If you ask 10 CEOs to tell you what marketing is, you’ll probably get 10 completely different answers. And get this. If you ask their marketing veeps the same question, you’ll get the same result.
Marketing defies definition. It confuses everyone, even those who do it for a living. I know that because that was my job in a former life, and I’m the first one to admit that I never considered myself an expert. Besides, my brethren could never agree on what their job titles meant. They were all over the map.
As I explain in my new book, Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur, marketing has always had a perception problem. It’s truly ironic that the field responsible for branding has a brand identity that’s about as unambiguous as Facebook’s 58 gender options.
And yet we live in a commercial world where consumers and businesses make buy decisions based to a large extent on a field that nobody seems to understand very well, not even those who make big bucks doing it. Don’t you find that just a little bit unsettling?
Now you know why I quit marketing. I was tired of explaining to every CEO, board, and management team what marketing is and why it’s so important to the success of the company.
I felt like Sisyphus, the sinner condemned to roll a boulder uphill, only to watch it roll back down, again and again, for eternity. I always wondered what I’d done so terribly wrong in a prior life to deserve that.
If you find marketing to be somewhat elusive, don’t feel too badly; you’re in good company. And while I intend for this to be instructive, not critical, there’s a very good chance that your company’s marketing sucks. Here’s why:
You have no idea what it is
In his seminal book, Marketing High Technology, legendary VC and former Intel executive Bill Davidow said:
“Marketing must invent complete products and drive them to commanding positions in defensible market segments.”
I couldn’t agree more. And anyone who finds that confusing should not be running marketing.
It’s so easy to fake
As VC David Hornik of August Capital says, “VCs like to think that they are marketing geniuses. We really do.”
He goes on to say that they meddle in the marketing of their portfolio companies because “we can fake it far more convincingly than in other areas …” As I always say, marketing is like sex; everyone thinks they’re good at it.
You’re a follower of _____ (fill in the blank)
Marketing may be as much art as science, but it’s still a complex and nuanced discipline that takes a great deal of experience to develop some level of understanding or expertise. I don’t care if you’re into Purple Cows or The Brand Called You, popular fad-like notions won’t get you there.
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You’ve lost sight of the big picture
In some ways, growth hacking is no different from traditional marketing, and I mean that in a good way.
That said, I see a lot of businesses chasing lots of small opportunities or incremental growth improvements with no overarching vision, strategy, or customer value proposition. That, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster.
It’s built on flawed assumptions
Most product strategies and marketing campaigns are built on assumptions that nobody ever attempts to verify because their inventors think they have all the answers.
The problem is they don’t know what they don’t know. Never mind what customers say and do. What do they know?
You have an MBA
Davidow, Theodore Levitt, Regis McKenna – none of these innovators who literally wrote the book on marketing had MBAs. Maybe there’s a good reason for that.
You’re not measuring the results
Show me a marketing program and I’ll show you beaucoup bucks spent on a mostly “shoot from the hip” approach that lacks sufficient metrics to determine if it’s effective or not. If you don’t measure it, how do you know if it’s delivering a return on investment?
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You’re a marketer
One of the reasons for marketing’s perception problem is that senior-level talent is hard to find and few execs have the ability to articulate the importance of the function. And since CEOs tend to be a pretty cynical bunch, marketing has, to a great extent, been marginalized in the business world. Sad but true.
Marketing is an enigma. It’s both art and science, creative and analytical, intuitive and logical, amorphous and tangible. It’s two sides of the same coin.
That’s probably why it mystifies most. And yet, marketing is, without a doubt, among the most critical functions in every company.
That may be a perplexing paradox, but companies that somehow manage to unravel the mysteries of marketing have a far better chance of making it than those that don’t.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Ask These 3 Questions To Determine Where To Spend Your Marketing Budget
Stretching your marketing budget is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing rands to stretch.
As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So, if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know.
First, great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different.
For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention.
3 Questions that Cut Through the Clutter
Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.)
1. In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns
It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: 10% of your audience will buy, 10% won’t and 80% will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80%, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly.
2. If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly
(This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market.
3. If you already have an audience, turn them into super-fans who will bring their peers into your universe
Identify previous buyers and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process.
Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.
Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?
How do you market your company to this generation?
According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.
They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.
So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?
1. By being transparent
Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.
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Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.
Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.
2. By offering options
A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.
That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.
3. By being forward thinking
We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.
On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.
1. By being transparent
As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.
2. By offering options
Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.
Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.
Related: The Z Generation
3. By being forward thinking
They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.
The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.
Free Sample Marketing Plan Template
You don’t need an MBA to write a marketing plan for your business. While no two businesses are alike, all solid marketing plans need to provide specific information. Use this sample marketing plan template to get you started on the right foot and cover all the essential information.
Your marketing plan should provide a comprehensive blueprint of the business, its market and associated market activity, its position in the market, target and expected customers, offerings, competition, solutions and contingency plans.
Using a sample Marketing Plan Template can save you a lot of time in creating your own marketing plan.
Download a Sample Marketing Plan Template
Use the free templates below to help make sure you’ve covered all the important bits:
Recommended Marketing Reads:
- Smart Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
- Mega Guide to Online Marketing
- Marketing Toolbox for the Entrepreneur
- The Ultimate Marketing Tool Library for Entrepreneurs
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