The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is the leading international professional marketing body with some 41,000 members worldwide. In the South West the CIM runs many informative seminars and network opportunities for marketers, business owners and managers.
Here, Christine Boswell-Munday, regional director of The Chartered Institute of Marketing South West region, examines the importance of marketing and looks into how the discipline is evolving to fit in with the changing business landscape.
Why is marketing important to business growth – should companies be investing in marketing when they’re watching their budgets?
Marketing is the business activity that drives growth. Marketing products and services effectively results in sales, relationship building and product and service development to meet customers’ future needs to ensure the longevity of the business.
The issue is when every penny counts; you need to do more not less to convince consumers that your brand is the one worth buying into. The most important thing marketers can do during a recession is to ensure every last penny of their marketing budget is spent wisely. Research from the latest IPA / BDO Bellwether report shows marketing budgets have generally dropped an average 5.4% for this trading year (2011) due to economic uncertainty. Whilst it is important to champion the value of marketing spend and its relationship with the bottom line, the fact remains that marketers are increasingly expected to do more with less. However, tough economic times can provide unique opportunities for marketers but this means they need to be reviewing their market place and thinking innovatively.
What advice would you give to businesses looking to use marketing to build their company?
Firstly, you need a good strategic marketing plan – this really aligns business objectives to your marketing activity. The marketing plan considers all the important ‘external’ factors such as your customers, competition and the nature of the environment in which you trade. A thorough marketing plan will assess how these factors are going to change in the future and how you need to develop your marketing strategy, products and services to keep ahead of the game.
Promotional activities such as advertising, websites and email marketing are the last thing you should be planning until you thoroughly understand your target audience and their needs.
Measuring your marketing’s effectiveness is really important but many companies measure only what is easy and do not evaluate all metrics effectively. This can result in a distorted picture of their marketing’s return on investment. Effective evaluation will help you review and adjust your marketing plan and ensure you spend your budget more effectively. However it’s important to identify the right factors to measure. Research undertaken by The Chartered Institute of Marketing and Deloitte at the end of last year showed there are tangible benefits to businesses who measure more challenging metrics, such as customer experience. These companies had greater alignment between their marketing strategy and the overall business strategy and thus greater overall marketing effectiveness.
How is marketing changing? What are the key trends in marketing for 2011 and how and why should businesses be taking notice?
The ongoing economic situation will continue to place more pressure on marketing budgets. It places a greater importance on the need to evaluate all marketing activities effectively.
As for trends for 2011, the importance of social and digital media will continue to dominate. The advent of social media and digital marketing development over the past six years means the consumer now has a really powerful voice and businesses can only ignore this at their peril. If consumers do not like something or have a complaint they are more likely to tell their friends and contacts about it on Twitter (established 2006), Facebook (established 2004), forums and blogs as opposed to complaining direct to the business. The days of ‘push’ marketing or just getting your message out there are waning.
Businesses need to realign their marketing strategies and business practices to consider how they use, or can use, social media as a listening as well as a communication tool. Businesses should consider how they can integrate it into their customer service and relationship management strategies.
Marketing is subject to increasing regulation. There have been many changes recently to marketing regulation in particular the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and, more specifically, the 31 marketing practices that have been legally banned. Business owners need to be aware of these laws and any new laws effecting digital marketing practices.
From 1 March 2011, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority), the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, will include all marketing on company websites under their regulation.
As businesses start to consider how they will be responding to the 2012 Olympics, they will need to consider the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006. Marketers need to be careful about how they refer to the UK capital in 2012. Words linked to the Olympic brand, such as ‘London’, ‘2012’, ‘Bronze, Silver, Gold’, should not be used in certain combinations by non-official advertisers.
How can businesses combine these new channels (such as social media etc.) with traditional methods?
This is where a marketing plan and understanding what the business is trying to achieve is critical. Different promotional tools for example advertising, PR, brochures, websites and social media are often all effective in achieving different communication objectives inclduing building reputation, developing brand, sales generation and customer relationship development. The skill of the marketer is in knowing what the correct mix is for what they are trying to achieve.
Digital media is not the only solution. It’s important to remember that an integrated campaign using different media channels is usually the most effective as consumers make buying decisions based on many factors – such as what the product / brand says about them, the influence of their peer groups, what their needs are, and how they feel emotionally about a brand as well its price.
How can a company decide which marketing methods are right for them?
Both the business plan and the marketing plan are critical to identify and formulate an effective marketing strategy. In large businesses and organisations this is usually the responsibility of the marketing department working with other business functions.
In SMEs many business owners/managers need to develop these skills for themselves. The Chartered Institute of Marketing stocks informative text books – for business small or large – on different marketing disciplines and runs an extensive range of marketing courses and qualifications. For further information visit: http://www.cim.co.uk.
At a local level, the Bristol and West, Gloucestershire and Devon and Cornwall branches of The Chartered Institute of Marketing run regular seminars and ‘Learn Local’ activities on key marketing disciplines. These seminars are run in conjunction with Business Link, local chambers and universities.
There is also a plenitude of Chartered Marketers (this is a designation that the marketer is suitably qualified, has a number of years experience and commits to yearly ongoing professional development) that trade as independent marketing consultants. Independent marketing consultants come into your business to undertake the planning and even mentor your staff to implement the plan effectively. Find a consultant who has experience within your market sector and who offers up past and present clients for you to speak to about their performance before commencing. This way you will get access to professional experience and advice to ensure the marketing methods you employ will achieve your objectives and contribute to the bottom line.