Marketing strategy: Central to your organisation

The traditional view of marketing is that it deals with the relationships between an organisation and its external stakeholders.  This view, that marketing relates to the promotion of goods and services alone, is long out of date.  Modern theory states that marketing as a strategic function of business is as concerned with the internal culture and processes of an organisation as it is with external commercial relations.

For example, in his book Marketing Strategy: The Difference Between Marketing and Markets, Paul Fifield presents his model of developing a marketing strategy.  He uses the mnemonic SCORPIO:

  • Segmentation
  • Consumers
  • Organisation (processes and culture)
  • Retention Strategies
  • Positioning and Branding
  • Industry or Market thinking
  • Offerings

Note that Fifield places the internal relationships within an organisation, its culture and processes at the heart of developing a successful marketing strategy.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an organisation as “an organised body of people with a particular purpose e.g. business”.

When developing a marketing strategy, the following internal aspects of an organisation need to be taken into account:

  1.  A clear definition of what makes up the organisation and what people are in it, i.e. does it include sub-contractors, agency staff or franchisees?
  2. Who are the management, what roles do they have and do they address the four basic tenets of management –
    1. Managing change;
    2. Resolving conflict;
    3. Optimising efficiency; and,
    4. Delivering strategy.
  3. Who are the staff, the people who actually deliver the organisation’s benefits to stakeholders and who satisfy customer needs.  Do they understand WHY they do certain activities and what benefits those activities bring to customers?  Is there a common view amongst staff as to the why? Do they properly understand what their role contributes to the organisation? Staff means all staff in the organisation, not just certain groups such as middle managers or a selected clique.
  4. Process – This is the glue which binds an organisation together.  It should unite customers, management and staff.
  5. Change – The lifeblood of organisations.  Those organisations which are best at handling change will always be among the most successful organisations.

It is important to note that People and Process are critical elements of the extended marketing mix.

To develop a successful marketing strategy, an organisation’s internal focus should be directed to satisfy the needs of external stakeholders.  This is a customer focused organisation.  An organisation that becomes obsessed with internal structures will not produce satisfactory results.

To develop a successful strategy, you need to concentrate on what an organisation is really good at and ensure those activities are what your customers want.  Those activities must :

  • Provide client benefits
  • Be difficult for competitors
  • Be leveraged widely to different targeted market segments.

An organisation must invest in those activities which provide difference and core competencies must be central to its operations.  Those core competencies must be a distinct source of differentiation in the marketplace.

An organisation’s culture does not belong to its management; it belongs to everyone within that organisation.  Management cannot control or impose a culture.  They can only influence that culture by defining clear and sensible processes which are fully understood by the membership of the organisation.  It is also difficult for someone who is part of an organisation to see exactly what the culture is. Organisational cultures can be self-protecting and can resist attempts to change their nature. ‘the way we do things round here’ belongs to the attitudes and beliefs of an organisation’s staff, not its management.

So if you are looking to change an organisation and the internal aspects of its marketing strategy, a top down, secretive, dictatorial approach will likely flounder.  Instead you need to involve staff in the process and give them sufficient information so that the understand the reasons why change is being made.  If staff feel they are not being trusted, there can be direct effects on the organisation’s relationships with its external stakeholders.

Management must behave internally as they expect their staff to behave externally and in a manner which is in accordance with the organisation’s offer.  Management of a firm offering a low-cost product or service should not behave as if they are operating a high margin business where money grows on trees.

I remember a local authority where management all signed up for car lease deals which provided prestige vehicles such as BMW’s and Mercedes.  The local authority, like most, was continually being asked to make efficiency savings and some services were being reduced.  Meanwhile, the council office car park increasingly looked like a luxury car showroom.  Even though the management were paying for the cars through their salaries, the impression given was that Council money was being wasted on expensive management perks whilst residents were having their services cut.  Suffice to say, there was significant cognitive dissonance amongst council tax payers and local politicians received many complaints.  This was a clear example of an organisations culture being at odds with its role and ‘market’ position.

Remember, marketing strategy is not just about the exterior gloss on an organisation.  It sits at an organisation’s core and it affects the internal operation of an organisation not just its external communication with stakeholders.