How well is your marketing working?

Marketing is not just being on Facebook. It is not just having a web site. It is not just investing in some CRM. Marketing is not just analyzing your sales month over month. Marketing is not just your ad campaign. Marketing is not just your front line staff.

Marketing also includes the way your product is packaged and sent to your customers. It also includes the way your bills are displayed and your collections message. It includes the way your sales team collaborates with your customers. Marketing is how tidy your entrance way is. Marketing is also the values and mission of your company – are you a good corporate citizen.

Marketing is the collective set of activities that you employ to find and keep customers. Don’t just take my word for it. Peter Drucker said the same thing.

Other experts call this branding. Sure, a brand is the sum of what people say about you when you are not in the room.

So it is really how I defined Marketing.

Semantics aside, how do you know if your marketing is working? How many of you take a structured approach to all these activities. Many larger companies use the Marketing department to find leads for the sales people. And if the leads are no good then Marketing sucks. But then if the leads are good does that not make Sales simply order takers?

My career has been marketing focused with sales and strategy responsibilities. I believe my education and experience allows me to comment on this with some level of expertise.

The first step to determine how well your marketing is working is to audit what you are doing. Just as with the financial position of your company you conduct an annual audit to determine how well you are doing at that point in time, so too should you audit your marketing activities. Before you create a plan you should assess what you did nad how well it worked.

A complete marketing audit includes both an internal and external review. Here are the  key categories to focus on:

  • Business and economic environment
    • economy
    • social
    • technological
  • The market
    • size
    • characteristics
    • trends
    • channels
    • CUSTOMERS – this is absolutely critical!!!!!
  • The competition
    • their strengths and weaknesses
    • their customer base
  • Sales
    • total sales by product/service by geography by customer
  • Marketing
    • procedures
    • organization
    • marketing mix – the 4Ps

I have 100’s of questions assembled over time that I use with my clients. I will be condensing some into downloads in the next month to be available on my website.

Your marketing efforts have a major focus on your customer. Therefore, marketing  should also be driving the corporate strategy. If not, what is your corporate strategy focused on?

Starting with a marketing audit allows you to zero base your activities each year. This will allow you to assess what is working and not and also uncover the reasons why/why not. This context and understanding is crucial to running an effective marketing program.

Marketing is not about chasing shiny objects like social media in your search for the silver bullet, unicorn (insert cliche here). Marketing is about discipline and understanding. You gain understanding by asking questions and assessing the answers and looking for clues to help improve the delight factor of your product or service.

I found it interesting these past couple of weeks as more Facebook execs are saying Facebook is addictive and not good for young people. The CEO of Sales Force said Facebook should be regulated like cigarettes because it is addictive. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, said he will not let his nephew use social media. And these are but a few stories.

Why do you want to risk everything on a “too good to be true” type solution? This is not a sprint and it is not a marathon. Life, and your company’s journey, is a series of short sprints that add up to a type of marathon.

John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success has Industriousness and Enthusiasm as the cornerstones. Applying this to a marketing mindset means you can work hard, continue to know and grow, and show some fun while moving forward.

Following this approach to assessing what was and feeding it into your plan, what will be, and sprinkling with a liberal dose of hard work and enjoyment will lead you to implementing a successful marketing program.

And next year when you conduct your audit you will know what you need to continue to do and what should be adjusted or eliminated.

Do this and you will extend your tenure as a marketing leader in your company.

Buying into a system and corporate values

I have been involved as a player, coach and in various board capacities with sports for most of my life.  I have always been a big fan of equating sports and business because there are many similarities. As I have written before, there are also many divergent concepts that you cannot relate directly between sports and business. notably this is my reference to the inverse amount of time of preparation/practice/training versus actual competition between sports and business. In business we perform much more than we train or practice.

Watching high level sports recently, the US college football playoffs and bowl season and world junior hockey to name but two, and then watching comments by players and coaches before and after the games got me thinking about how much players “buy into a system” from their coach.  Players or coaches that criticize the other’s performance or decisions lack trust and have clearly now both into the system.

This point became more in focus for me when I was lunching with my good friend Laurie and he and I were talking hockey – the Jets, Bruins and Habs.

The Jets are doing well this year because they are mostly healthy and have grown together within Paul Maurice’s system. Ditto for the Bruins. They believe it, they don’t panic when they are down and they trust each other. Key additions of players and the growth and maturity of the leadership also helps in both cases.

Contrast that with the Habs that have become a laughing-stock from what was the greatest NHL franchise (I used to be a Habs fan). No vision, no trust and no leadership creates poor results and diminishing support from their customers, the fans and sponsors.

In business there are often values listed next to the mission and vision statement. In reviewing many of these over the years for clients, conducting competitive analysis and guiding planning exercises, it is apparent that many organizations do a quick online search and look for the values that other successful companies are using and they simply insert them at the leadership planning table and then tell the employees what the values are. Oh yes, and that these are expected to be followed.

And then the leaders proceed take actions that are nowhere near consistent with the values. And that is OK. Remember the Sears execs that got their bonuses and the pension fund for employees will disappear? Or the CEO that received a bonus for laying off 900 employees to meet the financial target and a core value is “people”. No, the core value is bottom line. Oh wait, Peter Drucker stated that you cannot cut your way to growth. So, Mr/Ms CEO, are you trying to cut your way to growth or meet the analysts’ targets. You know, the analysts that don’t work in your company or industry and have never spoken to a customer in their life.

I am all for profit – it makes a company sustainable. I am all for encouraging personal and corporate growth – without innovation we will not adapt long-term.

But do your expectations for growth and innovation remain consistent with your values? Do your employees understand how they ‘fit’ into the customer journey? Or are you simply claiming to have values and then not sharing the game plan with your staff?

A recent Gallup survey indicated that 50% of people leave a job because of their manager. I believe this extends upward and that if people don’t know how their role contributes to the purpose of the company (creation and/or delivery of the product or service), then how can you expect people to buy in?

In Eric Greitens book “Resilience” he talks about what a resilient team truly is. He states “Resilient teams share one thing: an ability to manage many interests while serving a purpose that is larger than the interests of any one person”.

They buy into a system, believe in the same set of values and understand that as a team – Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM). Only with this foundation can you overcome difficult situations on a business and personal level.

So ask yourself and your employees if they truly buy in to what you are doing or if they are merely happy for the pay cheque. The answers will provide you with a glimpse into the future. It could be good or it could be bad.

What actions will you take now to build on or change what your people have told you?

Leadership is a Big Responsibility

My son and I were talking about great football coaches and key position players, namely the quarterback, and what constituted a great leader. Turnar remembered a quote from Carson Wentz where he accepted the heavy responsibility about being the young person that the team is counting on to lead them to victory. And more than simply winning, Wentz accepted that his play would have a substantial impact on the livelihood of men 12 years older and with families. And he has not wavered in his personal belief and in his execution of his responsibilities.

Great coaches are the same. Scott Frost from the University of Central Florida accepted the head coach position with Nebraska, his alma mater. But, rather than turn his back on the UCF team, he flew back and forth to begin his recruiting at Nebraska and also keep coaching at UCF. He pushed himself to the edge of physical exhaustion. Oh yes, he has a young family as well that he needed to spend time with. UCF won their bowl game against a physically dominant Auburn team to remain the only FBS undefeated team.

Contrast that with the situation that occurred with Sears Canada. The company finally declared bankruptcy in 2017 with store closings occurring in the lead up to Christmas. The pension plan is not sustainable for the retirees. You know, the people who spent 20, 25 or 30 years serving customers and providing value to their company. Meanwhile,  the executives received their full parting bonuses.

Kouzes and Postner in their 30+ years of research on leadership talk about a leader being “someone others willingly follow”. Based on the brief examples above I am not sure how anyone could call the Sears executives leaders.  What a shame.

I am fortunate in my work to be involved with many outstanding leaders. The five characteristics they all exhibit that are measures of their success are:

  • care for their staff – genuine care and acceptance of the custodianship to make good decisions about the business because people’s lives depend on the job
  • drive to get better – they know that if they stand still the competition will pass them
  • focus on the customer – customers pay for the business to exist and these leaders are always ensuring the customer is properly taken care of
  • expecting superior performance – while they do nice things and create a wonderful working environment for their staff they have expectations on performance metrics. And they support their people to be successful
  • a sense of humility and humour – while they care deeply about the work, they are not too full of themselves and certainly are self-deprecating in a humble way

I have played for poor coaches and worked for lousy managers. In every scenario the five points listed above were completely, or mostly, absent from the coach/manager.

I am not going to talk about all the other factors of great leadership, there are many wonderful authors that have  conducted detailed research on this subject. I simply wanted to share my recent thoughts about the football situation and how business leaders can relate.

If you want to be a better leader work hard on the five points above.

Don’t just talk about leadership, demonstrate leadership through the appropriate actions. I guarantee your overall corporate performance and satisfaction with life will improve.