Contrary to the myth that good products sell themselves, behind every successful brand is a successful marketing strategy. The best products and services can fail to break through without a targeted marketing approach, especially in a time when messages blare at us from every direction, and consumers are highly sophisticated. If anything, there are numerous examples of superior products losing out to superior marketing. Companies that don’t know who they are selling to and how to message to them risk being lost in the crowd.
Marketing is part art, part science. While there’s no easy creative calculus, some basic principles can go a long way. The best marketing campaigns, such as Apple’s “Think Different,” are simple, powerful, and in retrospect, almost obvious. But there is nothing easy or obvious about crystallizing brand, messaging, and positioning. That’s why even the best entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs, don’t do their own marketing. They turn to help from expert marketing professionals.
InterimExecs RED Team executives, Ray Smale and George McGowan, share the marketing lessons they’ve learned over their careers and when it makes sense to bring in an interim or fractional executive for a CMO or Chief Growth Officer (CGO) role. They emphasized the need for fundamentals yet cautioned that, amid rapidly changing technologies and consumer patterns, companies must be prepared to pivot.
It worked for ConvaTec, a company that makes something no one ever wants to buy (but many people have to): colostomy and ostomy pouches. Those are the bags used by people who have a bowel blockage, which means they must eliminate bodily waste outside their body. It’s collected in pouches like the ones made by ConvaTec.
Not surprisingly, this is not something people want to chat about with strangers. But, Vosburgh hypothesized, putting them in a room with others facing the same challenges could make all the difference.
More than ever, a consistent brand that customers trust is critical to business growth. Whether product or service-based, B2B or B2C, local or global-focused, a strong brand with a great reputation is what enables a company to expand successfully.
Behind every powerful brand, stands an innovative Chief Marketing Officer. An experienced CMO can strategically plan and scale marketing plans during periods of business growth.
But not all companies can afford to hire a full-time CMO on a permanent basis. Many startups and midmarket companies reach a tipping point where they either expand or stagnate. All too often, the rate of business expansion they want to achieve outpaces their available operational resources and time.
The Olympics are the perfect example of the difference between champions who win gold, silver or bronze, and everyone else who goes home empty handed. The winner could be winning by just one ten thousandths of a second.
Why do you think you or I are any different in our work – if we could improve our performance just a couple percentage points, we’d stand out from the masses clear as day.
Steve Jobs was genius at nuance, the subtle improvement that could cause massively asymmetric outcomes in favor of Apple. Thirty companies had MP3 products delivering hardware, software and content for streaming music. The category was done. Then along came the iPod. Not major changes, but so much better!
The truism that every business needs marketing cannot be denied, even by businesses that owe the majority of their growth to word-of-mouth referrals. However, confusion arises when businesses mistake marketing for sales. In simple terms, marketing builds demand, sales closes the deal.
The goal of marketing is to increase sales and, by perforce, grow revenue. The trick is in measuring the success of your marketing efforts. What metrics do you use to measure marketing effectiveness? Although profit is the ultimate goal, it’s not the sole measurement of success. Other benchmarks along the way indicate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
The best private equity funds talk about backing great CEOs, entrepreneurs, and management teams. But in the lower middle market ($2-$15 million in EBITDA), what’s a private equity fund to do when the company they are acquiring lacks resources and the management skills to earn great returns?
What if serious talent doesn’t extend beyond the CEO or founder?
Douglas Song, co-founder of Prodos Capital Management and an investor in lower middle market companies, says that “there’s always a way to think creatively and unlock value in any lower middle market company.” He especially finds common themes among companies where entrepreneurs or families have built a great business over time, but are lacking in certain areas where partnering with additional resources will help them take the business to the next level.
Elusive growth, global market fluctuations, rapidly changing technology, and fragmented buyer behaviors are just some of the dynamics driving the need to have the right marketing leader in place. The question for many organizations often becomes when should such a leader be brought into the organization? Finding the right CMO takes significant recruiting resources and often more time than anticipated. Not all organizations are ready to make this commitment given their stage of development.
If a business had a soul, the tagline could be its expression in words. And every business needs to consider what adding a tagline might accomplish. That’s the philosophy of tagline guru Eric Swartz, a branding strategist who’s created thousands of brand expressions for clients across the globe, including American Express, Apple and Wells Fargo.
Here’s Swartz’s tagline definition: a succinct phrase, situated under or alongside a company’s logo, that communicates a single but powerful brand message designed to resonate strongly with an intended audience.
“Taglines are the easiest and most effective way to communicate a new or revised brand message. They can enhance the value and relevance of your brand, extend its reach, and give it renewed vigor,” according to Swartz.
In this fast-paced culture where dollars often speak the loudest, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle of jumping on the current of ‘busyness’ and not keeping the focus on the grass roots elements of business: people.
Relationships will always be the fundamental success of any prosperous business, whether small in operation or Fortune 500. If your focus is to keep your eye-on-the-proverbial prize of enhancing and developing relationships, you in turn will benefit your bottom line. So how does one make connections and master maintaining connections? Answer. Share your connections!
First-year Change Agent members have access to the Interim Institute’s 4 hour audio program on the Fundamentals of Interim Management, and a one-hour strategy session to help jumpstart their interim career.
*$200 additional charge for Accelerator Program only applies for first-year members. After the first year, membership renews at $485/year.