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Marketing 101: To the Navel and Beyond
Whether you’re a for-profit business, a not-for-profit service provider, or a not-making-enough-profit individual, it’s a good idea to do a frequent review of your fundamental marketing objectives and your plans for achieving them.
I’m a fundamentalist at heart. Except when it comes to religion, I think learning and applying fundamental principles on a consistent basis is the surest route to the Promised Land.
(But let’s leave religion alone for now. It presents some interesting marketing challenges, and we can get into a discussion of the difference between fundamentalism and dogmatism, but let’s save it for another time.)
If we’re going to take the fundamentalist approach, let’s start with a basic definition of “the Marketing Concept.” For an individual or organization, it means developing your products and services (including your distribution, pricing and promotion strategies for those products and services) to satisfy the needs and wants of targeted customers as well as your own needs and wants.
The difficulty with fundamentalism is that the fundamentals are so, well…fundamental. They’re so basic that, like the concrete foundation of a building, they can get obscured by all the stuff we pile on top.
Goal #1: Survive and Thrive
To provide the best products and services for its customers and stakeholders, an organization first has to exist. And to provide livable wages and a nurturing environment for its staff members, it must continue to exist.
Customer focus is important, but an organization cannot long provide value to customers if its business plan, or lack thereof, involves killing itself and its staff members.
Fundamental #1: Our own wants and needs
Many of my colleagues and clients (mostly in the fields of healthcare and higher education) complain that, when it comes to developing marketing plans, a lot of the leadership decision-makers they work with never get beyond examining their own navels.
I’m not sure they’re even getting that far.
Most often, they’re distracted by their own products or services. They focus on “how can we sell this?” instead of “what does the organization want and need, and how can this new [thing, idea, direction] help us achieve our long-term objectives?”
Or they’re distracted by some new development in the marketplace: a new technology, a new government regulation, a new social media tool, a new competitor. And their response addresses the immediate opportunity or threat without addressing fundamental wants and needs.
Long vs Short
The problem often comes down to a conflict between short-term gain and long-term objectives. Unless an organization’s long-term objectives—those fundamental wants and needs—are clearly defined and consistently revisited, too many decisions will be made strictly on the basis of short-term gain under the assumption that any gain must be beneficial.
Firing half your staff will reduce costs and increase profits on a short-term basis, but it may not be a good decision in the long-term. For a hospital or a community college, there might be short-term gains achieved by adding a new 256-slice CT scanner to compete against that hospital in the next town, or building new dorms to compete against four-year colleges. But would those be the best capital investments if Fundamental #1 was consulted first?
Maybe so. But maybe no.
The Navel Battle
Marketing, according to the American Marketing Association, is all about developing mutually satisfying exchange relationships with customers. Most marketers focus most of their attention on learning all they can about how to satisfy their chosen customers, and rightly so. But many forget that adverb: “mutually.”
The more fully the exchange relationship satisfies both sides, the more successful it will be. Marketers who do not fully appreciate their own wants and needs can only achieve success by accident, and accidents do not tend to last very long.
It is tempting for leaders to insist their staff members focus on satisfying all their customers’ needs, but unless the organization addresses its own needs (and those of its staff members), no one will be satisfied in the long run.