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Why the Step You Want to Skip Is Where You Should Start

April 16, 2021

Modern marketing tools have made interacting with existing and prospective customers much more affordable, accessible, and immediate.   In the last few years, we have seen an explosion of channels and formats that make marketing in a digital world exponentially more exciting on one hand, and complex on the other.

Ok, so What Is the Problem?

An abundance of on-demand options creates an illusion of productivity that when left unfiltered generates noise, otherwise called spam, defined as; “irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the internet to a large number of recipients.”  Spam is the wasteful use of resources across time, money, and resource capacity.

Instead, as Tim Fargo eloquently puts it, “Taking a step back can often be the quickest way forward”.

So, let’s step back, what is marketing? Every business talks about marketing, but very few define it within the context of their specific organizational purpose, customer motivations and business objectives. Terms like advertising, promotions, or sales often define the role of marketing within an organization.

While these are all components of the craft, my favorite definition is, “Marketing is the process by which companies create value for their customers and build strong relationships in order to capture value from customers in return”.

The process to unlock its magic is to dig deep first before engaging in tactics. We must ask the following questions.

  • Do I understand the intrinsic, aspirational, and economic value drivers of my valued customers?
  • Will my message move audiences to engage through meaningful conversation?
  • Is there a clear definition of success that aligns marketing objectives to business outcomes?

The process of uncovering the answers is called Discovery, a word traced back to the medieval Latin word discooperie, “dis”- “opposite of” + “cooperire”- to cover up”Discovery is the quest for the truth and here are a few tangible steps to help you uncover it.

1. Bring in the professionals

Just like any other business function that requires expertise, so does marketing. A seasoned marketing executive can provide a data-driven diagnosis of the root causes for underperformance and develop frameworks for actionable decision-making.

2. Ask the right questions

The right diagnostic questions can underscore the most impactful problem that your marketing team can help address.

  • How do my organizational strengths align with the forces of market demand?
  • How do our company values manifest in actionable ways in the real world?
  • How well do we understand the evolving needs of our customers?
  • How do we deliver undeniable proof for what we say we do best?
  • How do we truly differentiate our value proposition from competition?

3. Validate hypothesis with stakeholders

Often our inherited legacy creates layers of internal complexity that clouds perspective. To avoid the trap of confirmation bias, investing in the right qualitative research skills to solicit feedback from stakeholders, whether they are most valued customers, influencers or partners, can unleash fresh ideas and opportunities.

4. Select tactics that matter

More is not always better! Taking a selective approach to tactics is the best way to pace the team, build a data-driven performance baseline and deliver impact from your marketing investment.

5. Align your leadership team

Marketing works best when everyone in the organization embraces and amplifies its power. Your team may be busy or skeptical or outright dismissive about marketing, but use the discovery process to align behind the foundational elements of your 3 keys: Your Purpose, Your Values, and Your Story.

Einstein believed the quality of the solution you generate is in direct proportion to your ability to identify the problem you hope to solve; famously saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” A thoughtful discovery process, that is anchored in transparency, tenacity and the pursuit of truth is the foundation to everything that follows. Make it the first place to start your journey towards customer-fueled growth.

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