Creating a “Remarkable” Marketing Strategy
One of the first lessons I learned about marketing strategy during my undergraduate degree was the need to constantly review and adjust your “marketing mix,” a concept which was popularized in the early 1960’s by Michigan State University marketing professor E. Jerome McCarthy as the Four P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. Whether you are selling a product or service, tangible or virtual, the marketing mix is constantly in play, adjusting to the ever-changing market forces, customer needs, and other demographic and psychographic measurements.
On that last point: marketers spend a great deal of time tracking, measuring, reviewing, and strategizing around these factors. In fact, if you’re considering a degree/job in marketing, be prepared to minor in data analysis, because that’s where you’ll be spending a good portion of your time.
In the 25+ years since completing my BA in Marketing, these fundamental principles have not changed — and yet throughout my career I have worked with many companies who are struggle against making any adjustments to their marketing approach. The proliferation of marketing automation tools, the widespread adoption of social networking platforms, and the massive wave of “experts” on SEO optimization and branding has left many companies struggling to understand what to do to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, far too many companies are deciding to stay the course despite the data — purchasing traditional print/banner advertising and relying heavily on email campaigns regardless of what the declining statistics show.
There are two books that I often recommend to individuals and companies who are looking to change their marketing strategies. Both books were written by one of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, and make the case for expanding the traditional marketing mix. In Purple Cow, he talks about the importance for businesses to stand out from the competition, to do things differently, and to be “remarkable.” And in All Marketers Are Liars, which, in some ways is part 2 to Purple Cow, Godin expands on this idea of standing out with the addition of crafting your messaging into stories that people connect with, and that are authentic.
One could contend that the ideas of being “remarkable” and “authentic” fit into the traditional marketing mix — but I consider them to be outside of traditional thinking, otherwise more organizations would get it right. These ideas are more deeply rooted, and more difficult to achieve than making a packaging change or updating a website for better readability. Pursuing them, however, can lead a business to a much stronger customer connection.
Those who know me have likely heard me atop the soapbox talking about “baseline marketing activities.” The illustration above does not include every one of your marketing strategies, but the point is that today’s strategies include a certain baseline of marketing activities. Below the baseline are activities which are expected — and which every one of your competitors is actively engaged.
Depending on the business you are in, you have running:
- a heavy email marketing campaign
- a website
- a blog
- regular webinars to highlight your products or services
- a brand strategy
- a channel strategy
- conference sponsorships
- a PR agency
- a social presence
These things are expected — and in an increasingly competitive world, there is very little you can do with them to adjust your marketing mix and stand out with just these tools. Arguably, most organizations don’t do a good job with these “below the line” activities. They hire employees, managers, and marketing officers who have experience with one or two of these things, but rarely understand the balance across all of them — and how to deliver the baseline of activities to keep the company competitive.
Far fewer organizations then have the ability and strategy to focus on “above the line” marketing activities, which are those activities which aspire to Godin’s themes of being “remarkable” and “authentic.” I’ve intentionally left these definitions as broad because your software business may interpret ‘advocacy’ differently than, say, a clothing designer. In almost every case, these activities will draw from your traditional marketing activities, and extend them, helping your brand, your product or services, your messaging, and/or your employees to stand out from the competition.
A great example of “above the line” marketing is providing thought-leadership through content, or participation in industry or community events. Your expertise may not even directly tie into the products or services that you sell, but your participation can increase good-will and brand recognition within the community. If provided consistently, it can translate into trust, influence, and authority — and can then extend and elevate the value of your more traditional marketing activities in measurable ways, such as improved open rates on email campaigns, increased web traffic, and improved conversion rates from lead to opportunity.
It’s easy to read these ideas and say “Yeah, I get it.” The hard part is actually doing it. It requires an honest assessment of your current marketing efforts, and identifying those things which fall above and below the marketing baseline. Until you clarify your baseline, and then compare it against your competition, you won’t be able to properly address your “above the line” marketing strategy.