To most mid-market CEOs, the term “marketing” is one that causes frustration at some level. And there’s a good reason why:
The marketing function is the least understood business function for most mid-market companies, and it has changed more than any other function over the last 20 years.
When you take something that’s already confusing and make it more complex, what else would you expect?
When CEOs ask me for advice on how to improve their marketing, I’m careful not to provide a single declarative statement. The bottom line is that there’s no silver bullet, no quick fix that is going to resolve all the growth pains of the typical mid-market company and catapult it into a market leadership position.
And many don’t like that answer.
I suspect that a lot of the frustration with my response results from all of the noise about digital marketing these days. There are so many stories about the startup that grew from nothing to $10 million overnight, or the viral video seen by 20 million viewers, or the company that used content and inbound marketing to dominate their old-school competition.
The reality is that these are the exceptions, not the norm. But when we don’t know the answer to a challenge we’re facing (i.e., how to grow from $5 million to $10 million), it’s easy to look for the answer in the successes of others.
Many Small Changes = Big Results
Most successful mid-market companies improve their marketing performance by making many small changes instead of one big change. The actual changes needed are different for every company, based on your market, your products/services, your distribution channels, your branding, your sales team, your innovation, your brand personality, your storytelling ability, your previous investments to develop your marketing and sales functions, and the DNA of your leadership team.
Typical changes can include:
- Clarifying your marketing strategy
- Evaluating your pricing
- Strengthening your story
- Increasing your touches with the market
- Improving your ability to track your communications with your market
- Establishing stronger relationships with your customers
- Adding digital communication channels
- Expanding your traditional distribution channels
- Sharpening your focus on your target market
- Changing from reactive to active communications
- Changing how you forecast and track revenue
- Adding resources to your marketing and sales teams
- Eliminating bottlenecks from your marketing and sales teams
- Writing a marketing plan
- Increasing your marketing budget
- Training your sales team
- Improving your visual brand identity
- Installing defined marketing procedures
- Changing marketing agencies
- Hiring a marketing agency
- Truly committing to take your story to the entire market
Completing just one of these changes rarely makes a measureable impact in the long term. Throwing budget at a new campaign could substantially increase lead flow or sales for the short term, but the typical mid-market company I interact with needs more than one of these changes to achieve the CEO’s vision.
It takes a commitment to multiple, carefully-chosen small changes that are properly sequenced over a period of time (typically 12 to 36 months) to make a substantial impact.
It’s not an overnight fix.
Think of the old tortoise and the hare fable.
If you’re struggling with your marketing performance, be the tortoise. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.