Simplifying marketing in a complicated world

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In this, the second of my series of hot marketing topics for small businesses, we look at how to keep marketing simple, as it seems to get ever more complicated.

I could tell you about what exactly you need to do in your business, but actually, as each business is entirely unique, it would take a while. And other blogs and social media posts will cover some of that detail.

Instead, I want to explain what marketing is, and where it came from. By understanding those elements clearly, clarity ensues, and with clarity comes simplicity.

Marketing has come a long way since its first forays into the world of business. Knowledge and technology has made us and our customers increasingly savvy… meaning there’s more for businesses to consider along the way. The bottom line is that things seem to have become increasingly complicated… or is it that as a society, we’re just more time poor?

It’s true we have more choice than ever before, and so things should be easier. Equally there’s a definite movement towards a simpler approach… but where to start?

How about at the beginning. Take a step back, and understand how it evolved in the first place. This very briefest of history lessons gives us an overview, as follows:

The concept of modern marketing as we know it has more to do with developments during the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries – a period of rapid social change driven by technical and scientific innovation. For the first time, production of goods was separated from their consumption. Transport infrastructure and mass media paved the way for more sophisticated distribution channels. We refer to this time as the Production Orientation era.

After the 2nd World war, competition grew, products were replicated, choice was everywhere, and after the privations of war, bigger and better was everywhere. Production businesses had to switch focus, and fast. The Sales Orientation era had begun.

From 1960 onwards, saturated markets meant competition intensified and the practice of marketing management became more strategic – it wasn’t just about selling goods, but developing long lasting products and services, attracting and retaining loyal customers, and delivering increasing levels of satisfaction to keep that loyalty alive. This time was the start of the true Marketing Orientation era.

One could argue that we are now living in the Digital Marketing era, but in the absence of understanding the original meanings of marketing itself, many organisations still embrace a production or sales orientation. And so it gets complicated.

The problem, it seems, is that the word ‘marketing’ is a verb, in the dictionary sense –  where marketing is defined as ‘the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising’.

Now from the historical perspective, that definition is correct – if we were still living in the Sales Orientation era. But bearing the history in mind, remember, we’ve evolved. We have to consider more. We need to do some work up front – we’re not just selling any more.

Our own Chartered Institute of Marketing here in the UK defines Marketing as:

“the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

Not a mention of advertising, promotion or sales. In fact, if we really stop and think about it, a lot of the CIM’s management process is in fact stuff that happens even before the customer is ready to buy.

There’s a clue. If we want to do marketing properly, we need to start a process, even before our product hits the shops.

If we can stop and really understand these definitions, you will see that they actually do spell out a simple approach.

CIM asks us to create a (management) process or processes – to identify potential customer’s needs; then get to know our customer base even better so we can anticipate what happens next, what they need next; and lastly do so in a way that satisfies them to the point that they will pay a competitive (researched) price, at a profit level that our businesses to sustain growth.

So if you’re stuck on how to simplify your marketing, stop and think about where the definition itself is leading.

List each element, and then populate it. Look, it’s not going to give you the ultimate answers, but it will start you thinking out the problem.

And consider outsourcing some professional help – whether that’s with your marketing, finance, admin or business development. To invest in even one of these elements will free up so much more of your time and energy for other activities that need attention.

Sometimes, we can see the bigger picture no problem – but it’s just trying to paint that picture ourselves that adds the complication.

If you want to chat through your marketing block, contact me now for a free, no obligation 30 minute consultation, and start opening up the possibilities.

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