Today's marketing environment is noisy and crowded. It's like standing in a packed ballroom where everyone is shouting at once.
The good news is we have many new techniques and tools available to promote our products and services. The bad news is the chaos and clutter get increasingly worse as more and more organizations adopt those tools.
How do you get heard above all the noise?
Take these key steps:
- Understand and internalize the timeless truths of marketing.
- Get up to speed on today's new digital realities.
- Focus on the momentum factors that can make or break a marketing team.
1. The timeless truths of marketing haven't changed in centuries
As much as marketing has evolved in the last decade, the core principles of marketing—what I call the "dynamic market leverage factors"—haven't changed in hundreds of years:
- Strategy: Start with a business strategy that effectively anticipates customer, market, technology, and business needs.
- Products and services: Have a quality offering that meets customer needs (both stated and unstated) better than the available alternatives.
- Customers: Understand as much as you can about your prospects and customers—who they are, what they need and want, and how you can best improve their condition.
- Market analysis: Understand the market in which you compete, including as much as possible about the industry and competitors.
- Brand: Build a strong brand and reputation in the minds of all key audiences—customers, partners, employees, shareholders, the local community, and others.
- Communication: Effectively communicate the value you provide so as to generate demand.
- Sales channels: Provide the right tools to enable those who sell and recommend your product to be successful.
- Operations: Deliver, track, and analyze your marketing efforts to understand what's working and where changes should be made.
Those have been the keys to marketing from the days of farmers' gathering in a town square to today's global online marketplace. Marketers ignore them at their peril.
2. But we live in a world of new digital realities
Although the eight dynamic market leverage factors are timeless, how they are applied in today's world has changed dramatically in four key ways:
- Delivery: We have the ability to develop and deliver products and services that were unheard of even a few years ago. From piano lessons via Skype to a service that uses your smartphone's GPS to meet you and park your car in congested cities, marketers can now deliver customized services easily and inexpensively.
- Data: More data has been produced in the last few years than in the entire history of the world, and we're only just getting started. The Internet of Things (IoT) will generate even more data. The question is how to harness all that data without upsetting consumers—who are likely to resent ever-more intrusive marketing messages on their Apple Watches and other wearables, their refrigerators, and their in-car information systems.
- Demand generation: We have the technology to customize marketing campaigns to meet the needs of specific customers and prospects. (Yet, many marketers are still not able to integrate their multiple data sources and demand generation systems in a way to do so effectively.)
- Drivers: Customers are driving how they interact with a brand as much as the brand's owner does. Marketers, therefore, rather than insisting things be done their way, need to meet each customer or prospect where he or she wants to be.
In today's digital world, conversations, content, and community become even more important:
- Customer interactions should be two-way conversations, not one-way monologues.
- In a world where so much information is freely available on the Web, rather than communicate in selling mode, marketers need to ensure they provide valuable content that customers can access and digest.
- And they need to engage target customers in the communities where they naturally congregate—online and offline.
3. The momentum factors can make or break a marketing team
Even some of the most creative marketing initiatives can fall flat on their face because of internal noise in an organization—what I call static.
Static is the distraction that prevents marketers from broadcasting their message clearly to the outside world. It's what happens when we get in our own way. It usually means senior marketing leaders didn't pay enough attention to these five factors:
- Organizational commitment: The senior management team must understand the value of effective marketing. Marketers have long struggled to get a seat at the table where strategic decisions are made. It's critical to work inside the organization to build credibility and ensure marketing is seen as an investment, not an expense.
- Resources: No one gets the budget they'd like for marketing all the time, but there's a minimum threshold that needs to be funded for success. Great marketing initiatives fall short if they are not provided sufficient resources.
- People: Yes, marketing leaders need to appropriately reward and recognize the people on their marketing team, but they also have to ensure they're building the right capabilities and competencies for the future.
- Technology: The latest marketing technologies systems have incredibly rich levels of functionality. Unfortunately, most organizations will likely use only a small fraction of these capabilities. Technology adoption should be like Goldilocks eating porridge—not too little, not too much, just right.
- Environment: Markets that once appeared to be mature and even boring have been totally turned upside down by market disruptors such as Uber and Airbnb. Marketers need to ask whether they'd rather be the disruptor, or the ground forces that go in and clean up after the disruptor has created a stir. Just be sure you won't be collateral damage once a disruptor has romped through the market.
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Following the three steps I've outlined will help you get heard above the noise and achieve marketing mastery in your organization.