The cooler temperatures are sure signs that winter is coming, and a reminder of the unpredictability the next few months can bring. Winnipeggers know this change of season happens every year, yet we so often ignore these reminders and wait until the last minute to get our vehicle ready for the pending changes in the weather. And then we complain when our mechanic cannot get us in for three weeks. It’s not their fault, is it?
As the calendar year draws to a close, it also marks the fiscal year-end for many businesses. Planning activities for 2021 have, ideally, started and are nearing completion. But there are still two important months left in the year. While regular maintenance on your marketing activities should take place throughout the year, this is an ideal time for a final "marketing maintenance" program to help your company finish strong in 2020. You can also get ready for any dramatic changes in 2021, like what we saw with the ripple effects of COVID-19 this year.
Experience tells me that over half of companies have not even considered a review of marketing activities to ensure a successful final two months of the year. I strongly recommend using the fundamentals to assess your original marketing objectives and goals based on the 4 Ps — product, price, place, and promotion.
In many ways, you could consider yourself a mechanic, opening the hood and inspecting your marketing engine and the four pistons (4 Ps) that drive growth in your organization. A good mechanic can listen to a vehicle’s engine and hear where there are problems. A good marketer knows where to look and listen to uncover any challenges within the 4 Ps of the marketing engine.
You can begin by ensuring your product is fine-tuned to be customer-focused. What is the value your product has with your customers? Can you state this crisply and truthfully? No generic phrases or "great customer service" comments, please. If you do not have direct customer feedback, now is the time to start. Check with your front-line staff and sales reps and glean as much as you can to learn what customers like and don’t like about your product. Look for trends and differences that should be investigated further to see what your customers are buying, or not buying.
Your pricing is the area that is most often overlooked. And revenue is essential for every business. How are your margins? Is there any product that needs a price adjustment? What is the customer feedback on pricing? Have you conducted a market assessment to see where you fit in the competitive landscape?
Your place, or distribution, component is next on your review. Is your delivery channel optimized? Do your sales reps know your product, and can they match it to customer needs? If you use a partner or distributor, have you met with them to ensure their questions or concerns are answered? If you have a highly seasonal business, are you prepared for the upcoming Christmas rush? Have you contacted your entire supply chain to ensure they are ready for the pending sales bonanza? With the current COVID-19 situation, many products are going to be in unreasonably high demand. If you fit in this area, please make sure you can deliver for your customers.
Finally, your promotion plan must be reviewed. New messaging may be required, and this must consistently be applied to all your platforms. How effective have your promotions been throughout the year? Are your messages resonating with your target market and creating interest and demand for your product? Your messaging must not only be clear and compelling for your customers, but it must also be clear and compelling to all your staff. Great marketing begins with enthusiastic employees that are your ambassadors and advocates for your product. From your website to your advertising, from your sales collateral to your branded merchandise, does your message align in all areas?
When your four marketing pistons (4 Ps) are finely tuned and aligned, you have provided the corporate leadership necessary for a customer-generating marketing engine. An honest and forthright view of your current situation is essential to enable the best management decisions moving forward. Ideally, you perform regular marketing maintenance throughout the year. This effort will help prepare you for any last minute surprises or unexpected events that could negatively impact your sales in the last two months of the year and help to start the new year on a positive note with some important momentum.
Tim’s bits: Marketing is the soul of the company and the reason customers want to buy from you on a regular basis. It’s not an engine you turn on and off as needed because it impacts the entire company. Make sure it runs smoothly all year round to avoid any unnecessary issues. Ensure your maintenance program regularly inspects your marketing activities. A smooth marketing engine really is the sound of success.
Tim Kist, FCMC, a fellow certified management consultant by law, works with organizations to improve their overall performance by being customer-focused.
Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.