In his 1989 book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Steven Covey selects as his second habit ‘Begin with the End in Mind’. It’s one of my favourites, and I do try to adhere to it whenever I can. I sometimes paraphrase it as “work out where you want to go before you set off”. It seems so obvious and yet time and again I see examples in business of this vital step having been missed.
The most common place I see this ‘gap’ is not surprisingly in relation to marketing. Many business owners and leaders seem to be either perplexed by the complexity of marketing and just sign the cheques, hoping something good will happen, or are scared of challenging the marketing team (in-house or external) to define what they are aiming to deliver.
The alternative to beginning with the end in mind is the saying “If you don’t know where you are going, the one thing you can be sure of is that you won’t get there.” This is the situation I often see in small and medium-sized businesses. Lots of well-intentioned marketing activity, but results that surprise and disappoint in equal measure.
When the question is posed – “What do you want your marketing to deliver?” the answer usually begins with the word “more”. It’s usually more sales, more leads, more profit, more business value, more attractive (to staff, recruits, referrers, distributors or suppliers). That shouldn’t be a big surprise of course; if you are investing time and money in marketing, there should be a significant improvement in performance as a result.
What would it be for your business?
If you could move forward in time 3 years, and look back on a highly successful marketing programme, what would it have achieved? What would be different in your business as a result of that marketing activity?
Or, if you prefer to look at it a different way, if you think about where your business is now, what does your marketing have to do to help you address your challenges, take advantage of your opportunities and achieve your goals?
I’ll bet the word “more” features quite heavily!
… but not necessarily in the right order.”
As Eric Morecambe famously said to the great composer and pianist André Previn in the 1971 Morecambe and Wise Christmas show. Previn had accused him of “playing all the wrong notes” in his rather unusual adaptation of Grieg’s Piano Concerto.
When we carry out a Marketing MOT for a new client, we often find something rather similar. The bulk of the problems (or opportunities if you prefer) that we uncover relate to strategy, direction, coordination and measurement of activities, rather than businesses doing ‘the wrong things’.
In nearly 5 years we have undertaken Marketing MOTs for businesses across over 20 industries from start-ups to well-established businesses. Most, if not all are successful but want to do even better. On average, we have discovered 47 opportunities to improve marketing per MOT with clients scoring an average of 33 out of a possible 100 points on our Marketing Grading tool.
Many of our clients have some in-house marketing resource and/or use a creative agency to provide graphic design, websites, social media, email marketing, flyers etc. All of this resource has usually combined to produce some nice marketing materials and some good ideas, but somehow it isn’t really delivering the results the business needs. What we generally find is that they are missing some opportunities, not joining activities up properly, not delivering a consistent message or have peaks and troughs in their activity (see my recent blog on the two C’s in success). As a consequence, they don’t get the success and return on their marketing investment they deserve.
In large organisations, this doesn’t happen and one of the key reasons is that they have a Marketing Director – someone with the strategic expertise to direct the efforts of the in-house team and the external agencies. The Marketing Director is accountable to the Managing Director for delivering a robust programme of marketing activity on-time, in full and on budget and most importantly accountable for the results of that programme in terms of sales, market share and profit.
Most Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMEs) don’t need a full-time marketing director, but our Marketing MOT results prove that junior in-house marketing people and a good creative agency alone aren’t enough to ensure success. Our part-time Marketing Director service offers businesses the opportunity to buy in the level of strategic marketing expertise they need to unlock their potential. You can read more about our service and some client case studies here.