I often draw inspiration for my articles, podcasts and videos from the questions I see people posting on social media. Here is one recently from Twitter: “What’s the first thing you would do when setting up a marketing department from scratch, either in a start-up company or an existing business?” Giving it only a brief glance, because I thought the answer was obvious, I almost moved on, until I saw the replies people had already volunteered.
The first reply said: “Invest in video equipment. Video is the best way to engage people these days.”
The author was correct that video is a terrific way to engage but did I agree this was the first thing to invest in when starting a marketing department? No.
The second response suggested starting an email list. Building a list means you can create a community and engage with those who subscribe. Again, I agree this is an important part of the marketing mix, but disagree it is the first thing a company should invest in.
Other answers suggested advertising, blogging, webinars and face-to-face seminars. What I realised was they all suggested a tactic of communication. No one had mentioned the customer.
I dived in and added my own answer. Before any form of communication, do some research to gain insights and define who your customer is, what their needs are and what you can do to meet them. Some view marketing just as a communication function these days. Have we lost that focus and understanding of the customer; the strategic part of marketing, rather than the tactics?
Another article I came across from an “expert” offered the seven steps companies should take to improve their digital marketing. None of the tips were wrong – in fact they made perfect sense – but the author did not use the word “customer” until the very last sentence. Marketing is a huge discipline, embracing research, insight, segmentation, targeting, goal-setting, product development, pricing and communications. And to draw all those strands together requires a deep, almost obsessive, understanding of the customer.
Sometimes I look at the complex products we have in the financial services industry, and the lengthy processes surrounding them, and wonder whether we do have a deep enough understanding of the customer.
How many product developments start from an understanding of customer needs, rather than a corporate desire to add a new set of features to beat the competition?
Digital technology, social media and online communities mean we can conduct research more quickly and cost-effectively than ever before. We can test product ideas, wordings, advertising headlines, content and processes. We can listen to what our customers are saying and use those insights to guide proposition developments and marketing activity. If the proposition meets the needs of our customers, we can move on to the marketing communications process. And that does mean video, email and content designed to engage the customer.
So if you were going to build a new proposition and marketing strategy from scratch, what would be the first thing you would invest in?
Roger Edwards is managing director of Roger Edwards Marketing and marketing director of Protection Review