It’s the planning time of year. Which for me means RFP’s and lots of conversations with organizations and businesses attempting to change. Some people have their ducks in a row, they know who they are, where they’re going and have a strategy in place to get there. While others are looking for a solution from me that isn’t something I can provide.
Some prospects I meet think marketing is the fix for all their problems. When the real problem with the organization goes far deeper. It’s something marketing can’t even touch. Throwing marketing dollars at it is just burning money.
Some companies combine business consulting and marketing expertise but even their process starts with business consulting. No consultant worth their salt would just throw a marketing band-aid at a problem marketing can’t solve.
The wishy washy speech frequently comes from new businesses, my “pie in the skyers”. And those who’ve been around for a long time but haven’t taken a honest look at what’s kept them going. When I ask about their competitive advantage they tell me, “we’re just better.” In case you’re wondering, that’s not actually an advantage, that’s the outcome of an advantage. If you haven’t dug deep enough to discover what makes you better, are you hoping your marketing person can make it up? Discover it for you? They may be able to give you some great perspective because they’re on the outside looking in. You know your businesses and industry standards better than anyone else and if you don’t, educate yourself or find another line of business. If you can’t justify what will make or keep your business thriving you’re shooting at a missing target. And we all know that it’s actually a moving target in almost every industry. So look to yourself to know what you do well, learn to articulate it and know why you do it that way. Let your marketer be the creative force behind your communications, not a mind reader.
Even the best marketing in the world doesn’t close the sale. It’s a driver, your sales process is the closer. Even if a website is your point of sale you still have a fulfillment process to maintain. The sale isn’t complete until the product is delivered. When more than one human is involved, the sales process becomes even more important. Undereducated sales representatives, ones that love to hear their own voice, super smart sales reps talking down to prospects or lazy employees who don’t want to interact with clients are a staffing and management problem, not a marketing problem. Cultivating leads for a sales crew that can’t field the opportunities won’t help your bottom line, it ruins the positive reputation you currently have. But a well polished sales process coupled with strategic marketing is dynamite.
Marketing is not a pinch hitter for lack of vision. Start with strategic planning and goal setting then build a marketing plan to match it. If you’re not good at it or don’t know where to start work with someone who is. Or read a book or go to a workshop or, god forbid, Google it! Marketing is momentum helping you go where you plan to end up. It’s not a road map on how to get there.
People become emotionally tied to all kinds of things. My kids love their blankets unconditionally. Some people love their logos unconditionally, no matter how frayed or discolored they are. Now, I’m not suggesting you change your logo just to change your logo. Rebranding is a whole other bag of worms. What I’m suggesting is that as a business or organization it’s your responsibility to take an adult look at what you’re holding on to with an emotional attachment that could be holding you back. Just jumping on Facebook isn’t going to reach the millennial audience you seek. But shedding your outdated beliefs about how your business should run and interact with your customers just might. Doing it the way you do it “just because it’s always been done that way” isn’t a good enough reason to keep doing it that way. There needs to be a reason fueling the why. And those reasons need to be backed up by your values and vision, or you’re just holding on to a yucky blanket when what you need to do is grow up and throw it on the wash.
People who work in a cultural vacuum know what I’m talking about. Your office mates, boss or even work itself is your energy vampire, sucking the life out of you. There are many prescriptions for cultural problems within a company. None of them are quick, they’re not easy and they’re certainly not included in your marketing plan. If you or your employees don’t believe in what you do, have a passion for your roles and respect for each other it’s poison. Poison seeps out into your work and damages your business reputation in a way marketing can’t fix. Culture is healed from within, you can dress it up in fancy marketing clothes but the ugly still shines through. And your prospects will know. Fix it first then move on to your marketing message.
I mean heck, I can sell marketing to anyone who thinks they need it. Just like any salesman can cram a square peg in a round hole by making the square small enough to fit. But I really believe there are some things marketing just can’t fix. And piling marketing on those problems is just throwing good after bad.
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