What’s the problem?

Back in November I posted a question on the Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) group on Linkedin. It was a pretty straightforward question; “What’s the biggest problem in marketing right now?”

150+ responses later (this is actually pretty good for a LinkedIn question) and I was genuinely overwhelmed by the passion and frustration that exists within the marketing community.

The answer?

Number 1 by a long way, was the fact that marketing seems to have been relegated to ‘fast food’ status in many companies.

By that, I mean that the ‘big tactic’ seems to have replaced the big idea’ and that companies are using marketing as quick-fix tool to effectively drive instant sales leads.

None of this came as a big surprise. In B2B particularly, the uneasy relationship between sales and marketing has left many of us with an inferiority complex. This has been exacerbated in recent times as marketing keep deferring to their sales counterparts when asking their opinion on campaigns, pitches and creative ideas.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, we are living in ‘The Crazy Age”, one of the defining characteristics of this intense period of flux is the speed at which the world seems to operate. And YES, we all have to adjust to keep up. ‘Strategy is execution and execution is strategy’ seems to be the mantra of the moment.

But the route of the problem is that management for some reason believes that ‘success is easy’. The expectation of many company boards is that we need success NOW!  And rather than object or fight back with logical arguments, we all scurry of trying to do our bit to hit that elusive sales target.

Success is never easy (ask an Olympian)

The reality is pretty simple. Success is earned not bought. There is no such thing as an ‘Instant Olympian’. It’s the planning, dedication; long hours and training that make the difference. It’s the sweat and determination that count. Making the most of the talent you have and never giving up.

Marketing is no different.

Those brands that think strategically but act quickly will win. Those that harness the intellectual capital of their staff and invite customers to participate in their journey will be ahead of the pack.

Investing in your ‘brilliant basics’ from customer service to employee engagement using new social platforms and techniques will get you over the finishing line.

Marketing in “The Crazy Age” is less about the campaigns that you churn out on a quarterly basis i.e. the ‘fast food’ stuff and more and more about the authenticity by which you can deliver and engage.

Brand body language. What does yours say about you?

Customers are increasingly picking up on a brands “signals” i.e. its indirect marketing messages (think of this like non verbal communications or brand body language) and making decisions on whether that company fits their own set of values.

Attitude and effort are two of the biggest brand signals we know. If a brand is seen to be working hard and trying to ‘do the right things’ and is genuine and honest in what it does, then we feel a strong sense of affinity to that brand. Conversely, if a brand is spamming us with email, trying to make the least amount of effort to engage us and showing no real interest in our issues then we quickly switch off.

Fast food marketing might give you that ‘instant hit’ that you crave but it will make you fat, lazy and slow over the long haul.

It’s time to show you really mean what you say

The winners will be those who experiment with ideas that get them closer to their most important stakeholders and demonstrate that they are prepared to commit to the cause. Social media can play a massive role in this transformation. For example:

  • Being responsive using Twitter for customer service queries
  • Participating with employees using ‘secret’ Pinterest boards
  • Crowd sourcing opinions from your customers about innovation ideas
  • Listening to what your customers are talking about using social listening tools
  • Building conversations using the new Google + communities feature

These are just a few examples and by no means exhaustive.

Summary

So my rallying call for 2013 is simple:

  1. Marketing needs to be more assertive, aggressive and confident in its ability to deliver against the wider challenges and goals of the business. It’s not just about supporting sales
  2. Marketing needs to demonstrate to its customers and employees that they are working harder and are more committed than ever to their needs and not just those of the organisation. Think Brand Signals.
  3. Marketing needs to embrace social media and inject some fun back into what it does. It’s okay to go crazy every now and again.

Crisis over, now back to work :)