For years, I’ve said in my one minute elevator pitch : I help people engage their in-person and online marketing. Few people have asked me about this. It is a radical stance but many don’t see it that way. Most people don’t appreciate the massive change the business world has experienced over the last few years.
Broadcast versus Intimacy
For most of my life, I’ve experienced broadcast marketing: advertising hoardings, newspaper and magazine adverts, television and radio commercials. These were pretty much the all there was until the Internet.
Broadcast media is expensive. You needed sales skills far more than marketing skills because unless you were good at sales, you did not have the resources to invest in marketing.
With the Internet you can get your message out to people at far lower costs. You can do some marketing for free and the costs where there are charges are modest. Broadcast marketing is still important for national or global markets but local marketing is particularly enhanced because we can combine in-person and online marketing.
Intimacy is another difference between broadcast and online marketing. Modern marketing allows us to build relationships with people we never meet in person. With mobile phones we link directly with people as they go about their daily business. But it is also intimate in the sense, local marketing communicates both in-person and online.
Web Design is Dead
Allow me to use website design as an example. In its early days, website design was difficult. You needed to design a graphic image, slice it into bits and assemble it on the webpage, using tables. You did this using html.
CSS simplified web design. It was still an acquired skill. If you wanted a website, it was usually more economic to hire a designer than to go on a course and learn to do it yourself.
Today, with platforms such as WordPress with hundreds of themes and plug-ins, you can do almost anything yourself. There will be times when you need professional assistance. You may hire someone because you don’t wish to devote your time to building a website. But that is your choice.
The real issue is not graphic design or the layout of your site, it is the content. What do you want your site to do? It’s not the latest technology that matters so much as knowing what you need from your site. If you don’t know what you need, no-one can honestly say to you: “we have the latest thing that exactly fits what you need to do.”
For someone to do that for you, you must open up about your vision, trust they keep it confidential and know enough to help you get what you need.
Systemic marketing means marketing that takes into account the entirety of your business. This means you are ill-advised to approach marketing by picking at bits of it. “I need a website.” How do you know that? It isn’t good enough to say you need a website because your competitors have one. You need to understand its purpose in your marketing plan and how to manage it so it achieves that purpose during your marketing campaign.
If you invest time and money in a website or anything else, how do you assess the return on your investment? You could spend a lot on something that brings no return whatsoever.
One thing I learned early in my career as a community development worker, was copying ideas does not work. Something may work brilliantly in one time and place. It will not work in yours. It worked the first time because someone got the measure of a place and tried the right thing.
Co-operatives and Franchises
By all means look at what others do for inspiration. The retail co-operative movement is an example where copying worked well; it offered a model that worked pretty much all over the country. I’ve never seen any figures showing how many co-ops failed. Their approach worked in most places but we do not see records of false starts. The co-ops were in effect an early franchise and in the business world we see many such enterprises.
Franchises are replicable businesses, not noted for innovation. That criticism could be made of the retail co-ops. There were many proposals for other forms of co-ops, primarily worker co-ops. These never really worked in the UK, although successful worker co-op movements can be found in Southern Europe.
If you want a franchise, you get a lot of support including a decision whether the franchise will work in your place. This does not encourage innovation and so this is where small businesses come into play.
Most businesses fail within a few years. There are many reasons for this including poor management and marketing. But where businesses are well-managed, many still fail because they are not viable. They are in the wrong place and time.
Identify Viability Before You Invest
A systemic approach to marketing helps you find what is viable before you invest in something that will not work. A successful franchise begins with a local trial, refining the approach until there is something replicable. Few businesses set out to become franchises; they become possible depending on how a local business develops.
That’s the point. As a business develops, new opportunities appear. Your task is to see and take advantage of opportunities and for that you need to be familiar with your business, not just one aspect of it.
Next time I shall look at the transformations businesses are responsible for in wider society.
In these posts and emails I am forging a new approach to marketing. Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.
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