By Kenneth Surbrugg, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Southern State University
Marketing is a topic that most individuals seem to understand but struggle to implement. Companies want to do something, but they are unsure what to do. And if they do anything, it is difficult to measure any return on investment on their marketing campaign. The struggle is real.
According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” So, marketing is a set of activities (e.g. product, place, price, promotion, etc.) that are directed toward customers to create, communicate, deliver, and exchange offerings that have value. So, a business creates products and services and then communicates what they have to offer with the hope that someone finds value in these products or services and will buy from them.
For businesses to have a better chance at success in their overall marketing efforts, the business needs to align their marketing objectives with their overall business objectives. An objective is a defined goal that provides clear direction for the marketing efforts of the firm. For example, if the goal of the firm is to grow sales by ten percent, then the marketing efforts of the company need to align with that goal. Marketing efforts then need to be created to attract customers to the business and encourage sales. If a business is looking to increase profits, then marketing efforts need to be directed to encourage sales of the more profitable products and services.
I heard the story of a business that was struggling to make ends meet. Their goal was to increase their profits in order to pay off some debt and create a reserve cash account that would help meet the company’s needs. What did they do? They created a social media campaign that highlighted the benefits of their products. That was it. They didn’t offer a trial or samples of their products. They didn’t build their brand awareness — they created benefit awareness without an ask to buy from them. Needless to say, the campaign failed, and the business suffered. It wasn’t because their customers weren’t on social media. It was because the business failed to deliver marketing messages that encouraged an exchange of offerings (i.e. product for cash).
The marketing objectives then need to align with the business’s objectives. But what about the marketing strategy? A marketing strategy is how a business reaches prospective customers and turns them into paying customers. The objective is the goal, and the strategy is how the business will reach that objective. If your objective is to grow sales by ten percent this year, then the strategy will outline how you intend to do that. And keep in mind that social media isn’t a strategy. It is a marketing channel, a tool. How you develop social media messages, images, and videos needs to align with the overall strategy and objectives of the firm. Businesses create goals all the time but fail at strategy and execution.
A common frustration I hear from business owners and managers is that they don’t know what to post on social media. They have run out of ideas and in their eyes, there is nothing new to see. What they should do instead is review their overall business objectives and see how their marketing efforts are aligned with their business objectives. After that, they should review how the business is trending toward their overall objectives and then plan a strategy accordingly. For example, if increasing sales are a priority, and sales are stagnant, then marketing efforts need to encourage people to buy from you. That could be a reminder that you are still around, an introduction of a new product or service, or maybe a new customer segment.
Once objectives and strategy are aligned, the business can create a marketing plan that will outline the specific actions needed to execute the strategy to reach the objectives. This plan outlines specific resources and actions needed that the business needs to take in order to create, communicate, and deliver exchange offerings that have value for customers. This is all done with the intention of a win-win scenario: a win for you and a win for the customer. And that keeps them coming back for more.
“Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.” — James C. Collins