Make Marketing a Core Business
by Chip Conley and Eric
“Marketing is just smoke and mirrors.”
all about selling people things they don’t need at prices they can’t afford.”
uses slick ads and exploitative tactics to take advantage of stereotypes,
fears, and unrealistic fantasies.”
but large corporations can afford it.”
not ready for marketing. Once we have finalized the product, worked out the
bugs, and seen how it works, then we might invest in it.”
We’ve all heard and, at times,
hidden behind these myths, but solid marketing is a key component of business
success that can support both the financial and social bottom lines of your
Many people use the word <span
refer to a broad set of promotional and outreach activities aimed at
communicating a business proposition to customers and other important
audiences. These activities often include advertising, media relations, direct
mail, promotional offers, online promotions, sales materials, and various
tactics. While all these are important, we are focusing here on marketing
Strategic marketing involves
acquiring a deep understanding of the needs and desires of your existing and
potential customers, and designing your business (products, services, delivery
mechanisms, customer experience, branding, outreach, and more) to meet or
exceed their needs and desires. At its core, good strategic marketing can be
deeply aligned with building a socially responsible business because it demands
a constant focus on the customer’s needs, drives development of quality
products and services, and often encourages alignment with customer values.
Thus, marketing is a core business
strategy. Think about it as a baseline of business development and ensure that
marketing-based questions and analyses are present and utilized in all business
planning processes. Instead of mapping out the product concept, price point,
and manufacturing and distribution plan, and then asking, “How will we sell
it?” ask, “How do we design the product concept, set the price, and so on to
best meet the needs of the market?”
Using marketing as a core business
strategy in your business means (1) making sure that it is at the table from
the beginning; (2) distinguishing between strategy and tactics; and (3)
developing and using marketing plans.
In some companies, marketing
efforts are orchestrated by a dedicated marketing professional. In many others,
they come from the corner of an entrepreneur’s desk and compete with all other
business needs for time and attention. Regardless of the capacity and
sophistication of your marketing resources, using the marketing mindset at the
beginning of each major business decision—and throughout the development
process of a company, product, or service—will help you avoid pitfalls,
expand opportunity, and drive success.
· identification of measurable goals
· understanding of audience needs,
desires, values, options, etc.
· segmentation and prioritization of
· development of core business,
product, or service propositions
· identification of your outreach
approach (e.g., engage true believers, demonstrate the lifestyle, link to
community values, etc.)
· selection of tactics to implement your
tactics are the means or tools that deliver the messages to the audiences, such
· Direct outreach (employee and
customer communication, customer experience, design, etc.)
· Preparation and dissemination of
collateral material (packaging, brochures, sales sheets, etc.)
· Online communication (Web site,
viral marketing, etc.)
· Advertising (print, electronic,
online, out of home, etc.)
· Public relations (media relations,
community relations, public affairs)
· Promotions (contests, events, discounts
and incentives, etc.)
Many marketers do not maximize and
leverage resources because they invest in marketing tactics before establishing
a marketing strategy. Focusing on an ad, media release, brochure, Web site, or
other promotional tactic before identifying your priority audience and your
core value proposition creates waste, inefficiency, and missed opportunities,
just as would purchasing Sheetrock, pipes, and windows prior to developing a
design concept and blueprint for your home.
Starting with Strategy
ColorGraphics in Seattle is one of
a few printers on the West Coast certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
(FSC). It utilizes rigid water and air quality standards, careful paper-use
planning, and fast-drying UV inks that emit fewer toxins—all of which
reduces its impact on the environment and produces a higher-quality print
The company wanted to create a
brochure to better sell its green printing advantage. But before starting work
on this tactic, its leadership took a step back and asked, “Who are our current
customers and our desired customers, and why will they select us?” They
conducted executive interviews with print buyers and CSR (corporate social
responsibility) managers. When they learned that their company’s potential customers
thought of green printing merely as using recycled paper, and considered price
and quality their main decision drivers, they knew they needed to educate the
market about green printing and get the better-quality message up front.
The leadership team created a
marketing strategy that defined the company’s message framework, segmented its
audiences, and served as a guide for the development of a brochure and
identification of other tactics to educate the market effectively.
So each time you start to consider
a tactic, ask yourself or your team, “Is this tactic based on, and in accord
with, our marketing strategy?” If it isn’t, or if there is no strategy in
place, capture the good ideas about it and set them aside while identifying
your strategy. You can then return to the tactical ideas, develop those that
advance your strategy, and discard those that do not.
To ensure that marketing is a core
business strategy, and that strategic marketing is driving tactical choices,
use a written marketing plan or framework for every major initiative. Writing
the plan demands that you ask and answer core marketing questions, produces
more informed choices, and makes it easier to communicate your strategy to
other team members and partners.
Marketing plans can be tailored to
fit the resources and market potential of each venture or individual project.
But every plan—whether written on the back of a napkin and pinned to your
bulletin board or developed by a multidisciplinary marketing team and presented
to your investors—should entail responses to the same basic questions:
· What is our business’s mission and
· What measurable goals do we need
to accomplish and advance our mission and vision?
· What market needs/desires are we
seeking to fulfill?
· What customer/audience segments
are we targeting?
· What do we know about each
segment’s needs, desires, relevant habits and behaviors, communications and
media preferences, and core values?
· What is our compelling market and
value proposition (the unique benefit customers receive in exchange for their
· What is our compelling values
proposition (the unique social benefit customers create/share by voting with
· What are the key messages
(emotional and factual) that are critical to motivate action by our target
· What are the most effective
marketing tactics to deliver the message to customer/audience segments?
· How much do we need to invest in
time and money to be effective?
· Who needs to be responsible for each
task, and what are their deadlines?
· How will we measure success?
Strategic marketing is not a
prescribed set of tactics. It is not a veil of spin to push products or
services. It is not a mysterious and byzantine faith to be practiced only by an
anointed few. It is a discipline that helps you understand the needs and
desires of the marketplace and make choices that effectively leverage your
Strategic marketing drives success
by connecting customers with your answers to their needs.
Chip Conley is founder and
CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, California’s largest boutique hotelier. Eric
Friedenwald-Fishman is president and creative director of Metropolitan Group, a
strategic communications and social marketing agency. This article is adapted
from their book Marketing
That Matters: 10 Practices to Profit Your Business and Change the World,
published by Berrett-Koehler. To learn more, visit www.bkconnection.com.