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  • Writer's pictureDirk Baerts

Marketing is more than just SWAG & advertising

When you ask people how they describe what marketing means to them, typical answers include designing logos, putting advertisements on Facebook & Google or producing SWAG, the “Stuff We All Get” when going to trade shows or at events. This narrow view then also leads to a common misconception that marketing is expensive but does not add value.

While brand-building & creating brand awareness is another component of the marketing mix, it is somewhat astonishing to notice that those operating in the marketing domain have done little to educate the broader public about what the roles & goals are for Marketing in general and what it all entails. Advertising, creative design & SWAG are all pieces of a larger marketing concept, but they are only just that, small parts of a bigger picture.

There have been many definitions created about what Marketing is (or should be), and I have no intention to add one to mix (or the confusion). What I will do however, is trying to provide a snapshot of what marketing is, where it fits and what you as a business leader should consider when thinking about marketing. The below is not an exhaustive list of activities or components of the marketing mix, but rather serves as a quick guideline to broaden one’s horizon when it comes to marketing.

There are many different components that make-up the concept of marketing. There are the areas of product management, product positioning, market research, branding, creative, public relations & communications (which in many organizations also includes the management of all online & social media channels & campaigns), events, advertising & media, etc., etc. Depending on the company, there will be one or more people, up to entire departments responsible for these various activities. But how the marketing groups is structured is not the key element here, it is of far greater importance for an organization to be able to execute on the main marketing roles.

As the owners at Viral Essence Marketing Group, a full-service marketing agency, will tell you, marketing starts with understanding the company’s mission, purpose & values: “what does the company stand for and what does it want to achieve?” Once that is clear, one can take a look at the products or services the organization has to offer and determine what value these products and services deliver to its customers. And that’s only the beginning …

Based on the organization’s targets, specific goals for marketing will have to be set to allow the organization to reach its overarching objectives. Once the marketing goals are defined, a clear marketing plan needs to be developed that enables the marketing team to reach these targets. Depending on the markets the organization operates in, these could be short-term (1 year) or long-term plans (3 or 5 years), with options for the latter plans to be revisited at pre-set intervals. At a minimum these plans need to contain following components (again the goal is to provide some handles to initiate a thinking process around how to structure marketing, as the actual setup will be specific and particular to every individual company – or even (sub)-division):

  1. A market component, defining the total, available and addressable market sizes, the eco-system (customers, competitors, 3rd parties, …), current & expected trends & developments, existing and upcoming distribution channels and client demographics (i.e. the definition and use of personas is highly advisable here). Creating a realistic SWOT-analysis is also advisable at this stage.

  2. A product component, looking at product features & benefits and customer perceived values, product positioning in the market, product roadmap, development & (expected) life cycle evolution, vendor & partner analysis, and risk analysis (in product development, supply chain, product technology / service delivery, …)

  3. A pricing component, to determine if the products or services can be appropriately priced in the market and deliver the expected minimum sales and margins to create the necessary value add for to organization and its value chain. One should also develop a long-term forecast, based on the addressable market, expected success rates and current & future pricing models. Multiple versions of this forecast can be developed, based on varying criteria for success rate, economic growth expectations, inflation or market impacts that can impact revenues, pricing structure, cost and margin.

  4. A branding & promotion component, which is the component that is typically the most visible to the outside world and drives the above-mentioned (mis)conception out what marketing is. Here the plans will focus on the brand itself (what it stands for, how to create awareness), the creative criteria, the channels used to deliver the (brand) messages to the market (this can then cover adverting on all formats, PR, websites, social media, …) as well as the timelines and budget requirements, activities to support the brand & the company image (such as events, specific publicity or PR campaigns, partnerships, …).

The plan should also contain specific (SMART) metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), that get review on a regular basis, to track progress and adjust when and where necessary. It is very important that these metrics fully align with the marketing goals, which should be an extension of the organization’s goals. When not aligned, the metric (or worse, the marketing goal) will not contribute to the success of the organization, making it immediately irrelevant and counterproductive.

This then brings us to the last point: marketing plans can not be developed in isolation, these need to be developed and reviewed in coordination with all other departments within the organization. It is of no value to have a marketing department develop a go-to-market & positioning strategy for one market segment and then have the sales team sell to a completely different audience. Or create a product positioning document for a product that the engineering or production group is unable to deliver. And this should be a 2-way conversation, the marketing group should provide insight to production & engineering for example: features that are not perceived as valuable by the customers, should also not be integrated into the product, as they will only drive-up development time, product(ion) costs & price, without any return.

To ensure this level of consistency, coordination with and buy-in from the various departments, the best solution, if the organization has the capacity, is to have an “executive coordinator” involved in the marketing planning process. This person is someone who understands (but not leads) marketing and the other aspects of the business and is able to work across these various departments independently, able to coordinate activities and making sure activities across all departments are aligned on the marketing plan in order to achieve the company’s objectives & goals.

I2ACT Canada has extensive knowledge in marketing management & in effectively coordinating on an executive level between marketing teams and other departments within an organization, as well as in actively supporting them in the creation and roll-out of their marketing plans. We also partner with high-quality marketing agencies to deliver affordable full-service & tailored marketing solutions. If you want to learn more about the marketing services I2ACT Canada can offer and the solutions & skills it can bring to your organization, visit the website or contact Dirk Baerts.

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