The author of this highly rated article is Ian Rheeder.
In 2003 Ian qualified as a Chartered Marketer (CM), the highest professional marketing qualification recognised both in South Africa and Europe.
If you want more valuable advice from this expert, click here.
Come on Marketers, Take the Strategic Initiative!
(This two-pager may save your career and your company.)
by Ian Rheeder, published by Marketing Journal of SA
Too many marketers rely on strategic initiative to be lead from the top, but it often never comes! It’s quite disturbing how many MDs literally hate Vision Statement. It’s even more absurd when one considers that all the greatest strategists (and leaders) agree that a shared Vision and Purpose is by far the most important part of strategy! Helen Keller put it succinctly. “What is worse than being blind, is to have perfect sight, but no vision.” So how do Marketers overcome this common and painful management dilemma?
Understanding your role as Strategic Marketing & Sales Manager may require much more ‘stretching’ than you may be comfortable with, however, there’s no alternative when you consider the benefits. Take the high ground and lead your superiors through a joint-strategic-workshop. You may even need to do this to keep your job, the company afloat or to simply make target!
Strategic Reticence and Tension
If your execs aren’t acquainted with solid strategic processes and language, boardroom meetings clumsily feel a bit like trying to crack a foreign code. To increase tension and mistrust further, they feel intimidated by their lack of strategic prowess, while we feel incapacitated because marketers have only been empowered to run ‘marketing’. In my experience as a consultant, this ‘gap’ always exists; it’s just the extent that differs. Unless you’re working with a recently strategically qualified and enlightened MD, your marketing qualification probably has a much higher strategic value than you realise; all you need to do is sell yourself better as a strategic facilitator.
So what’s the solution?
Carefully write a strategic Power Point presentation for your next company conference or meeting to facilitate a live interactive-joint-strategic-session. Take advantage of technology and realise you can actually do live updates on the projected-screen while your colleagues are debating amongst themselves. Test it out on a colleague, and then e-mail your ‘workshop’ to your MD to book your slot at the next Strategic Planning Meeting.
What the Workshop must cover
A featured Harvard Business School article suggested that just two things make managers brilliant; focus and energy. One could obviously add many other attributes to the list, however this is what separated the ‘busy’ looking space-cadet with the best there was. Focused energy leads to focussed activities. However companies are not run with personalised agendas, but should be shared by everyone in the organisation, and then translated into action through a strategic plan for each individual.
Because I believe that finding a company’s Core Purpose is the most important area that must be covered in a strategic workshop, I’m going to focus on that area. However, for the more aspirant two-day workshop junkie, here’s my agenda recommendation for your fix (and the Company’s).
Selection of Strategic Business Unit & Targeted Segment, Key Success Factors for SBU chosen with Competitor Analysis, in depth SWOT, Objective Setting, “Problems” Target Market is Experiencing, Choice of a Value Proposition/Positioning Strategy, Selecting Resources Capabilities to match/fit Strategy, Desired Brand Essence Workshop (only if time permits!), Pay-off Line/Slogan/Ad-Promise Confirmation, Actionable Vision with Core Purpose and 3 Major Goals, Group Problem Solving Workshop and then finally Set Specific Tasks with Deadlines.
Why Core Purpose?
What’s your Core Purpose? If you don’t know, and if it’s not customer centric, you’re treading on thin ice! If you’re a marketer and don’t believe in Core Purpose, please tell me so I can strike you off my benevolent wish list and report you to the marketing police! When lecturing or facilitating sales or marketing workshops, I’ve given up asking managers what their particular company’s Core Purpose is; they either embarrass themselves with their answers or just don’t know! One cannot even begin to set strategic activities when you don’t know what the most important Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGS) are, which should be inline with your Core Purpose.
Core Purpose Illuminated
Core Purpose should be customer centric, for instance “We will maximise our Clients profits by doing xyz.” This may sound easy, however may take hours of brainstorming to pinpoint and usually requires Customer research to fully expose and confirm. To give you an example how obscenely off the mark some companies are, one company’s Core Purpose read “To make as much profit as possible by manufacturing a quality range of widgets to ISO 9002 standards.” This company was focussing all their attention on quality, when in fact our research showed that their quality was already too high! They were ironically planning their activities to go out of business. What their clients wanted was increased responsiveness and on-time-delivery. Their new Core Purpose read “To maximise our customers’ profitability by delivering value-for-money widgets on time, every time.” This new Core Purpose completely changed the BHAGS, activities of the company and the performance appraisal system for most staff. Employees in this company now know exactly what their Core Purpose is because it’s in their letter of appointment, performance appraisal and makes up 25% of their annual bonus if their ‘core purpose’ activities are achieved.
If you ask the layman what McDonald’s Core Purpose is, they simultaneously shout out burgers! Some deeper thinkers then shout out toys or property rental. Thank goodness they’re not marketing McDonald’s! McDonald’s Core Purpose is not burgers (now you know why their burgers aren’t the best), or toys or property rental, but Consistent Convenience for the Customer! Imagine the difference in focussed goals they set for each individual as apposed to toys, burgers and property rental! Find your company’s Customer Centric Core Purpose by group consensus, and then make sure all the bosses and troops are committed to driving it.
Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Once you know what your shared Core Purpose is, the customer centric BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) follow swiftly, allowing all SBUs (Strategic Business Units) to align their objectives and activities with it. Decisions to invest in achieving the companies mission/vision now becomes so much easier; “Will it achieve our Core Purpose?” “Yes”. “Well then spend it!” Morale, focus and energy levels increases dramatically. But most of all, Marketing is doing what it’s designed to do, which is to create handsome profits by giving customers what they want.
Like Tom Bowman says, “A Marketer’s task is to self-destruct by making themselves unnecessary, because they have succeeded in making the whole organisation market-oriented.”