Moving through the ‘fog’ of marketing busyness

Logan Wedgwood helps you to take stock of your current marketing and sales activity, and suggests its time to go back to the basics.

In business, they often say that to stand still is to die, so instead, we’re continuously looking for progress. This tends to mean a flurry of activity across various channels and customer communications. This is driven by KPIs around lead generation, as sales and marketing professionals clamber to look busy, and business owners strive to continuously move forward. 

The fog of business as usual
The result of all this activity is that although there may be a lot of activity happening, much of it tends not to be driven or underpinned by a solid strategy. I call this the ‘fog’. It’s the fog of ‘business as usual’, in some cases ‘busyness for survival’, or simply busyness for the sake of being busy. 
The idea of this fog stems from a very real scenario that (luckily) most of us haven’t had to experience first-hand. The ‘fog of war’ has been described as when an army set off and, in the heat of battle – amidst the smoke of gunpowder and cannons – they can’t see. The uncertainty they face at this point is both figurative and literal. 
The same thing happens in business; we get caught up in the day-to-day of marketing and sales activity, ticking the boxes of what we think we need to be doing on the multitude of channels that are available to us. We’re busy, and that helps us feel as though we are making progress; however, in the heat of ‘business as usual’ and amidst the fog, it’s hard to keep sight of the plan.
Unfortunately the reality is that progress in the wrong direction is no progress at all. 
Many businesses end up with a bunch of activity that is not being accurately measured, nor is it driven by a deep customer understanding or need. 

A beacon in the fog
So, where should we be heading? What’s the way through this fog? 
Renowned marketer Phillip Kotler puts it this way: “There is only one winning strategy. It is to carefully define the target market and direct a superior offering to that target market.” 
Marketing and sales professionals need to regularly step back from the doing, and ask themselves whether the activities they are undertaking are supporting them in playing to win.  
As well as being crystal clear on who your target market is, and knowing your offering is superior to the other options out there, you need to constantly consider how you are adding value to your customer. 

A value exchange
We know that potential customers are bombarded with information that is all competing for relevancy within the marketplace. As a result, they’re less likely to give away equity in their minds without good reason to do so; you’ll know this from your own experience. 
As a business or brand, think about what value you’ve given your customer or prospect that inspires them to bring their custom to you. This isn’t about a coffee or a free sample; it’s about truly demonstrating value that is relevant, timely and targeted – value that shows them you are willing to give. 
It all comes down to understanding what your market wants, what they need, where and when they want it, so that you can help them to understand why they want it from you – and nowadays, this almost always involves an exchange of value. 
Business has moved on, and we know that ‘yell and sell’ doesn’t work for most. It’s time to stop throwing money at channels and do the work required to understand your customers better, and help them understand you.

It’s simple really
Successful marketing and sales have and always will be about putting the customer first. Any marketing or sales activity executed with anything else in mind is a waste of effort and resource; busyness for the illusion of progress. 
It’s time to go back to basics in order to see through the fog – and think of marketing as simply a method of understanding a need in a market and delivering a solution to that need.
Logan Wedgwood is marketing columnist for NZBusiness magazine - and an Auckland-based management consultant specialising in marketing and sales. 

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