Let’s be clear. Marketing is the most important function in your business. Our Managing Director Claire Kinloch, takes a look at how the Scottish business community still sees it as an element of what you get round to doing when the time and cash is available.
The start of 2018 has seen significant progress for Scotland, with the recent Scottish Chambers of Commerce Scotland-China partnership agreement about the Belt and Road Initiative now in place, supported by the ‘ Scotland Is Now ‘ campaign launch – promoting our nation in an impressive showcase for international audiences. But there are obvious challenges ahead for almost every business sector, and Brexit is just one of these.
Despite a challenging international context, the opportunity to do business globally and the ability to communicate are the best they have ever been. And yet many companies – even those with good, great or world-class leading products or services – fail spectacularly when it comes to marketing.
To start, the marketing sector itself needs to take responsibility. Its failure at explaining the power and role of marketing, to a business community that for decades has seen it simply as advertising with a little bit of PR and latterly social media posts at the back end, is frankly appalling.
Today you have PR agencies promoting themselves as full service marketing agencies, brand agencies telling customers that a new logo or brand refresh is the answer, digital agencies selling shiny new website windows and old school advertising agencies trying to maintain relevance.
The white noise is confusing to a business sector that largely sees marketing as 8th to 10th on the list of priorities, and it’s frankly not surprising that for most companies, marketing is an element of what you get round to doing when the time and cash is available.
So let’s be clear: marketing is the most important function in your business. It is the shop window, the voice to reach your customers and channel to sell what ever it is you have or create, in order to make you money.
When designed and delivered well, marketing will prove to what degree your product or service is relevant to your customers, will identify your most relevant market, will guide development and refinement of your offering, and will highlight where your best price point and profit is.
Scotland has seen some incredible success stories of brands and businesses achieving innovative positions on the world stage, all supported by our rich heritage and a support infrastructure that sometimes at home, we all take for granted.
However, insider.co.uk recently reported that insolvency rates in Scotland are up by 38 per cent compared to the first quarter in 2017. Scotland and the UK are not without ambition, creativity, connections and support. But where Scotland has innovative thinking, we are short on understanding how to commercialise ideas. It is in our culture, we are an entrepreneurial race, good at finding new alternatives, better ways of solving problems, enhanced solutions to help customers with their challenges – but we don’t have all the skills, talent, expertise and experience to take these great ideas successfully to market.
Marketing is probably the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, misused and undervalued; yet critically important element to every company’s ambitions for success and growth.
Creating a new idea is of course the first step, however, technical leadership, a passion for a product, or an obsession with a sector, often drives this. It doesn’t always come with broad business leadership and the sales and marketing expertise to actually get an idea to market.
But without marketing, all you have is a great idea.
Part of the challenge of course is that marketing has built a reputation of being a superfluous function, an extravagance for those with some cash to burn, the first thing to get chopped if there is a business or sector squeeze.
But technically this should be completely the opposite. Without marketing (I am not talking shiny logos), there are no sales, and without sales, there is no business.
Part of the need therefore is to understand and develop a universal understanding of what marketing really is, and indeed what it encompasses. Going back to basics – it is your product or service, it is your price, it is your customer, your channels to reaching them and the experience they get when they buy from you. And of course it is your promotion of your business offering through communications techniques such as advertising, PR and digital.
Many businesses we meet start a conversation by stating that they do not do any marketing. But they do – they connect with their customers and tell them about what they can offer them, through email, telephone, meetings and at events. This is all marketing and its impact should be measured directly on how it affects sales.
Critically there needs to be a golden thread between your marketing activity and the bottom line. This should follow the customer journey from raising your business and brand profile, becoming “front of the customers mind”, all the way through to customer contact, engagement, consideration of your business as potential “supplier” right to the point where the order is placed or a PO is raised.
And when it comes to that all vital customer experience, your brand is not the technical features of your product, how much money you have spent investing in it, or how superior it is to your competitors. It is the value it brings to the customer, in their mind, their world, relating to their needs and their life, whether business or personal.
It is claimed that for every £1 spent on marketing in Scotland, there is a £5 contribution to the country’s economy. The numbers speak for themselves. And according to the ‘Advertising Pays Scotland’ report of 2016, the £1.7bn spent on advertising the previous year meant a total of £8.8bn was contributed to the Scottish GDP – representing 5.6 per of the Scottish economy.
Marketing is not just for the big boys. It is for every business and every brand. From start-ups to fast-track SMEs, those that succeed understand their customer, how they add value and build a marketing and sales journey that carries the customer through to the sale.
Unlike so many countries, Scotland offers businesses a significant and varied amount of support, both financial and advisory. But this is primarily focused on innovation, the “start-up”, encouraging new ideas to be born every day.
But this investment needs to be broadened to help businesses not just create an idea, but also effectively get them to market. To educate and up-skill them in understanding how their idea creates value for the customer, identify who their customers are, find them, engage with them and deliver a compelling brand experience that ensures they come back time and time again and for that matter, tell all their friends about it.
Scotland’s ideas and innovation are prolific and have been for some time. We are not short of them.
But we need to make more effort in getting these ideas over the starting line to commercial success by building marketing and sales leadership, know-how and excellence in order to really see the value of our creations impact our economy.
Connect with Claire on LinkedIn.
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