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Is Your Marketing Strategy Working?

By Frank Williams
Posted Monday, October 4, 2004

Many companies are struggling these days. The economy is tough, global competition is a fact, and technology tends to obsolete products in months, sometimes in weeks. Your marketing strategy is more important today than ever. Making it work and knowing when to tack is important.

How is a firm to cope?

We see too many companies living on a false hope that tomorrow will bring a turn around. Let's give our plans another quarter is heard too often in marketing meetings. Today's environment won't allow this ‘wait-and-see’ approach. Fast-changing customer dynamics, unseen or not noticed competition, poorly executed market launch (read: bad hand-off to sales force), and the lack of objective measurements all contribute to the failure of even the best thought out strategy. Understanding how well your marketing program is meeting its objectives is vital to making timely corrections and enhancements.

So how do you know if your marketing strategy is working? Most senior marketing people intuitively know whether their plans are working or not. For the pragmatically challenged consider this quick checklist:

Excessive and Constant Discounts

The first sign your business and therefore, the marketing strategy is in trouble, is when your sales force must constantly reduce prices to get orders or retain accounts. I'm not talking about competitive pricing or meet-comp conditions. These will exist in the best of marketing strategies. I am talking about special discounts offered on a constant basis. I am talking about your customer base only purchasing after they receive additional discount consideration because they know they are coming. I am talking about specials of the month, that turn into specials of the week that turn into specials of the day to meet sales objectives. If price is the only weapon your sales force has, your marketing strategy is not working.

Low or Poor Lead Generation

Marketing creates opportunity for the sales force. Prompt qualification, follow-up and closure of these opportunities is the task for the sales people. If the firm's lead generating engine creates a small amount of leads or these leads have a poor ‘opportunity-factor’ for a sale, then your marketing strategy is not working. Too often marketing folks ignore the feedback from the sales force on leads. Don't blame the sales folks. Find out why the leads are not creating sales opportunity and fix it.

Rise in Distributors Stock Holding

On the surface your marketing strategy looks good. Monthly sales numbers are met, growth rate appears on track, and then sale figures drop off a cliff. What happen? A closer look finds stock held by your distributors going up. This is a bad sign. Bloated stock holdings wreaks total havoc within the organisation. This false demand disturbs incorrectly states growth rates, and usually requires months to clear. The soft costs associated with this problem are staggering.

Product should not be considered sold just because it is placed in your distributor's warehouse. Product isn't sold until a customer buys and then wants to buy again. Many companies believe their marketing strategy is working because distributors are placing orders. Distributors place orders for a variety of reasons. Special volume discounts, end-of-month rebates, fear of losing the line, aggressive regional sales people, etc. motivate distributors to place orders - sometimes taking more stock then their selling rate dictates. Objectively tracking field stock levels, and ensuring they these levels match regional or local demand is important. If field stock is building, your marketing strategy is in trouble.

Customer Confusion

Two points to consider: 1) your customers don't understand why your product or service is better than your competitor - forcing your customer to immediately think price and commodity for your offering; or 2) your customers don't realise the depth of your product or service - in some cases buying one solution from you and another from your competitor when you could easily supply both. Either of these scenarios indicates you marketing strategy (message) is not working. And that means lost business, and lower market share.

Fault Lies With The Sales Force

Whipping the sales force harder, in the longer term, won't gain market share and create leadership. Marketing is supposed to create opportunity for sales. If each week produces ‘wood-shed’ discussions with sales people because they don't meet sales objectives, you should be looking at the marketing strategy.

Don't delay. Honestly review your marking strategy on a continual basis and you will greatly increase your success factor.

About the Author
Frank Williams is a marketer. With many post graduate courses in management, leadership, marketing and technology to his credit, Williams is a widely respected speaker, author and technologist. He has significant knowledge in marketing strategies and is the founder and CEO of Global Marketing, Inc. - a leader in business, marketing and sales consulting


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