Some people call a logo a brand – it is just the visual identity of your overall brand. Your brand is defined as what people say about you when you are not in the room.
Some people define marketing as digital media. Marketing is the sum of all activities that are used to find and keep a customer.
Branding is what happens when you are a good marketer. Let’s examine some of the foundational steps to become a great marketer.
I read a couple of fascinating articles last weekend and the detailed report they were based on. The focus was a massive study in the U.K. about what agency heads think is the most effective media choice and what is actually the best media choice. One of the articles was written by Prof. Mark Ritson, an Australian professor that wrote a summary of the methodology, the results and what it means for media selection. You can find it here.
The release of the study, the analysis provide by the professor and also by Bob Hoffman reinforce my personal opinion about the folly of loading up on digital media only as the solution to your marketing woes.
In fact, I will go further and say that the inability to understand what marketing really is will be the downfall of many companies. Time spent chasing a specific shiny object instead of analyzing your customers and being mindful of competitor actions are not the proper foundation to begin your marketing program.
Yes, I am a Peter Drucker fan. In his book, “Managing for Results“, he states that the problems he sees in business (book written in 1964, but still relevant today) arise from an internal or me centered view of the importance of the product or service instead of the view from the customer’s perspective. In only very rare circumstances does a customer actually need only what you can provide.
Don’t waste your time beginning with a selection of digital media, when the recent research noted above shows how ineffective they are on a standalone basis. Instead you must address what Drucker and others identified:
1. What the people in the business think they know about the customer and the market is more likely to be wrong than right. Only the customer can actually tell you. You must watch, study and analyze many points of data to create a holistic and accurate view.
2. The customer rarely buys what you are selling. They don’t pay for a product. They are looking for some level of satisfaction or ability to get a job done. This is the famous Theodore Levitt phrase “the customer is not buying a 1/4″ drill they want a 1/4” hole.
3. Customers are not buying what you think they are buying. We can thank Disney for setting the bar so high for all types of customer service interactions. An experience with another company in an unrelated situation can create an expectation of the same level of quality in your industry/company.
4. What you think of as the “quality” that the customer is buying from you may not even be close to what they are actually buying. First, your definition of quality may not be the same as the customer. Next, the job to be done theory created by Tony Ulwickdives deeply into the concept of what the customer actually wants is a tool/solution to get a specific job done. And this may result in 50+ different actual jobs. This is fascinating stuff!
5. We must assume the customer to be rational. But, the customer is rational according to their own situation and not what we necessarily want them to be. It is up to the company to understand why the customer behaves and purchases the way they do.
6. No single product or service is important to the market. There is no social security, CPP or other benefit in the market for products and services. The market will summarily dismiss any product or service with no thought of the impact. Think of Kodak’s failure to evolve when photography became a digital process. Or, most recently and sadly, the disappearance of Sears Canada.
7. We will define the customer as who determines the buying decision not necessarily the one who pays. The customer definition also includes the person(s) that use the product or service.
Just using these questions as a starting point in our analysis only scratches the surface of truly understanding our customers. And this should surely make you think more deeply about your total marketing plan and what you are trying to achieve compared to what Facebook or LinkedIn campaign you are being told to use by a social media expert.
We need to be people focused, not data driven. Ari Shenken, VP Marketing at IBM said that if you want to know if you are client-centric then look at your data. If the data is not organized around people then you are not client centric.
Selecting the right media comes at a point well down the line in your marketing planning. If you put the proverbial cart before the horse you will not be going anywhere with your marketing, and in particular, your media choices.
Focus on the customer and support your internal activities to keep that customer. And you will have great marketing that builds a strong brand.
That was easy. Now you try it.
About the Author
Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), whose certification was obtained through a combination of experience, examination and continuous professional development. With over 20 years of senior industry management, combined with nearly 8 years in management consulting with national firms, Tim brings together extensive experience, objectivity, and front line leadership. As a national athlete and current university football coach, Tim lives and understands the evaluation, preparation and game planning required for successful high level individual and team performance. He has successfully brought this coaching approach to his work teams throughout his leadership career. Read More
A version of this post was first published here.