Marketing — Knowledge Gaps
As we start a new year it’s a great time to begin examining your marketing efforts.
What are your plans to be successful this year? You might have a long list of plans for the new year. Or, you might be like most companies and just need to find ways to drive revenue.
I’m sure you don’t need someone telling you the obvious; that to successfully achieve any of your company’s broad goals for this year you need marketing.
What I am going to tell you is that you don’t know what you don’t know.
Maybe you went to business school, or you’ve been running your business for 10 plus years, you know how to market your product/services. Right?
Are you the most successful company in the marketplace or your niche? In a sea of competition, does your company naturally rise to the top? Are people just clamoring for your products/services with you just sitting there?
No? Then you have room for growth, and a professional marketer can find ways to positively impact your growth that you most likely have never thought of.
When it comes to marketing you don’t know what you don’t know. Meaning, that we all struggle to identify gaps in our knowledge. And, it can be even more challenging finding ways to close those knowledge gaps, especially when you are not aware one exists in the first place.
I Thought Everybody Knew This
When I first started in marketing consulting, I was really surprised to find a multitude of business owners I have spoken with are missing what one would consider basic blocking and tackling marketing efforts. It is shocking to see companies not doing a lot of basic marketing tactics and exercising common marketing knowledge.
As I started speaking with more and more business owners, having individual meetings, and attending networking events, the problem became more and more clear: These basic marketing efforts, only appear that way to me because I’ve devoted my entire career to marketing and have done so for a vast array of companies — each with their own unique set of challenges.
Throughout my marketing career I have become quite adept at determining:
- What marketing resources do we have available and what constraints?
- Skilled manpower
- Technology/Marketing platforms
- What marketing tactics can be employed to reach the target audience?
- Based on constraints and available resources which tactics:
- Employ the most cost-effective solution?
- Get to market fastest?
- Can the job be spread out over time to meet budgetary constraints?
- Or best meet other requirements?
- How can each of these resources be maximized?
- How can technology be leveraged?
- What processes should be followed?
- What makes up the individual steps of each marketing tactic?
I had a new marketing assistant once, who worked her way up from another part of the company. I asked her if she knew Microsoft Excel as I wanted her to set up and run some basic reports. She swore up and down she was an expert at Excel. So, I gave her the assignment and asked her to come and see me if there were any questions. A couple of days later when I asked to see what she had come up with, she tells me she hasn’t done them. Come to find out, she didn’t think that Excel could be used for the type of reporting I wanted. She was under the impression that Excel was purely a listing tool used to keep various mailing lists in. That was what she had used it for at a previous role and she really thought that was all Excel could be used for.
In this case, she didn’t know what she didn’t know. She had just never had in-depth experience using all the various features and functionality of Excel and had never been exposed to the huge variety of marketing and data tasks that can be accomplished with a tool like this.
Marketing Is Broad
Marketing, like many things, can be like this — you don’t know what you don’t know. You have these thoughts on what marketing is, or how it should be done, and you might have had limited exposure to a small aspect of marketing functions. I’ve spoken with business owners that are convinced marketing is just advertising, or just creating a website, or just improving SEO, or just creating a social strategy, or just this, or just that. Marketing is not just one thing.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines marketing:
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (Approved 2017)
That’s an extremely broad definition, and believe it or not, the AMA actually updates the definition of marketing every three years. Marketing is a constantly growing and changing field.
Depending on the product, services, and audience, there might be hundreds of different ways to reach your target audience. Each way may have different pros and cons, have their own financial cost, and have their own resource cost. They might each take different amounts of time. Some ways of reaching your target audience might be best for strong long-term results, while others might only be good in the short term.
Seek Professional Marketing Advice
Okay, so marketing is broad, why should anyone care? You should care because if there are now hundreds of ways to reach your target audience and if you’ve only been exposed to a few of them, you are missing out. Your main concern might be growing your business and you are worried about so many different elements to make that business grow. Can you really assess your businesses’ marketing needs with the same attention to detail as someone who has made a career of learning a wealth of different marketing tactics and strategies?
I recently met with a prospective client who has been bouncing from using one agency to another. He’d hire them for a while, and they’ll do okay for a while, and then he’d switch to the next one. Each agency was evidently doing exactly what he asked for. After spending some time with this business owner and asking him some questions about his marketing efforts as a whole, it became quickly obvious to me that he was missing some basic marketing efforts that could have huge results in the short- and long-term.
The agency he hired came in and did exactly what he asked them to do. But most likely, in an effort to quickly close the deal, or to stay focused on their specific turnkey offerings, they did not take the time to discuss his marketing efforts as a whole, to see what areas of his marketing really should have been getting the highest priority, or investment.
To look at this another way, most of us are not professional automotive mechanics. We want our car to get us from one place to another. When something goes wrong, we take the car to a mechanic. But we typically don’t just take the car in for grins and say, “hey check it out from top to bottom and let me know how it can be improved.” No, we usually bring it in for a specific issue — there’s a loud noise coming from the engine, black smoke comes out when I drive, the car only turns left. We tell the mechanic to diagnose the specific problem, give us the cost, and fix it. Once done, we drive away content thinking our problem has been solved. We’ve made a great call getting taken care of what we thought needed taking care of.
Your better mechanics, however, are now starting to do full car diagnostic checks when you bring your car in. This can help identify other issues, possibly larger ones that you might have missed being solely focused on fixing one issue.
Recognizing there is a knowledge gap is your first step in finding ways to close that gap. Having a high-level conversation with a professional marketing strategist can open your eyes to marketing opportunities to better reach your target audience in ways you most likely have never thought of. Or might find a way to make the most of your limited resources to help you get in front of new prospects.