I’d like to make a prediction (a safe one). Are you ready? Okay, here goes. I predict that more prediction—predictive analytics, that is—is just around the corner. It’s hard to overstate just how pervasive these technologies have become in our everyday lives and business, and they show no sign of slowing.
And with good reason. I appreciate the convenience when Siri knows I’m headed home and tells me how long the drive will take. I appreciate the power predictive business offers my clients. The right customer data, combined with strong marketing fundamentals, can help boost sales, gain market share, and increase profits.
But when it comes to your company’s medium or long-range future, how much faith should you really place in these tools and processes? What about the . . . unpredictable?
The truth is, there always have been, and I believe there always will be, seismic shifts that seem to appear out of nowhere.
Maybe there were no detectable signs. Or maybe you were paying attention to the wrong things and missed the signs. Maybe you misjudged their meaning. Either way, even well-run organizations like yours, armed with sophisticated tools, can be caught unprepared. Our crystal balls—whether intuition, experience, or algorithm—are always imperfect.
Consider these scenarios:
- A new disruptor arrives and changes the game, seemingly overnight.
- An economic crisis turns out to be worse than we’d ever imagined.
- A weakness in our business model has far-reaching consequences.
- A natural disaster changes lives and fortunes.
Whether it happens this year, next year, or a decade or two from now, your organization will find itself scrambling to deal with the unexpected. And while we can’t shield ourselves from every hazard, we can take prudent action to protect ourselves. One of the smartest ways to prepare for the unanticipated is by investing in your marketing capability NOW.
Why Some Companies Neglect Marketing
Why do organizations neglect their marketing? Sometimes they place too much faith in the crystal ball of predictive business. Other times, they assume that the future will resemble the present: a steady pipeline of clients, busy employees, and acceptable sales numbers. Instead of shoring up their marketing, they grow complacent about their place in the sun.
Rather than making marketing a core function of their business, they neglect it in favor of other (“better”) areas to invest their resources. It isn’t that they don’t see the value of marketing, exactly. It’s just that things are okay without it, so why not allocate that funding to an area where it’s really needed?
This is a long-term, strategic mistake, and a serious one, for many reasons. Marketing should be a core function of your business and more. It should be at the very heart of everything you do.
What Marketing Isn’t: Life Support
Think about it. When the next disruption or unforeseen event comes along, and it always does,how will you bail yourself out of trouble? If you’re like most unprepared companies you’ll throw resources into marketing in a frantic attempt to weather the crisis.
This is a bit like ignoring preventive medicine, thinking “If I get sick, I’ll go to the emergency room.” Or like the young, healthy adult who trains CrossFit three times a week and believes they don’t need health insurance, until suddenly they do.
What Marketing Is: Insurance
If you’ve been neglecting your marketing, I urge you to consider the precarious position you’re putting yourself in and how much more secure you’d be with an agile, omni-channel strategy in place. You’ll be much better equipped to deal with those inevitable shocks to the system.
And the good news is it’s never too late to start.
Actually, that’s not quite true. Sometimes it is, unfortunately, too late to play catch-up, and that’s why you should reconsider your approach now, today.
But how? At a minimum, every strategy should include goals, metrics, and two-way communication with customers. You should be engaging on several channels, rather than relying on only one or two. You should always be listening to your customers. But the specific channels and tactics depend on your industry, your customer, and your product or service.
Need more concrete reasons to take stock of marketing capability today? Here are just a few:
- Gain a more accurate understanding of your customer needs and wants.
- Get crucial feedback on your product or service.
- Control your brand perception and messaging.
- Respond more quickly and effectively to negative online reviews or posts.
- Attract the best employees.
- Establish brand relationships to communicate changes/pivots to prospects.
- Increase the long-term viability of your business.
But What About . . . ?
Are there companies that seem to sustain success without investing heavily in marketing as we know it? Yes, companies like Dropbox and Sriracha (and I’m sure you can think of a few others) seem to sell by word of mouth alone, with little “marketing” effort.
But this is a common misconception. In fact, the development of extremely appealing products that meet a strong customer need is a fundamental marketing function. It’s the very foundation of marketing. Just because these products sell without extensive advertising doesn’t mean they’re succeeding without marketing. It simply means they’ve chosen different tactics and channels for promotion. They’ve dedicated the time and effort to developing products that align perfectly with their consumer “soul mates.”
The Future, Ready or Not
Rather than continuing to sacrifice marketing for “more important” things, understand that marketing is one of those important things. Ignoring it because the sun is shining today is a dangerous misstep. Investing now in the people, technology, and strategy to strengthen your marketing capability is not an add-on, or one of those “nice-to-haves.”
Make the smart investments now so you’ll be prepared for whatever happens—because the truth is, it will probably be wilder and more surprising than any of us can imagine.