Let’s begin with the premise that marketing is the primary reason for the existence of business: no product or service to sell, no need to be in business. This fundamental premise holds true for profit and not-for-profit enterprises, micro-enterprises, SMEs and major corporations. Businesses who “get-it” understand the value of marketing and the impact of the marketing concept on their success or failure. The marketing concept holds, in brief, that businesses exist to meet the wants and needs of consumers. It’s a simple concept with complex meaning: consumer preference drives our product and service offerings. We offer it because it’s what the marketplace desires and requires.
The critics of marketing complain that money spent on sales, marketing and advertising efforts could be better spent elsewhere. Thus, it’s no surprise that in an economic downturn, marketing budgets are reduced in an effort to “contain costs”. But this is precisely when companies should be increasing marketing budgets in order to stimulate smart growth. Marketing in general, and specifically sales, is the only way that companies generate the money needed to survive. The key is to spend your marketing funds wisely. One way to accomplish this is to make certain that your marketing plan is working as designed. The diagnostic test suggested is called a marketing tune-up.
Marketing plans and programs are not carved in stone. Smart marketers use marketing research, metrics and intelligence to tune-up their marketing plans and programs based on the results obtained. This is not to suggest constant, daily, tinkering with your marketing plan, but rather a systematic and periodic review of outcomes to determine if a tune-up is warranted. Marketing tune-ups require systems in place for making the diagnostic process accurate and reliable.
At inception, the foundation of your marketing efforts should be built with assessment in mind. What measures and metrics will you use to determine success or failure? What combination of management-level metrics, marketing metrics and customer-centric metrics makes sense for your enterprise? How often should this information be reviewed and by whom? Who is responsible for making adjustments? How often should adjustments be made? These, and more, are basic questions that need to be answered before developing your marketing plans and implementing your marketing programs. Today, technology provides us with the ability to generate and access copious amounts of information, in real time, and in any format conceivable. Management of data collection, development of metrics and presentation of actionable information serves as a source of competitive advantage for astute marketers.
Likewise, determining when to put your marketing plan on the rack for a diagnostic check-up has the potential to provide you with a competitive advantage. Traditionally, in the corporate world, this is done on a quarterly basis. My experience is that most businesses are behind projected outcomes for the first three quarters and then perform miracles in the fourth quarter in order to salvage the year. Is quarterly analysis sufficient? In today’s social media marketing environment, the answer is no. Daily and weekly analysis is suggested, but daily and weekly tune-ups of the marketing program are not.
At the end of each month, marketers may want to review their performance metrics to determine whether or not to tune-up their marketing plan. Major overhauls should be limited to no more than two per year. Marketing is an art. There is no magic formula that works for every industry. Managing by metrics alone is a recipe for disaster. Smart marketers use metrics as a diagnostic tool to allow them to determine whether or not to tune-up their marketing plans. Failing to take the pulse of your marketing plan on a regular basis is a recipe for disaster. So is over-tinkering with the marketing plan. The art of determining the optimal combination of planning, metrics and tune-ups needed to produce the results desired is what separates successful businesses from non-successful businesses.