Posts

Why I treat marketing problems as urgent

When a business brings a marketing problem to me, it usually presents as a big stinky commercial pooh. It's nasty. It's an emergency. Let's face it; you don't call a strategic marketing consultant unless you have a gun against your business brain.  Problems typically show up in various ways, but it all comes down to sales. We want it now (and we're tired of trying). Understandably, I typically get these problems when it's terminal.  My approach to dealing with these marketing emergencies have evolved over the years to tackle them more aggressively - more up-front - like the emergencies they are. Less general practitioner (come and sit on the bed; take a deep breath) and more paramedic (surgical gloves and cardiac massages).  In short, I jump in and check vitals.  Is there a clear value proposition - the equivalent of a marketing pulse? Are marketing materials attractive, or does it look bland - like a shallow, fading breath? What marketing tools are being used,

Reach your customers by taking a razor sharp approach to the market

Speed, simplicity and focus are key ingredients to successful marketing activity by small/medium companies.  Speed - get it done; make it happen - don't procrastinate. Perfection is the enemy! Simplicity - if you can't explain it in a few PowerPoint slides (with large font), you are on the wrong track. Too much detail is the enemy! Focus - if you have one dollar of marketing budget, how will you spend it in terms of the single message you promote, the one customer audience you target and specific objective you hope to achieve. Refusing to sacrifice is the enemy. The reality is that "marketing" deals with the interaction between "a company" and "its market" and this dynamic is complex.  The best way to approach the collective that is "the market" is to attack it. It is the enemy, even though it is largely made up of your best friends - the customers. The market is the hard shell of the coconut that needs to be penetrated to get to the s

Strategic storytelling as a way to differentiate

Marketing is about storytelling.  This is a well-understood concept, but surprisingly few companies use it to their benefit. Especially smaller businesses are rich with stories, yet owners hide these in an attempt to "look big". No photo of the owner(s) and why they started the business; no business philosophy; no pictures of the manufacturing process or people and testimonials from satisfied customers. These are all essential parts of the business story and are often absent.  Telling the story of your business should be the focus of your early marketing efforts as it allows you to attract those valuable customers that believe in what you do instead of just fighting for the lowest price.  The story of your business is nothing other than your value proposition - your core point of difference. Most businesses harp on about the products or service they sell but don't give any sneak peek into the behind the scenes stuff - the interesting stuff, even if it is a pure service be

Your marketing problem, is a management problem

The trick is to have a plan and a process in place—the boring stuff. A plan - What is it that we want to do and by when? A process - How will we do it, and whom? I say it is the boring stuff because in itself it is not "doing the marketing", yet it is mostly why marketing fails. Most businesses don't see ROI on marketing because they don't have a plan and a process. In short, they don't manage their marketing.  To add fuel to the fire, "management" is often not an operational issue, but a culture issue. Things end up not getting done, not because there is no intention to do it, but because there is no organizational discipline to do it. My work is to help companies of all sizes do better marketing, but I hardly get involved in doing any of the marketing itself. I spend my time fiddling in the background doing the boring stuff: helping you put a plan in place and helping you implement it through a process that almost always involves a change in attitude.

Quick thought on targeting

I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I market the services of Firejuice. We've been clear about who we want to help, namely business owners, entrepreneurs and CEO's of medium-sized companies, but not which service we want them to take note of! It's made me realise that for marketing to be effective, it requires a target market and a target product. That single offering gives you the highest chance of becoming part of the customer's life. Target market = that group of customers within the broader market where you have the greatest chance of success. Target product = that one offering amongst everything you sell gives you the greatest chance of an initial sale. Once you've made the initial sale, you are in bed with the customer and the game changes. To achieve this initial sale requires focus, not only on who you want to sell to but also on what you want to sell.  Reading marketing theory, one is always reminded of the 4P's of marketing: Produc

How efficient is your revenue engine?

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Every piece of equipment has a weak link, and in the case of small/medium companies, that link is the contact point between marketing and sales. It is right here where most breakdowns happen, and it hurts business performance.  But why is this?  It is underpinned by the fact that both sales and marketing are after the same thing - the actual sale. The two are supposedly in partnership, but more often in competition to win the ultimate prize. This one goal, split between two business functions, makes it easy for the finger-pointing to happen. Marketing takes a big picture, right-brain approach to sales, and the sales function takes a microscopic, left-brain approach. To ensure an efficient sale, both functions must work together, yet infighting often spoils the party. Together, these two functions form the revenue engine of the business. An inefficient revenue engine is particularly common within medium-sized companies since separate marketing and sales departments have now been establi

Achieving customer reach through marketing strategy

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The biggest challenge for small/medium companies is reaching their intended audience. This problem becomes even more pronounced in business markets where key decision-makers are often hiding behind an email firewall and a receptionist. "Reach", is the crucial reason SMEs do marketing, as in: "help me announce myself to my target market".  Interestingly, with established brands and larger companies, the reason for doing marketing is different. Awareness has already been achieved, and it becomes a case of encouraging existing customers to remain loyal. It is this reason why a company like Coca Cola continues to advertise. Small brands advertise to become known; large brands to stay relevant. Same activity; different objectives. The problem smaller companies have is how to achieve reach with limited resources. Small budgets mean that certain heavy-hitting, mass-marketing tools are unavailable, and so too highly targeted ones that require a substantial investment in upf