We talked to digital transformation specialist, Simon Swan, about his lightbulb moments and he shared with us why he thinks your marketing will fail. The three things are:

  1. Ego is getting in the way
  2. The marketing strategy is disconnected from the rest of the organisation
  3. There simply is no business case for the activity

Marketing can be guilty of being built through the lens of a communications directorate alone. The growing number of channels from which to “engage” audiences has only helped build this one dimensional approach from which the marketing profession has been classed as the “colouring in department” – in other words, tactics before strategy.

Are you working for the “colouring in department”?

The problem? It accelerates the lack of understanding within boardrooms on the wider role of marketing and more specifically the role of digital marketing. In more concerning cases, it can also help to cause division and silos.

My lightbulb moment was to realise that by removing the ego, being willing to connect and communicate with your internal audience (stakeholders), it helps to eliminate silos and help educate and upskill the wider role of marketing to support your organisation.

And that all starts with the role of the 4 P’s. No matter what type of organisation you are involved in or what the organisation does, the conversations around marketing are exactly the same. Essentially, markets are indeed centred around conversations you have with your customer or with your internal stakeholders as referenced by the book The Cluetrain Manifesto.

The book, first published in 1999 lays out 95 theses which are considered by the authors as the founding principles for any organisation looking to operate on the internet. Fast forward 20 years and “Markets are Conversations” is now more relevant than ever to organisations wanting to adopt a successful strategy.

Here is an excerpt detailing what “markets are conversations” is really getting at:

“The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone”….Market leaders were men and women whose hands were worn by the work they did. Their work was their life, and their brands were the names they were known by: Miller, Weaver, Hunter, Skinner, Farmer”.

Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising or the shading of public relations”.


Strategy before Tactics

A reason why so many marketing strategies fail is simply because there is no business case. Even more concerning is if the strategy is not understood internally, it can be seen as purely a campaign led initiative with little connection to what and where the organisation is trying to get to.

Getting organisational buy-in still seems to be one of the most difficult tasks. A trend that is in part, due to the rise in digital technology that has accelerated how customers can now interact with your brand, whether they choose to buy from you or whether they choose to opt for a competitor and from an internal assumption that the business needs to have a firm presence on every digital channel available.

Changing Working Environment – Covid-19

As we adjust to the events of Covid-19, now is the perfect time to stop and reflect as to what your marketing activity is and how it’s supporting your business objectives. Are you really supporting and impacting the whole organisation through marketing? Not just communicating. There are a number of practical steps you can introduce right now and they all don’t require a budget to uncover some useful and practical insights:

  1. Take a step back from your marketing and assess what channels are delivering what? Audit all of your online/offline channels and pull together simple dashboard that reports on key indicators and metrics
  2. Is your marketing strategy tied to the business vision? Interview some of your key stakeholders, C-Suite and your trusted external stakeholders and suppliers – have an open and frank discussion and ask them to provide you with feedback
  3. Pick up the phone and speak to 5 customers and ask them why they chose your company – Now is the time to get closer to your customers. Get into the habit of speaking to your customer base on a weekly basis and begin to build a picture of their views of your business 
  4. Pick up the phone and speak to 2 customers who recently left your company and ask them why? It might be painful but get comfortable from listening to customers who’ve left your business and are no longer working with you
  5. Go and arrange a WebEx/zoom with someone in your finance dept and ask what are the key business financial metrics that are important and how marketing can support? – Your finance dept is perhaps one of the most important and crucial depts in steadying your business. To ensure your marketing activity is supporting the business in the right way, open a dialogue with your finance team to understand the key metrics being monitored – can you ensure your marketing activities are aligned?


Markets are indeed conversations and as a business you need to ensure the conversation starts within your company walls when planning your marketing strategy. This process is also referred to Market orientation and sits before strategic thinking, or the creation of a segmentation strategy or even the decisions to be taken on how your brand will be positioned.

So before commencing your next campaign or introducing tactical execution for your marketing, why not consider you have a firm foundation in place within your organisation by taking a step back and go find out the true health of your business by taking up a fact finding mission

Here are a few pointers to consider:

1) Can you tie this initiative back to an over-arching business goal? This will help when it comes down to getting boardroom approval and also when you look to gain senior management buy-in…

2) Your organisation’s top level objectives should help support and provide you with a link to connect what you are creating (the strategy) and how to articulate this in the context of where your organisation aims to get to

3) Understand your Internal Audience – Think about bringing together all the various departments. and internal functions that are currently creating and have a remit or requirement to create content that is distributed outside of your organisation.

4) Question your Internal Departments to understand the wider context and the role a marketing approach could take to support their needs:

a. Customer Service: Tap into your customer service team – what are the common questions, concerns and challenges that seem to be on the agenda every day? Your customer service team should be able to paint a picture of common pain points

b. Communications: Ask them what are the most common questions they need to address from clients before they move into the actual sale? Could there be an opportunity here to convert the same questions being asked over and over again into useful content?

c. Sales team: They should have a mountain of insights and useful content as to the common issues they face when speaking to clients and potential clients. Ask them what are the most common questions they need to address from clients before they move into the actual sale? Could there be an opportunity here to convert the same questions being asked over and over again into useful content?

Some food for thought even now and perhaps one of the challenges organisations have building a communication with their audiences. This appears to be the growing challenge for brands as to what and how marketing can help meet their organisational objectives and the role it plays. Transform how you operate and put yourself in the eyes of your customer base.