Many small companies are highly confused about marketing, and really its not surprising.
Over the years I have heard numerous comments, for example, “We are too small to worry about marketing.”
Other negative comments include “If only we had the time to do marketing”, “These marketing people talk in jargon, it’s not relevant to us”, “Marketing costs so much, it’s way beyond our means”.
Of course these are all misguided comments, but to be fair to small business owners, it can be considered a function of some of the dogma delivered by ‘so called’ Marketing Guru’s.
For example, the world renowned and excellent Philip Kotler goes some way to create total confusion. His definition of marketing is as follows.
“The societal marketing concept holds that the organisation’s task is to determine the needs, wants, and interests of target markets and to deliver the desired satisfactions more effectively and efficiently than competitors, in a way that preserves or enhances the consumer’s and the society’s well-being.”
No disrespect here, but I think he must have swallowed a dictionary. Try reciting this five times before going to bed, and see whether you can recall it the following day.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing put it slightly more succinctly, “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying consumers’ requirements profitably”.
The energetic and charismatic Tom Peters also keeps it brief. “The relentless pursuit of an almost familial bond between customer and product”.
Indeed all the above are correct, but for the ‘micro’ and the SME we need to simplify this further.
I particularly like the following.
“Marketing is Creating the Conditions to make Selling Easier”.
I would wager that most people could recite this definition no more than twice, and still remember it the following day!
Providing the means used in the definition are legal and ethical, then this principal should serve the small business well when considering marketing ethos. Marketing exists because companies must sell to survive.
Many small businesses do not have a ‘Marketing Department’, or someone dedicated to the task. Irrespective of whether the business or entity has dedicated marketing, many of the messages herewith hold true, no matter whether you are IBM, or Joe’s Kitchen Supplies.
First, there needs to be an understanding from all that EVERYONE in the workforce has a responsibility for marketing. How many times have you heard someone berating their employer, the way they go about day to day business, and their supposed incompetence? What picture does that paint for you? Clearly employees must buy into the principal, and show pride in their employer.
So, let us consider some of the simple aspects of marketing.
Answering the phone promptly & courteously
Allowing customers to enquire / place orders over the internet
Having clear and concise paperwork / literature etc
Having a clean van
Smart and clean dress sense
Developing a sense of pride in your employment
There are of course many other simple and inexpensive things that can be done. At this point, take 5 minutes to write down three simple things that can be easily adopted within your business, and will make selling easier.
It is amazing how many small companies have not done a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). And those that have admit it was done over 7 years ago! And to go hand in hand with a SWOT analysis is a PESTE analysis (political, environmental, social, technological, economic). These simple charts can be easily made, or downloaded from the internet. They can also be scribbled on a blank piece of paper!
Some golden rules for delivering a full and meaningful SWOT and PESTE analysis.
1.. Ensure that the exercise to fill in the SWOT and PESTE is carried out by the Company Owner, someone in middle management, someone junior in the business, and the most recent recruit (where possible)
2.. Ensure that each person spends no more that 15 minutes on SWOT and same for PESTE
3.. Bring in an independent person to chair and arbitrate on the subsequent brainstorm
4.. Repeat the exercise every 6 months
5.. Evaluate all progress in each case
6.. Take corrective action where the business appears to have taken a retrograde step.
Why have different levels of staff carrying out the exercise? Providing the owner realises that no one person has a monopoly on good ideas then the answer is obvious. Clearly, different people will have a different perspective and viewpoint about aspects of the business. The view from the bottom is likely be very different from that at the top. The new recruit may have recent experiences that identify unknown weaknesses or strengths, and has viewed the issues with a new set of eyes.
Keeping each analysis short is key. More than 15 minutes spent on filling in the SWOT or PESTE form is likely to pressurise an individual to seek issues that are peripheral, rather than key. An independent arbiter is important during the brainstorm, particularly if the ‘junior’ has any bold observations likely to disturb the boss! Repeating the exercise some 6 months later can, in many cases be the key to determining whether the company has made progress or not.
Having carried out the exercise, brainstormed all the points, it is now important that an action list is compiled. Consider those that are the easiest to implement or deal with. Prioritise based on their likely input on the turnover of the business. The action list must be specific about WHO should carry out each task, and by WHEN. The list must be challenging but realistic.
With ALL actions identified, question, “will this action Create the Conditions to make Selling Easier”? If the answer is no, then put this action at the bottom of the list.
Where clear actions have been identified, actioned and clearly had an effect, try to quantify any subsequent increase in turnover as a result (where possible).
If this sounds time consuming, then you have probably over complicated your understanding of the process.
Once you have created a sense of belonging, and joint marketing responsibility within your team, you will start to observe a level of creativity within the business that can reap tangible rewards. Of course, during tough times, it clearly makes sense for each employee to provide thoughtful input into the business from a job preservation perspective.