In this lightning-fast technology business, all too often the marketing strategy is just "Do something." Executing is certainly essential, but having a clear vision while operating at high speed is also a pretty good idea. Effective navigation is equally as important as speed.
A lot of companies don't have a marketing strategy. I have no statistics on this, but I see way too many companies without one. My estimate is 9 out of 10 are lacking a truly competitive marketing strategy. Their Websites are a good giveaway, because the information there reflects no strategy or a very fragmented one. Fragmented strategy is no strategy.
In testing whether there's a marketing strategy in positioning, branding, pricing, and other strategic factors, most tech brands fail. All too often, top executives can't provide a solid reason for the things they are doing and can't explain easily and simply why their marketing will result in superior performance.
Sometimes the main reason behind the failure to have a great marketing strategy is simply that the CEO doesn't get it.
When asked, "What is your strategy?" most CEOs insist they have one and will probably whip out a giant PowerPoint presentation. Occasionally there's a slide titled "Our Strategy." And even more occasionally, there's substance behind this slide demonstrating how the brand is differentiated and how the company brings value that competitors cannot match. Most of the time, it doesn't.
Other key indicators of a missing marketing strategy include the following:
You lack a sharp focus. Strategy is about narrowing choices about what you do, what you don't do, and how you want to be known in the market. Mini, maker of the Mini Cooper, is focused on small, quick, stylish cars. No SUVs, no trucks, no sedans. Compare that with the Chevrolet brand. What is a Chevy? It's a sedan, an economy car, a sports car, a truck, and an SUV. Little wonder the brand has been in trouble for years. The good news is that focusing doesn't mean you can't sell other things. It means you are very clear about what you want to be known for, and you emphasize that difference in everything you do and say.
Lots of brands, including many in the tech sector, can't resist the Chevy-like line extension. Companies get into unrelated or marginally related businesses typically for growth's sake, rather than to create more customer value and satisfaction. They're catering to stockholders, not customers. As a result, they wind up with too many or even competing strategic directions, which neither turn profits nor create corporate focus. One of the first things Steve Jobs did following his return to Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) was kill off about a dozen different models of printers. He remains renowned for his ability to say "No" to ideas he saw as off strategy.
You are doing the same thing every year. If your strategy continually fits into what the company is already doing, you don't have a strategy. There's nothing wrong with being consistent if what you're doing is an effective, organized group of competitive actions moving the company toward its goals. Unfortunately, a strategy based on habit too often results in cloudy, dull direction, because it's meaningless and provides little if any perspective on what's essential to achieving business goals.
In the concluding part of this blog, I will discuss three other factors that demonstrate the absence of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Tvotapka - We're getting into another topic. Yes. Engage with customers and listen but also realize oftne they may not kow what they want. Incremental improvements, particularly in service can come from customers' ideas. But they're not the only source and sometimes their ideas can take a company down the wrong path.
A company with no marketing strategies is like having no objectives because it is the strategies that helps to achieves objectives. Marketing strategies help to achieve corporate objectives and corportate objectives aim to achieve competitive advantage over rival companies.
Marketing strategy is an essential task that must be continually undertaken. For instance, shifting market conditions, including changing customer needs and competitive threats, almost always insure that what worked in the past will not work in the future, thus require strategy and revisions in how products are marketed.
That says it. Unfortunately even when some tech companies grow, the affects of that kind of ignorance and arrogance and resulting under investment in marketing often continue hurting business progress. There is "real work" in designing the product. Great product ideas come from effective marketing and engineering collaboration. However, discounting the "real work" of marketing and sales is ultimately bad management. Could be one of the reasons why you don't see overwhelming marketing brilliance coming from very many tech marketers. There certainly are notable exceptions from brands that do get that marketing makes a difference. I'm sure you can think of a few and that's exactly the point. The ones that are marketing well, AND creating great products, carve out a reputation that makes them winners.
Who are your candidates for B2B tech marketing experts? I'll elect Intel. It took them some years but they got it. Who else?
Absolutely. One of the tools we use in consulting is something called a hat pack. This is a written document that contains all of the vital data about a post. It spells out the primary purposes, targets, products and statistics relevant to that post. It also identifies where the post is in relation to the rest of the org board. One policy we often insist upon is a random spot check to be sure staff members are on that same page as you say and that their efforts in alignment with the purpose of the group as a whole. The spot check isn't anything elaborate, it's simply a quick two minute check out in by a supervisor or senior. "What's your product?" "What's the purpose of your post?" "What's the valuable final product of your area?" A quick, certain answer indicates good communication has been in place. A lag means something was missed and needs quick, but thorough clean up on anything misunderstood.
From my experience working with a variety of engineering organizations, part of the problem stems from the fact that many engineers dont value marketing. They think it's something anyone can do, that requires little skills (and of course the real work is in designing and building the product.) So in engineering-dominated start ups, there can be this focus on design, and marketing sort of gets left behind.
Tvotapka - The key challenge after a strategy is developed, is educating the organization, not keeping communcation strategy a secret and also tracking or testing variouos tactics against the strategy. If the tactic does't reinforce or support the desired perceptions and include or reference at least one of the key messages, then its off strategy and needs correcting. This includes directing external resources such ad, PR, web copy writers to assure they're all on the same page.(Pun intended) Once you've got it, then use it...consistently. Is your organization expressing itself in a consistent, competitively-diferentiated way in all its marketing communications?
Great post on marketing strategy. Definitely some "out points" in place out there among too many companies. For one thing, people are not encouraged to think strategically. Most likely this is due to the fact that strategy implies long-term, pan-determined thinking and that can be difficult to achieve when so many are living check to check, or are not incented to think along those wavelengths. Another factor is the existence of arbitrary orders or data. In other words, people who don't understand the mechanics of marketing strategy will dub in their own interpretations. In in the absence of well-written policy, you'll have instances where folks will literally fill in their own ideas that may or may not contribute to the intended strategy of the group. That can be deadly as it's often difficult to spot.
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