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Don’t Mention the M Word!

While prepping for my digital engagement planning workshop for a pilot project involving a number of museums one of the organisers said: “Don’t mention the M word”.  The belief was if I did discuss “marketing” some people would close their ears and just think ‘that’s not my job, that’s what we have a marketing manager for.”

When it comes to marketing experts, there seems to be two camps.  On the one hand, there are those who advise and tell you how to do it (summoned from their own perspective, theory or practice) or there are people that just do it!

These people who are already “doing it”  run businesses or are involved in the process of doing business – that includes all people who want to achieve some kind of value exchange from their work, yes artists and creative people as well.

The latter don’t always recognise that they “do” marketing, they usually see marketing as a centralised function in their business – manifest as a marketing person or marketing department, not their job.

Marketing is often confused with its implementation or marketing tactics, such as graphic design, creating an advert or a poster, that type of thing; but “I don’t do design and I don’t have the IT skills” I often hear, so the fear of Marketing is perpetuated.

Good at marketing, good at business

But marketing lives and breaths in all areas of a business, it’s not in a box for someone to open up every now and again as an afterthought.  If I had a £1 for every time I have worked with a business professional who has said something to the effect: “I love what I do, but I hate the marketing bit”.   Then I look at their success, down to them, their hard work and their passion and commitment to customers and yes I would have a tall pile of pounds because they are a fine example of someone who is good at business and are good at marketing.

Jeff Bezos in his Letters to Shareholders 1997 to 2011 gives perhaps a good definition of a wholly marketing-centric organisation:

“The platform is comprised of brand, customers, technology, distribution capability, deep e-commerce expertise, and a great team with a passion for innovation and a passion for serving customers well.”

I don’t advocate telling people how to do marketing (the first camp), this is the same as attempting to tell people how to run their entire business, top to bottom.    It’s over simplifying the process of marketing and the role it plays in business.  If a business person just isn’t good at marketing, then that person isn’t good at business and it’s only a matter of time before their business will fail.

Marketing people are business people are creative people

Richard Branson (entrepreneur and compulsive builder of businesses to over a billion dollars turnover) once said in an interview: “Business is about creating things, having a vision, creating something extremely special.”

What makes the digital revolution so exciting (and challenging) is that your business and organisation’s voice, identity and values (a vision if you like) needs to be projected in a 360 multi-platform arena and it’s impossible to do this in a centralised way, with people in a box labelled marketing, you know those people you call “marketing experts”.

The vision of your business needs to be organisation-wide and to achieve this you need to get the vision out there and in all parts of your organisation and your people (staff) need to be on board, it’s only at that point can you start to think digital comms or planning your marketing strategies.

I think what turns people off marketing is simply down to the use and understanding of  language – the term “marketing” itself.  Don’t Mention the M-Word came about because much of the work I get asked to do involves helping people achieve their ambitions, to succeed, to solve challenges or to be creative and often this involves having an understanding of how to utilise technology in a effective way as part of the solution.

A good strategic understanding of using marketing is the answer, but clients don’t ask for marketing help.  They ask for websites and apps, design or social media training – not creative marketing thinking, the very thing all the other stuff has to deliver.

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