positioning a firm’s product on the market with the objective of increasing the firm’s profitability. However, such changes can be difficult to implement due to organisational inertia, which takes many forms.
Therefore, if a marketer does not have sufficient presence and command of the audience (internally or externally) then their words and the way they voice them during presentations and continually during daily interactions, may not be heard at all. We must master techniques to present our ideas, our points of view and concepts in a memorable manner with noticeable presence and impact.
Marketers drive many initiatives and implement them through interaction with various stakeholders internally and externally. So it is important that we think and act in such a way as to positively and diplomatically influence others in order to achieve our set of goals and to implement our strategies. This can only be done by developing an active awareness of our political surroundings.
Underpinning all of the above is the often amorphous concept of business acumen – a critical business ‘sense’ and ability to deeply understand the consequence of business decisions as they are taken. This is a great aptitude for any marketer or any business person for that matter, and it allows us to continually predict with great accuracy the outcomes of our business decisions.
Mediocre marketing strategies which miss the mark in one way or another are simply no longer acceptable these days. The bar has been raised considerably.
To really impress customers, to give them what they need and want and to communicate with them in a way they appreciate and are attuned to, requires the organisation to co-ordinate properly and execute effective marketing strategies which the customer experiences no matter how, when or where contact is made.
This requires marketers to understand their customers with a greater intimacy than ever before and to treat them as long-term relationships rather than individual transactions.
This value connection is complex to achieve but should not appear so to the customer. Therefore it requires a cultural change within the organisation, cascaded from the top as a comprehensive strategy but it also requires empowerment of marketing teams, so that they may perform to new heights.