Marketing has to be one of the toughest jobs out there. How many different ways can you communicate how wonderful your product or service is and have your audience believe you? It is easy for marketing to get stuck in a rut or get comfortable doing the same kinds of things, but there are ways to perk up marketing so that it is not only saying the right things but also helping to solve problems and possibly changing the entire dynamic of your organization. This “strategic thinking” can only lead to success.
What does the marketing department need to do in order to instigate strategic thinking? No one within an organization is more time impoverished than the marketing department. Sure, you can schedule a retreat, but strategic thinking has to be ongoing, not just once or twice a year. Marketing people should re-organize and prioritize in order to find two hours per week and devote that two hours to brainstorming about big things, big ideas, really take that time to think outside of their box to get past the things they have been doing for a long time or just spending time solving the smaller problems/minutiae. These big ideas have to be big enough to be scary, receive the reaction of “we couldn’t possibly handle that!”
This leads to the concept of “pull through.” The idea/project should be big enough to pull people through the project, pull money through, and will eventually pull the entire organization through to the next level. A big enough project will force each respective aspect of the organization, marketing, sales, operations and finance, to really work together to complete the task at hand. The bigger project will eventually help solve smaller issues, avoid the “blame game” and conquer a lack of completion or follow-through if it exists.
This can be practiced in an exercise with a group or audience. Divide the group into the four departments, marketing, sales, operations and finance, and give them a common goal.
This will force them to not only communicate with each other effectively but also keep them collectively focused rather than guided by departmental blinders.
As the eyes and ears of the organization, marketing people should also look at outside trends when fleshing out the big project. What should they look for? Is the marketing identifying a target market that fits?
In presenting this topic to the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism, I gave the following example to my audience: I think that people in northern New Jersey need to go on vacation in Wisconsin but don’t know it. So where should marketing begin?
Listeners were asked to close their eyes and visualize being on a crowded New Jersey Transit train: the exhausted people, some of whom have a 2.5 hour commute each way, the smells, the sounds, etc. Some passengers have headphones over their ears. It is certain that nobody says “hello.” A small child boards the train and asks, “Mommy, what’s the matter with all these people? Why do they look so sad?”
How is the marketing department for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism going to reach these tired, lifeless people? These passengers have money, but they need something that makes them feel whole again. They need to find “it” again. From my visit to Wisconsin, I observed that citizens there never lost “it.” But what is “it”? The audience members tapped into a commodity that they didn’t even know they have, and they ran with it. They came up with a campaign to draw people from northern New Jerseyto visit Wisconsin as tourists.
Now that they were excited about their “big project,” I asked them, “Now what is your campaign going to cost? How big is this? It’s bigger than your one location.”
Group members then delved into the realm of strategic alliances, franchising, and several other growth strategies that have been the focus of my strategic planning practice for over 30 years. I showed them that there are ways to keep their big, new idea going forward and how the bigger problem solves the minutiae along the way.
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP helps professional service firms, technology-driven businesses, and construction-related product/service for distribution companies reach their goal of Achieving Accelerated Growth With Sustained Profitability® through a combination of speaking, consulting, executive coaching, authorship, and growth financing. She has executed an ESOP, grown multiple international businesses, won just about every major award an entrepreneur can win, provided expert testimony on economic growth at over 30 legislative hearings, and published two books and over 100 articles. Aldonna was named the national (USA) “Woman Business Owner of the Year” for 2000. She currently hosts a weekly Internet radio show, The Growth Strategist® on www.GrowthStrategistShow.com every Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET. Aldonna Ambler can be reached at Aldonna@AMBLER.com, 1-888-ALDONNA (253-6662) or at www.ambler.com.