A clever person once said, "Visions demand a strategy, strategy requires a plan." This is what is often overlooked or sidestepped by too many people involved in the marketing process today.
And when we say marketing process, we are not just referring to the brand or marketing manager. We are also referring to the advertising agency, the media placement agency, the online marketing agency, the sales, finance and HR departments, etc. In other
words, all parties that are involved in opening the right doors to get the right leads for a business and then closing the deal. Ultimately it is the closed sale that signifies success.
Marketers can be accountable or take responsibility for many activities within an organisation, but problems start when we are expected to make promises to the public by means of advertising and other marketing activities and the company's services or products do not meet these promises.
Everyone needs to be part of the plan. It is what we call holistic marketing. An approach that involves all players; a system based on partnerships where everyone has something to gain or lose by a campaign's success or failure.
It all starts at the top. Top management (and yes, that includes the CEO and CFO) need to understand the requirements of their clients/customers. Being bottom-line driven is wonderful, but if you launch products/services before they are ready, or you have unmotivated call centres, you may have a company that will soon show a struggling bottom line.
An organisation's structure should not be hierarchical in nature but rather cyclical. One area feeding into another - and ultimately being related to the whole.
The touch-points for the development and implementation for any campaign
vary, but some of them include the following:
1. Marketing: The process must start with the marketing department. These are the people who should know, live, breathe, eat, smell the company's brand. To be able to do this, you need to know your market... interact with the client. Directly, through focus groups, through desktop research, through e-mail campaigns. The number of access points is limitless. But the objective stays the same...know your target audience(s),
your key competitors and your core positioning. Plan. Doing this will set you on the right road to getting your message heard above the plethora of communication that is already taking place in our busy marketplace.
2. Agencies: Agencies are the companies that bring marketing strategies to life - and we are talking about advertising, PR, online agencies. They put colour to the canvas. Use a creative approach that will 'talk' to prospective clients. This is how they should be assessed. Is their creative interpretation of a marketing strategy and a campaign brief spot on? You will get the best out of your agencies if you have a marketing plan as a blueprint. We often find we are brought into companies that do not understand why their existing advertising campaigns are not effective. Once the marketing strategy is done based on research, it becomes very clear where deviations or activities implemented were detrimental to the success of the marketing project. Or another way of looking at it: have a marketing strategy up front, and your advertising agency will have direction.
3. Sales: These are the people that close the deal. Make the sale. Deal directly with the client on a daily basis. They see the nuances and feel the changes in sentiment. These changes need to be fed back to the marketing department regularly. Communication may be a cliché, but it is vital. If your sales process happens by means of a call centre scenario, please ensure that each client is designated a key account person - someone who becomes his 'service manager'. Or if that is not possible, have a brilliant telephony system where all information can be logged. Talking about logging, your call centre should also be one of your most important research tools - where did clients hear from your company etc. This will quickly become a measurement to see if a specific campaign is working or not.
4. Finance: Money is a hot topic for many people and if not dealt with sensitively, relationships can be severely hampered. So when next sending out an invoice, check the style of contact and the message given. But style of invoices should not be the only thing that matters. Credit controllers (although they probably have the most challenging job this side of the mountain) should always be courteous - in all cases. And we all know that most companies are bottom line driven, but do not become so driven that this is the overriding matter ignoring service levels, employee morale and the customer experience.
5. Operations: Once the sale is made, the product must be installed, delivered, etc. If this is not done timeously, effectively and efficiently, what may have started out as a good experience for the client will quickly change (and believe me, others will find out about it quickly).
6. Product development: This needs to be a thorough process, developed for a defined audience with a defined need and then - test, test, test! A marketer can have the most brilliant strategy and the hottest campaign, but if that product or service does not deliver, it will mean zero.
7. Customer services: This department makes sure that new clients become valued, long-term clients. That clients stay with the company by maintaining services levels and delivering on expectations. And service is as basic as returning calls - not three days later, but immediately. Following-up and following-through, taking responsibility and being accountable are all basics, yet magical tools. And once again, surprise, surprise; it is top management that sets the service standard.
8. And back to marketing... This is the department that needs to be the silver thread. The people that start the spark and keep it burning bright by bringing the right people together to make it happen on time, against objectives and of course, within budget.
In short, no one area can be isolated or seen as being more important than another. Marketing needs to be owned, by the whole company and agencies. If all the details are not listed, ask, brainstorm and give ideas. Do what needs to be done to make it happen.
But ultimately, base it on a solid strategic marketing communications plan.
*Nicola Byers is the co-founding member of Ensky Marketing.