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The Problem With Marketing

To quote a famous fellow Irishman (he’s famous, I’m Irish) George Bernard Shaw, playwright, once said; “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” Marketing has never been so necessary. A changed landscape means the need for a new plan, a new marketing plan.

When life is good and the tills are ringing, it’s all too easy to get lazy. Lazy people get unfit. Unfit people can’t run and when a storm blows we need to be able to sprint, be flexible and adapt to the new conditions.

This is not a note on recession; this is about marketing after a recession. There is a difference. 

What’s Marketing?

There are lots of excellent academic definitions but for me, marketing is simply the messages we use to create the desire to buy. Simple, nothing more.

However, businesses can be very good at marketing and poor at delivery. The contrary is true too. Many businesses provide a marvellous service but sell their wares badly.

Success is balancing both equally, fairly and without over or understatement.

Cleverly crafted it will make you stand out from the crowd. Not careful crafted and you will still stand out for all the wrong reasons.

The Problem With Marketing Your Business

The problem with marketing your business is quite simple. Great business people are rarely great marketers. Why would they? It’s not their skill.

Clever people spot the difference and recognise the need for expertise.

However, if the marketer’s skill is weaving a complex web, that is not to say that the Operator can’t direct. They can, it’s simple, once they see everything as the customer sees it – not as the operator.

That is the first flawed strategy when costs must be cut, amateurs become experts.

The trick is to stay with what you know, what you are good at and avoid the trap of amateur dramatics.

Related: 100 Guerilla Marketing Ideas: Grow Sales With Zero Budget

It’s All About The Experience

The role of a leader is to create and deliver the strategy as well as capture the vision. This is what makes you original. Marketing is everything you do before you make the sale. If you concentrate on doing really good work then that is your best form of marketing.

To illustrate, consider this. Let me take a hotel as an example;

  • A hotel is like a theatre. Every night when the lights go down the show is over another day is done.
  • The next day, no matter what has gone before it, the show will have a new audience, often a first time audience, and today’s show must, at the very least, be better than the day before.
  • The actors who will deliver the show are your people. If you do not invest in them in many ways you will have an average show. After all, what is the point of a beautiful comfortable cosy theatre with great sets, great seats and great lighting if the guys on stage have no idea what they are doing?

The hotelier’s job is to keep the actors acting and the audience smiling.

Be Warned

Marketing is all about your message. There is a great danger that a business or industry begins to talk jargon. An even bigger danger is that brands lose the run of themselves when writing. It should be simple, clear and easy to understand. If I don’t understand, I don’t go. In an ever more sophisticated market, people are not price conscious, they are value conscious. It’s not what it costs, it’s what I get.

Nothing is more uninspiring than industry ‘language’ For example “Automotive Diagnostic Engineers Specialising in Vehicular Correction, Rebooting and Repairs”  Think of an advert instead that said; “We fix and Service your car” Not perfect but more inspiring than you know what!

As William Bernbach, American Advertising Executive said; “nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make”

Big Boys And Little Brands

Small businesses cannot offer what big branded businesses do. They should not begin to try. They should develop difference. Both are relevant, both are necessary but both are different.

Our needs determine our mood and our needs and moods therefore determine our decision.

  • At different times we will absolutely need and demand all the things the branded chains have to offer.
  • On the other hand, the quirky little unique family run businesses may just be the most tantalizing little piece of heaven to help me escape the travails of life.

This is the opportunity and this should be the focus, after all, it’s how every great brand started.

Related: Can A Brand Belief Help You To Be More Successful In Today’s Tough Environment?

Judgement Day

Who decides if your business thrives or fails? The customer, nobody else. Great marketing will attract me but it must be followed through by the experience. One has to match the other.

In those long lazy care free days money could solve many problems. Today, few businesses have that luxury. Today, social media, boards and a virtual world decide our fate. Research, messages and people power are like never before.

We know everything is in a constant state of change. A business is either growing or dying, it is never standing still. Even though we are acutely aware of change, the paradox is that we resist it. Years ago the proprietor was the judge of who came in, who stayed & who was excluded. Now, it is the customer & the circle has turned.

As the court records once recently reported – Convicted Criminal – “As God is my judge-I am innocent” – Judge – “He isn’t; I am, and you’re not”

Isn’t it time to review your marketing and your message?

Through a customer’s eyes perhaps?

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Image: “Marketing Definition Magnifier /

Conor's skill is teaching and training the art of Business, Sales & Marketing. Conor is also a Columnist for the UK’s Hotel-Industry Website and Magazine. His view has been sought by The BBC (TV), Jools Holland (TV) BBC Scotland (TV), BBC (Radio) RTE (Radio) Newstalk (Radio), USA Today, The Sunday Times

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  • davidquaid

    Hi Conor

    I’m so pleased you mentioned Big Boys and little brands. You are right on the money here. Is there anything worse than watching people advise small brands to copy massive brands with saturated advertising. These are existing brands.

    I think its possible to be right and wrong in this post because I can imagine contexts you hadn’t thought of at the start but zipped in and out of along the way.

    Mostly – I have a different definition of Marketing – but that’s not a disagreement!

    The thing is that great businessmen are often great marketers because they’ve built and delivered a product that the market needs, without having to create the desire. I think if you’re creating desire, you’re in an intensive marketing situation.

    The issue at hand – is unless you’re talking to an audience who know you – then you have no brand, so forget the brand message. People don’t care and YOU cannot change them. Lead with the USP and the Value Proposition and go back to the labs if you don’t have one!

    Thanks for helping me crystalise an idea!

  • I concur – Big Boys and Little brands should resonate well in our current climate – it hints at tapping into values and a local or community focused approach if you were starting out small, targeting the people you know and what really makes them tick

  • “people are not price conscious, they are value conscious.” Interesting observation and certainly something we should consider more, when looking to offer value to our clients and customers.
    Welcome to TYB Conor!

  • Donncha Hughes

    In her book Beyond Buzz : the next generation of word of mouth marketing, Lois Kelly discusses marketing as follows:

    Marketing is about things that help people to get to know us in ways that build understanding, trust and feelings that make them want to do business with our companies

    So I agree with Conor that marketing is about messages to create the desire to buy. And messages is much more than promotion. it is very much about delivery. Your customers can be your best salesperson.

  • Thanks for another brilliant post Emad. It’s really interesting that a lot of what we use every day was created by names we don’t know within a company. I believe it’s good to know that not all staff are 9to5’ers and come up with innovative ideas despite the fact it isn’t their own business. As always I look forward to your next post for us. Happy New Year

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