It’s true. It seems that many things I know about marketing I think I learned in my health ed class. You should know that I now avoid exercise at all costs, preferring to live according to Churchill’s axiom, “Why stand when you can sit” (I actually think I am allergic to exercise). But in marketing, staying fit is needed because that’s how to generate results that builds business.
But before we make our new year’s resolutions, it’s useful to have a consistent understanding of what marketing is. Why is this necessary? Because you have to know what it is you’re looking to improve before you can make concrete steps to get into marketing shape. I am also amazed that a lot of the time people only understand marketing in the context of what it is not – it is not operations, or sales or product management – so what is left over must be marketing. Right? Uh – not exactly.
So what exactly is marketing? Well anyone that took Marketing 101 in college will raise their hand eagerly to spew back what surely we all remember – marketing is about the 4 “P”’S – Product, Pricing, Promotion and Place. But that line of thinking is not only dated – it is also largely irrelevant a lot of the time. Today, it is far more useful to think of marketing in terms of the three “M”’s — Magic, Muscle and Method, in equal measure. Magic is the ability to use your intuition, creativity and imagination to understand how your customers will perceive your offering. Muscle is the ability to inspire teams to follow your visions and finally Method is the ability to create the systems and processes to execute. Don’t expect one person to be brilliant in all three “M”s. I myself might be talented in the first two Ms but the Method part of the equation is not my strength. The trick though is to create an environment where all three M’s can be operative and contribute to the fitness of your marketing machine.
So now that we have a basic understanding of what marketing is, let’s look at the healthiest way to use the three Ms to best advantage. And for that, let’s turn to the lessons we are learned in school during our health education classes.
Prepare a well balanced marketing diet.
When looking at marketing programs it is tempting to put your energy into grand programs. The ones that are big and important and are expected to serve the business in multi-dimensional ways. Go ahead but remember that there is a need for balance. Be sure your marketing diet is also filled with quick hits that can generate revenue quickly while the more lavish programs are baking. The balanced diet I suggest is 2/3 long term planning to 1/3 quick hits.
Do not overindulge in marketing sweets.
You get an email or a call from a sales person. “We can develop a program that will pay itself back in [fill in the blank] weeks.” You think about it, consider what has worked in the past. But in making a decision I suggest two things. First, don’t deny yourself all opportunities to try new things – that’s how you learn. But second, don’t be an easy mark for every sales pitch either. Here is a brutal truth. There are no programs that can really deliver guaranteed highly qualified leads — not the best run social media program or telesales program. At best they can generate contact information from people who seem to have some interest in your product or service — maybe. Creating a truly qualified lead requires cultivation that only you can do. Don’t get seduced by a lovely box of marketing bon bons that promise the world – but do allow yourself an occasional treat.
Get you daily dose of marketing veggies.
Not only do you have restrict how many marketing sweets you allow yourself, you also need to add the marketing equivalent of fiber and leafy greens that builds healthy marketing bones. That includes reading and learning about what drives your market, information about your customer segments, industry and technology trends and marco economics that impact your business. For instance, if you work at a bank, by understanding how a tight labor impacts wages and savings rates you can take advantage of opportunities your competitors might miss. You may not have loved your veggies as a kid – but your mother was right. You need your marketing veggies – reading and researching are a necessary part of a balanced marketing diet and you must discipline yourself to get your fill of the healthy stuff.
Watch your marketing caloric intake.
This one is probably the simplest to understand in your head but the hardest to live. If we remember that one of Ms is method, you must develop an understanding of what your organization can execute in terms of capacity. Don’t take on more than you can execute because, well – it’s obvious isn’t it. But this can be really hard to manage if the needs of the business are immense and there are many opportunities. Discipline is needed because the temptations are great to over commit. Resist the urge.
Engage in a daily dose of marketing calisthenics.
How do you exercise your marketing muscles? By actually doing some of the work yourself. It seems the height of irony. The higher you go in your career – the less you actually do. So just when you are at your professional best – you are probably doing less than ever. And worse, if you only have others do the work, then you get out of practice – the marketing equivalent of “If you don’t use it you lose it…” To keep your marketing muscles strong – use them daily. Do one functional task a day. Write a response to a news item, do a quick article, work on a web site yourself. Don’t overdo it – but it is worth the time to stay current.
Let me end by wishing you a 2008 filled with buzz and brand fitness. May your new year’s resolutions not evaporate once the buzz of the champagne fizzles out.
Happy New Year.