As I sit at the rear of the houseboat overseeing my expansive backyard - Lake Eildon in Victoria - I begin to realise how many marketing truisms are reinforced by watching nature at work.
We had a specified period of time in which to achieve designated goals; locating a sheltered bay, mooring without mishaps, improving our skills on the kneeboard and ski, mastering the newly acquired wake board, relaxing and having fun. All goals were clearly discussed and agreed upon. The crew understood the direction and were unified in their vision.
As marketers, we must be sensitive to the changing conditions and be prepared to quickly alter strategies to gain competitive advantage in IT's evolving environment. And so, we intrepid skiers monitored our environment - the time of day, winds and those competing for lake space - to achieve our goals with appropriate strategies. When the wind became challenging, we located the most sheltered cove and attempted no more than knee boarding. Lesson: when the market is too hostile, focus on your core strengths and succeed through niche marketing (more of this in a later article).
The wake board proved to be a challenging technology for us - it is much more than a wide slalom ski! Though countless attempts were made to master the technique, it was a dismal failure. I became more stubborn and insisted on further attempts. Time went by, frustration increased and tempers were frayed but success was denied us. Message: do not be afraid to put a halt to a new program or direction your organisation has implemented if clear signals appear that you are not making inroads in the market. Go back to your key competencies which have a proven record and focus on sharpening these for greater results. Don't flog a dead horse. Needless to say, I went back to skiing and sharpening my skills in this area.
Testing the waters
Throughout the week the fish would jump out of the water and wink at me as if to say, "Hey, look at me, I will remain free 'cause you forgot to bring your line and hook!" What a wasted opportunity. Message: always be prepared to derive benefit from the unexpected. Convert such situations into profit-making opportunities. A customer making an initial inquiry about products you do not carry must be introduced to your solution range and be convinced that your organisation has a viable offering.
A clear message is reinforced as I hear my girls splashing and giggling in the water during the day and later mesmerised by the abundance of stars the lake's night sky produces. The enjoyment factor in our working lives is rarely analysed in management books and is impossible to quantify. An employee who enjoys his work and working environment is probably the greatest resource an organisation has. Nurture your people and create a genuine, challenging and "happy" atmosphere.
As the sun sets, I continue to observe and reflect. I see the gum and cypress trees, the rocky banks with lizards scurrying everywhere, a fish jumping out of the water to snap at its victim, the still water mirroring a near perfect sky spoilt only by the odd cumulus cloud; all this while I enjoy my heavy Victorian red. I now know what real "integration" means; how all the parts fit in together, complementing each other and creating harmony as a working whole.
And so, the much abused expression "integrated marketing" must echo this wholeness. An integrated marketing approach means that the internal communications of an organisation are clear and the external communications reflect a consistent, easily understood message to the customer.
Underlying the marketing activity are three critical concepts - customisation, adaptability and responsiveness. Think about these three words until we speak next time when I elaborate on their importance to a successful customer-driven marketing program.
Until then, perhaps, take a few days off to reflect on nature, harmony, your organisation and which state produces the best reds.
Dolores Diez-Simson is business communications manager at Datacraft, and has held senior marketing and communications roles with UB Networks, Sun Microsystems and HP. Diez-Simson tutors at Monash University on Marketing Planning and Implementation and Issues in Competitive AdvantageDatacraftTel (03) 9690 5300Fax (03) 9690 0779