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Marketing – Demystified

Posted on 09/08/2012, 10:09

Marketing is an area of business that is often fraught with unknowns, mistrust and the fear that it will cost your business a lot of money whilst giving you little or nothing in return.

The reason why these perceptions exist at all is because too many businesses, especially those who fall into the small to medium bracket, get their marketing fundamentally wrong and therefore do suffer as a consequence.

In this article I want to focus on one specific element of marketing that will in essence drive the rest of your marketing activities and help you improve them overall.

The most important thing is to set yourself an objective, by objective I mean a “purpose” to your marketing, what is your marketing ultimately looking to achieve? If you are, for arguments sake, a window and door fitters and your major converter of sales is getting people to visit your showroom, then your marketing has to be geared toward getting people to visit your showroom!

But ultimately all marketing is about one thing, regardless of what you do as a business marketing should be about – Getting more people to buy from you, more often and at higher prices – profitably!

What is important here is; Once you have fixed that goal, once you have decided that that is what you need to focus on, keep your focus!

The best way to explain it is by referring to the maze diagram above, when you are working your way around a maze you will often go down some wrong turns, you’ll hit some dead ends, but your objective remains the same! Get to the end of the maze!

Try and think of your marketing the same way, if you find yourself going down a wrong turn get yourself back on track. Whenever you are undertaking a new marketing initiative question its objective, question it hard, ask yourself “Is this activity taking us toward our objective?” if the answer is “no” then why are you doing it?

If what marketing activity you are doing turns out to not be taking you toward your objective then it’s OK to change it, it’s OK to change your approach, your messages all of your marketing tactics so long as you don’t lose your focus on where you are going.

It is the single most important thing to remember and constantly ask yourself – “Is this taking me toward or away from my objective?”

This principle can apply to many other areas of business too but Marketing is probably the easiest one to lose sight of and probably the most common one that businesses do lose sight of.

It’s a very typical thing for us to find that when companies get into hard times; Industry downturns, cash flow issues, loss of a large contract or anything that makes things a little more difficult – the first thing that is stopped is the marketing, the first thing that the company slashes its costs in is the marketing department. Before anything else is looked at, it is almost viewed by the business owners / mangers as an unnecessary cost and something that they can ‘do without’.

The truth is often to do just the opposite. When your business hits a tough time, why would you want to stop doing the thing that could get you more leads? Why would you strip back on your marketing and potentially lose out on what business is out there? When times are hard surely what you need is more business? Most definitely not less! It is one of the things that we see time and time again that have gone wrong with a business; Times got hard, so they withdrew into a metaphorical foetal position and then were surprised when they didn’t see things get any better, they gradually lost more and more business and no new business came through the door and by the time they cried for help, it was almost too late.

The fear factor that comes into the minds of MD’s in small and medium businesses, mostly because these businesses cannot afford to waste money on marketing that doesn’t work, is the worry that they’ll undertake some marketing activity, it will cost them some money and they’ll have no way of knowing  if it actually did anything for them. They might see some business come in, but they won’t know if that came in as a result of that activity or something else.

This is where you get a split into two kinds of activity that is carried out by SME’s – On the one hand you get the “hardly any” approach which is adopted by business leaders who believe “our industry only works on who you know!” so they don’t expend any effort in reaching out to new unknown business that exists out there. Hence their business may indeed grow, but at a far slower rate than it could! The other camp is the “wool over the eyes” approach where the business leader has been convinced / accepts that he/she needs to do marketing but isn’t really sure about it at all, so they leave it to a ‘marketing’ company, or a marketer within their business to do all their marketing for them. Usually what happens here is that they DO waste a lot of money on their marketing, principally because the person doing their marketing doesn’t understand their business, their customers or the most important thing of all, their marketing objective! Ideally your management team at the very least should all be relatively marketing-savvy!

Which takes us back to the point near the start to bring up another valuable point, when you set your marketing objective make sure everyone in your team knows what it is. How else can you expect them to work towards it if they don’t know what it is?   It’s an important thing across business in general to have everybody pulling in the same direction. But your marketing is almost exclusively going to be the first medium by which your clients become engaged with you, therefore it’s vitally important to make sure that all of your marketing is on message, draws customers toward the same objectives and displays the same key messages. Otherwise your brand suffers. If your message and marketing is confused prospects can become confused as to what you do offer, in today’s “instant fix” world you won’t hold someone’s attention for long. Confuse them and they will look for a simpler option.

I could go on and on with Marketing messages and “stuff to think about” but the purpose of this article was, as the title explained was to demystify marketing. So I will sum up by re-iterating the major points I have touched on to keep your marketing simple:

–          Chose your marketing objective!

–          Stick to it, change what you do and how you do it, change anything, but keep sight of your objective!

–          Question your activity – is it keeping you toward that objective?

–          Don’t stop marketing, ever!

–          Make sure everyone in your business knows your marketing objective!

–          Keep your marketing messages consistent!

A nice way to summarise is to touch on the so-called 4 Stage Process which will help you with your marketing activity:

  1. Outcome – Chose & define your objective
  2. Do Something – The activity you undertake
  3. Watch what happens – Measure your success
  4. If it works do more / If it doesn’t go back to 2!

Finally one last point to make is that if you are worried about the effectiveness of your marketing, then make sure you measure it. Measure it in a dispassionate way, don’t allow your pride or sense of commitment to keep you pushing a marketing activity that simply isn’t working. Do something, work out what it is bringing in / doing for your company and brand and then either do more of it, less of it or change it all together. Marketing, like Pro-actions is all about RESULTS!

 

Alex Seleska

Head of Business Development | Pro-actions Group

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