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Does Marketing Really Matter? It Depends On WHO You Ask…

Throughout my travels and networking with business people, I am often stupefied by the lack of understanding surrounding marketing and its role in an organization. True, most companies I meet with are excellent at their core competency—whether that is manufacturing, retailing, technology or professional services—but appear befuddled when it comes to appreciating marketing’s value in their organization.

Why? Well, some of the confusion around marketing’s true impact has been created by marketers themselves. I call this the “self-inflicted wound.” By making marketing seem like a magic trick, marketers have ducked making marketing an impactful and important business function. No longer can marketing be the private domain of strangely creative practioners, but it must be a highly integrated and transparent business process that drives growth. The CMO’s best internal friend can no longer be the head of Sales, but must now be the CFO and the CIO. No exceptions.

Do YOU have a Strategic Plan?

Once engaged with a client, the first document we ask to see is the Strategic Plan. Why?  Because a well-constructed strategic plan is the roadmap to growth. And there are only two ways for an organization to grow: find new customers or garner more resources from existing customers. And that is precisely where marketing comes in.

The first question we ask a client is “Who are your current customers?” We ask them to verbally draw us a picture beyond demographics, industrial data or past behaviors. What motivates them to engage with the company? What problem/issue are you solving for them? Why do they prefer your organization? In their eyes, what makes your firm better, special, different? Now, we’re getting somewhere…how will you grow with this group? And if these types of questions cannot be answered, then we’ll ask the customers themselves.

So, marketing begins with the WHO. How well do you understand your customer base and/or your prospects? Where do they get information about your category? How do they consume media on your topic? What can you say to motivate them to choose your organization over all the other choices?  How and where will you say it?

The 5 W’s and one H.

We maintain that marketing strategy is all about the 5 W’s and one H. Who is your customer? What do you want them to do? When do you want them to do it? Where can they interact with you most efficiently? Why should they choose your organization? And how much effort do you want them to make on your behalf? If an organization can answer these questions insightfully, then marketing becomes a vital business function leading to growth.