Marketing is a tool, right? And, tools don’t transform companies. The conventional wisdom holds that Marketing has its niche, and this niche is support rather than leadership.
For reasons that mostly have to do with preconceptions, most marketing looks outward. This isn’t the way great companies think.
Marketing Often Generates Cynicism (Oops!)
Your customers may rate marketers higher on honesty than sales people, but that’s a Pyrrhic victory for your marketers. Marketing statements–referred to as “claims”–generate too much cynicism. If your own engineers and support people are cynical about your marketing–and I’m almost certain they are to some extent–how do you imagine potential customers view the same statements and claims?
The damage is limited only because most of your competitors market the same way. Therein lies a tremendous opportunity.
The traditional view of Marketing is that it serves an external audience and exists in a vacuum. Generic and unsupportable (even if true) claims take center-stage. Even when offered completely forthrightly, claiming “Lower cost and better value” sounds like, well, marketing. Your potential customers are sophisticated enough to discount claims not specific to their situation. Striving to be “different” is an even bigger turnoff. This is why, even the low-grade customer referrals most companies are thrilled to get carry so much weight in the marketplace.The damage is limited because your competitors market the same way. Therein lies a tremendous… Click To Tweet
Compounding the problem, most employees, whether in sales, marketing, support, engineering or finance, see enough deals to know your firm is not always the better value or best choice, acknowledging the reality that you can’t be all things to all people. When your own employees view your firm’s marketing as “merely marketing,” then the entirely of your messaging and value creation story is viewed with reservations. Your marketing becomes a very low-leverage model when it should be creating large amounts of leverage.
The emerging field of positive psychology documents that employees who view the corporate story with reservations are less motivated, less loyal, and frankly, less effective at doing their jobs.
What Great Marketing Looks Like
Great companies actually believe their marketing–not just that “We’re the best,” but work to understand specifically how they create unique value for their customers. It’s not superior copy-writing, but rather that they market specifics. Positioning and messaging and marketing activities built around your customers’ perception of value is specific enough to be credible because it is easy to verify. Generalized superlatives are not.
This type of highly specific positioning identifies your most strategic customers (those that are worth far more than the immediate fees), providing a lodestar to everyone at your firm using the Strategic Marketing Plan framework. When engineers truly understand why your customers select your firm above others, they focus their energies much more effectively. When your field service employees learn to distinguish strategic opportunities from opportunistic ones, they directly contribute to growth and customer satisfaction. They are no longer merely a support function.
None of these results are possible without a comprehensive Strategic Marketing Plan and the belief that your company is capable of much more. Highly specific positioning (the root of all marketing) transforms the entirety of your company–if you let it–bringing greatness within reach. A Strategic Marketing Plan provides a framework for getting from here to there.
The most successful marketing implementations occur after firm leadership thinks about Mission, Vision and Strategy. When you know why your firm exists, what success looks like, and what you need to do to get there, you tend to become much more responsive to customer perceptions of value in place of your own preconceptions. If your Mission or Vision includes ROI, that MBA of yours is corrupting your ability to see your company the way your customers do.