Many companies leave their marketing strategy as an afterthought or dismiss it altogether. It is understandable why companies operate this way as often sales efforts were instrumental in the initial growth of the company. Over time securing larger accounts and achieving a good footprint in the market with an excellent reputation. For many companies, that burst of initial growth was often occurring some time ago against fewer competitors and markets that were active. The company rode the wave of good times. Marketing was considered as brochures and logos and played only a small part in the overall sales strategy.
Like all companies, over time the business slows as it reaches maturity, and companies turn to product innovation to create a new point of differentiation. But getting the message out there beyond their loyal customers is slow and costly. Sales results are disappointing even though the product has substantial merit.
Today, it becomes necessary to consider how to improve marketing and apply a marketing strategy to stimulate sales. Sales alone will struggle to reach enough people timely to generate sufficient interest for new products before competitors arrive with similar solutions. CEOs must look to new and innovative ways to support sales and stimulate demand and in today’s market growth is often led by marketing more than sales. Marketing is creating differentiation and expediting your product to market.
Highly competitive environments demand differentiation and speed to market. This is essential to gain a competitive advantage. If you are too slow to market, competitors quickly learn from your challenges and can appear with a similar product with a perceived better offer; from a customer’s perspective.
This problem is compounded when the products produced or sold by a company appear similar, or there are numerous substitute products. One of the critical requirements of marketing is to seek and leverage your unique selling proposition and communicate this to the market.
Additionally, the way which companies do business has changed, the days of the weekly or monthly sales calls are becoming tenuous where your key customers have less time for these sorts of interactions. Your customers are now avid users of the internet and will often perform searches to solve their business challenges. If you do not have a digital strategy in place, you are outside of their consideration set.
This shift has brought about a dramatic change with a new view of marketing organisations and their contribution to your company’s performance. Marketing’s role is not to produce brochures or organise your next tradeshow. Their responsibility now lies as an integral part of your strategic plan and must contribute to strategy execution.
To capitalise on a digital marketing strategy, tactics such as email marketing campaigns, search engine optimisation, content creation, data management, and automation must be included in the marketing strategy. Without the use of these tactics, your exposure on the internet will be limited.
In addition to your digital strategy, a professional marketer should be involved in new product releases. It is critical that products and services be communicated using a customer-centric viewpoint and not derived from internal perceptions. To achieve this market research is often required to validate the unique selling proposition. In most organisations, this may be as simple as selecting an appropriate sample from your existing customers and running an online survey to test the research hypothesis. Alternatively, in large organisations, and where budgets permit, you would consider qualitative research such as running a focus group.
Many companies that have not invested in a marketing strategy are often deterred by the perceived lack of accountability that results from marketing expenditure. This may have been true in the past, although, with the advent of digital, marketing activity can be tracked and measured for performance. As a CEO, you can expect reports that illustrate conversions and revenue attribution.
For marketing to be effective in business-to-business markets, their primary focus needs to be on the contribution to the sales effort. This implies that their primary goal is to nurture prospects into a state of buyer readiness, which then, is provided to a salesperson for closing. Marketers must always be introspective and consider their activity and ask, how does this campaign contribute to increased revenue and profitability?
To review your marketing strategy and understand how to achieve a measured return on investment, please reach out for a discussion with Adele Crane.
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