Improving Marketing: Five Techniques

By: Verne Harnish “Growth Guy”

Oct 5, 2010 1:00:00 PM ET

With the recession weakening or eliminating competitors while competition outside the country has increased, it’s time to crank up a well-oiled marketing function. Yet the single biggest weakness I find in many growth firms is the lack of a separate and well-functioning one. 

If it exists at all, it’s seen as a simple sales support function tasked with making sure the website is updated and the sales people have presentation packs. Instead, it should be a vital function headed by the CEO and/or reporting directly to him or her.

In the spirit that it takes a “village of gurus” to help a growth firm, I recommend several books and techniques, which when considered together, will give your marketing group plenty to do to help drive growth.

Father of Modern Marketing

With deference to Philip Kotler, the creator of the 4 P’s of marketing (Product, Price, Place, and Promotion), I consider the father of modern marketing Regis McKenna. His firm was the key marketing advisor, in the early days, to Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Genentech, and ACE (Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs), a student organization I co-founded in 1983, where I learned firsthand the power of his approach to marketing. 

Start by finding an out-of-print copy of The Regis Touch and absorb it! The essence of his approach is two-fold. First, the key to great marketing is setting aside one hour a week for a marketing meeting, separate and distinct from the weekly sales meeting. And the focus of this meeting is identifying and figuring out ways to build relationships with the key influencers within your market. 

Top 250 List

Building on the idea of influencers, take a page from Keith Ferrazzi’s playbook. Author of Who’s Got Your Back, he advises CEOs to delineate a list of the top 250 relationships needed to double revenues – existing and potential key customers; critical suppliers; influential industry analysts and writers; politicians; etc. It’s an outstanding strategy exercise that will consume the first few weekly marketing meetings.

Then launch initiatives to reach out to the top 50 on a monthly basis; the next 100 on a quarterly basis; and the last 100 at least once per year (nurture marketing!). Press releases, external newsletters, and personalized gifts and messages are some of the ways. In addition, as author of Never Eat Alone points out, it’s imperative to not waste lunch eating at your desk, but get out of the office and break bread with someone on your list.

As a side note, it’s also imperative that marketing generate the specific list of prospects for sales people to call upon and the accompanying background research sales people need to bring value to the sales call. (See my previous column on five techniques for driving sales).

4 E’s of Marketing

Focusing on your Top 250 list, next apply Ogilvy & Mather’s 4 E’s of marketing to this group of influencers. A 21st Century update to Kotler’s 4 P’s of marketing, this top marketing and PR firm suggests that it’s not just about the Product, but the entire Experience; it’s not about Price but the kinds of Exchanges you can negotiate; it’s not about Place, but being Everyplace your customers can be found; and it’s not just about Promotion but turning your employees and customers into Evangelists.

Search the internet for Ogilvy’s 4Es of marketing and download its excellent white paper and PowerPoint presentation – and bring them to your next marketing meeting. Also get a copy of Pricing with Confidence and sign up for Holden Advisors’ blog on pricing. It’s the one “P” of marketing that is the least understood or managed properly by growth firms, yet can net you (or cost you) the most profitability.

Real-Time Marketing

“You are what you publish,” notes David Meerman Scott, author of Real-Time Marketing and PR. As such, he suggests a key hire for your marketing team is a journalist – part-time or full time. Given the changes in the publishing business, there is excellent talent available to help you publish white papers, articles, and blogs; produce YouTube videos (which rank high on search engines); and even write a book, which I consider a top priority for all CEOs of companies. Nothing will give you more visibility and credibility than controlling the ink in your industry.

It’s also critical in this real-time media world that you react quickly to the news around your industry. As such, Scott suggests you figure out how to insert yourself into the “second paragraph” of relevant stories. For instance, a competitor gets purchased (the first paragraph) and you blog a thoughtful response that gets picked up by others commenting on the transaction. Also read Brian Halligan’s book Inbound Marketing, which provides additional details around how to drive customers to your firm using education-based marketing. 

Getting Your Message Right

Two additional books will give your marketing team plenty of “to dos” for the next several months and help structure the messaging on the website and in your marketing materials. The first is Reality Marketing Revolution by Mike Lieberman and Eric Keiles. I particularly like their process for nailing down the key message on your website along with the specific photo that should accompany it. They also suggest you draw a blue circle around every word “you or your” and a red square around every word “we or us” to highlight if you’re talking about yourself too much vs. the customer in emails, proposals, and on your website – try it!

The second book is Kevin Daum’s book Roar: Getting Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle. His book outlines a process for crafting the right value proposition that will cut through the noise and garner the attention of prospective customers.

Collectively, these eight books and the white paper will keep you current–and your marketing team busy for the next 12 months.