I’ve been doing marketing for technology firms for years now and one of the things that always surprises me is that people don’t seem to understand what marketing is, or really what the point behind it is.
Marketing isn’t about how a home page looks or how clever an ad can be. And it’s really not about “finding your voice”, “picking your corporate color palette” or naming a new product.
Don’t get me wrong – those are all things you do want your marketing people involved with and ultimately guiding decisions for. How your home page looks matters and presenting a consistent sense of design does say something about your company.
The creative stuff is critical, and I don’t mean to downplay the contribution great artists and designers make to representing ideas in the world.
But the suit doesn’t make the person.
Marketing is ultimately about building an engine that can take your business somewhere (and look good doing it). It’s about a system, and it’s about the destination.
You put dollars and time – fuel – in one end of the engine and get interested, prospective customers out the other end.
And like all systems, you can build good systems and bad systems. You need to think about architecture, requirements, budget, features, testing, and deployment. There’s technical debt that can pile up, there are external factors that affect the system, and the process you follow in building the system is just as important as the engine itself.
To those of us in the software industry this all should sound eerily familiar.
Several years ago, Laura McLellan, a VP of Research at Gartner, predicted that by 2017 CMOs would spend more on technology than CIOs. Gartner’s current annual spending survey suggests that prediction may well come to be: in 2016 CMOs surveyed allocated 3.24% of company revenues as compared to the 3.4% focused on IT spending. One more year, and I bet the prediction will be true.
Marketers, and the business leaders with whom they work, need to approach marketing in very much the same way you’d tackle a complex software project. Your website is just a dumb sign sitting out there in space unless you have it wired to both your internal sales systems and to Google Analytics. Likewise in today’s world, your “website” doesn’t stop at the doorstep of your actual website: you have a social media presence to think about on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. There are review websites, content aggregator sites, and professional sites within every industry. On your own site, there’s tracking of visitor behaviors, search engine optimization, and pay-per-click ad campaigns to consider.
Talk about a systems integration project.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
Just as your marketing team needs to focus on building an engine that converts curious visitors into ready customers, your team – and business – needs to understand how to analyze the results from any given component of your engine and fine-tune (or redesign) accordingly.
Marketing is never “done”. Every business needs a system by which it can effectively market – that today means largely online – and every business needs its marketing system to provide data by which it can judge what needs to change next. Marketing without results – providing the capacity for planning – is worthless.
Good marketing aims to take the subjectivity out of it. Build processes, look at results. A good example is website traffic versus bounce rate: if your site pulls in 100,000 visitors a month, is that good or bad? And if, on average, each visitor spends 0.5 seconds on your site, is that good or bad? (Hint: it’s bad.) Most importantly – if you could change one of those variables, which would have the greatest impact on your results?
The face of marketing is advertising and branding – yes. You’re ultimately talking about communicating an idea – what your company does – to your potential customers. But it doesn’t stop there. Marketing isn’t (just) about being pretty.
Marketing is about taking a systematic approach to the communication you share with customers and assessing its efficacy for your business. In today’s world, effective marketing is about systems, technology, planning, and strategy.