The American Marketing Association (AMA) recently conducted and disseminated the results of its 2016 Marketing Pain Points Survey, which is basically a sounding board for marketing professionals and academics to prognosticate on key issues and trends that they view will be critical to both the profession and to business success in the coming year. The survey revealed, to no surprise, that data and analytics and content marketing will prove to be major initiatives on which marketers will focus their efforts, talent and budgets in 2016. Another pain point which was highlighted in the survey, but not ranked as high as the aforementioned issues, is that marketers see business growth as both a top priority and a pain point. I think most would agree that business growth is the very essence of why we marketers and the science of marketing exist, which is perhaps why I find it so curiously strange that driving the business ahead (more share, more revenue, greater return and value to shareholders) is not always and consistently the top pain point in the forefront of marketers’ minds.
Lauren McCadney, Director of Digital Engagement and Social Media at CDW, who was asked by the AMA to review the results of the survey and opine on some of the findings, cites that “low on marketers’ list of concerns were research, pricing/distribution, product development and innovation.”
Certainly, it’s rather odd that the very foundations upon which businesses can drive growth are cited by marketers as being low in emphasis in 2016. More disturbingly is that tactical initiatives, like content marketing and data acquisition and analysis are referenced as being far more important than delivering strategies and strategic thought which leads to creativity and innovation, and ultimately executable tactics that serve to drive business growth.
Fundamentally, I think there has been a shift in marketing away from the strategic and deep into the tactical. Perhaps this is due to the sheer volume of media and platforms via which companies can and must now engage customers to create top of mind share and realize and measure brand loyalty, ROI and other marketing metrics. I think marketers are overwhelmed by all of the noise and are so entrenched in the daily digital maelstrom that the core components of business that marketing has traditionally been chargedwith - planning and strategy, market research, new product/service development and introduction – have taken a back seat.
I think the New Year is a perfect excuse for marketers to roll up their sleeves and get back to some of the basics in marketing. Most importantly, marketers should refocus their efforts in 2016 to develop and align strategy and strategic initiatives with the marketplace and their respective publics. There is no better way to begin thinking strategically than by taking stock of the core strengths and weaknesses within our respective companies, and to also expose opportunities and threats from an immediate and forward-looking point of view.
Practitioners often refer to such an exercise as a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). A SWOT with company executives and other internal teams and stakeholders is a fantastic way to assess the company in a very internal and immediate sense. It greatly aids marketing (and other critical elements of the organization) in developing actionable strategies that leverage core strengths in order to pursue opportunities.
But be wary of limiting the SWOT analysis to simply an internal audience. It is always a great idea to understand and appreciate how the marketplace (current and former customers, competitors, distributors, resellers, etc.) perceives a company and its brands. Given the many on-line survey tools and apps that exist today, it is quite easy to conduct a survey of the marketplace and gain near real-time feedback and insight.
Following an internal SWOT, an external survey of the marketplace can help provide insightful information regarding internal vs external perceptions. An external survey can also aid in uncovering opportunities that can be exploited, while mitigating or even dispelling any threats. Finally, the combination of an internal SWOT with an external survey of the market can prove tremendously valuable in crafting marketing strategies and tactics that are not only actionable and realistic, but prove successful because they truly “fit” the core competencies of the company to the wants, needs, perceptions in the marketplace.