In our personal lives, we often talk about the non-negotiables of relationships. For example, finding a mate who wants to have children, someone with whom you share chemistry, an individual of high intelligence, a person who has a great sense of humor, and the list goes on. Similarly, there are non-negotiables in business, and more specifically when it comes to marketing.
The non-negotiables of marketing include:
1. A strategic marketing plan. Unfortunately, too many companies operate without a marketing plan, or, if they have one, they are not following it. Yet, when companies devote the brain power to developing a plan, it provides the road map and the framework for accomplishing corporate goals. As has been said many times, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” To drive business success, a strategic marketing plan should incorporate:
- the company’s vision and mission
- description of target markets
- corporate distinction
- quantifiable goals
- strategies for reaching the goals, tactics and activities
- a budget, schedule, assignment of responsibilities, and
- a monitoring function.
2. A collaborative corporate culture. This is a working environment that respects individuals and teams. It honors transparency, innovation and even mistakes. A collaborative corporate culture recognizes and rewards people for a job well done and for the contributions they make. It embraces communication and encourages others to express their ideas, concerns, challenges and solutions.
3. Documented marketing policies. It’s one thing to know what the tasks at hand are; it’s another to know how to achieve them. While some people think that systems are just a form of bureaucratic red-tape, there are many reasons why they are critical to the successful implementation and completion of goal-directed activities. First, policies provide a structure, guidelines and an understanding of how to operate within the organization. Also, they leverage human resources, assist with onboarding and reduce re-work or duplication of efforts. Additionally, written policies provide checks and balances to make sure that any regulatory and compliance issues related to marketing are being met.
4. A meaningful value proposition. This value proposition is known throughout the organization. Too many marketing departments focus on the features of their products or services. Or, they may tout organizational accomplishments without ever thinking about whether their successes are important to their customers. To create a meaningful value proposition, companies need to answer the question on the minds of their customers and prospects: “What will it do for me?”
5. Better decision-making through data. In a data-driven world, it is important to collect, analyze and act on sound information. The information comes in the form of testing audience responses to specific marketing messages, the selection of what marketing channels and mediums to use, or the frequency with which a company reaches out to prospects and customers. All data points are important for fine-tuning and improving a marketing department’s performance. In real estate, the mantra is “location, location, location.” In marketing, it is “test, test, test.”Will doing business with your company save customers time, money, or aggravation?
- Will doing business with your company save customers time, money, or aggravation?
- Does your company deliver on its promises?
- Will the experience of doing business together be positive, consistent and rewarding for customers?
- Will it encourage referrals, result in positive testimonials and deliver smiles on the faces of customers?
- In the end, is your value proposition clear and easy to understand?
Building a Marketing Foundation
Successful companies know that marketing is the foundation of a successful brand. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for marketing. But when companies maintain an unwavering customer-centric focus and adhere to some essentials, effective marketing programs will follow. Once you’ve nailed the must-haves, you may want to consider some nice-to-haves. Depending on your target markets, organizational goals and vision for the future, they may include marketing technology, a new website, rebranding or advertising. The bottom line is that in marketing, you should always focus on the non-negotiables: the strategies and tactics that will best help you meet your goals.