I was chatting with a fellow member of the federation of Small Businesses at a recent networking event. He mentioned that he had been at a talk given by the owner of a successful small business who commented that she had built her business without doing any marketing. This was a statement which I found incredulous.
I suspect the business owner giving the talk was incorrectly defining marketing. What she meant was that she had built her business without the use of print or television advertising. If it is the business I am thinking of, I know she has used social media and the internet, I also know she has used sales representatives and entered into arrangements with beauty salons to promote her products. She may not have used traditional advertising but she has used alternative promotional channels AND THAT IS ONLY A SMALL PART OF HER MARKETING MIX.
In his book Principles of Marketing, a standard marketing text for graduates, Philip Kotler describes the forms of marketing used by businesses as they grow.
The first stage is described by Kotler as entrepreneurial marketing. This is a company living by its wits. Marketing activity is done on a whim, often based as the perceptions of market conditions in the mind of the business owner. There is a considerable use of guerrilla and surprise marketing. Marketing activity isn’t planned; it takes as and when the business proprietor believes it to be necessary.
As a business grows it is no longer possible to exist solely on unplanned marketing activities. A business moves to a state of formulated marketing. the scale of the business and the need to satisfy the needs of wider stakeholder groups requires a structured approach to marketing. This is the standard marketing process in most businesses.
For very large businesses, there is still a requirement to be fleet of foot and not to be predictable. Kotler suggests that these businesses use an ‘intrapreneurial’ approach to marketing. He uses as an example Virgin, the conglomerate owned by Richard Branson.
Virgin is not just big brands such as Virgin Music and Virgin Atlantic, it is made up of over 200 separate businesses and several hundred legal entities. Branson encourages his staff to come up with new business ideas within the group umbrella. He is constantly searching for new market opportunities and new business concepts. Not all of these succeed and several only exist in the short term, such as Virgin Cola, but several grow into significant market players e.g. Virgin Money and Virgin Holidays.
By encouraging his employees to act as entrepreneurs within his company, Branson can adapt to new markets and new technologies quicker than his competitors. He wants his staff to act as market disruptors. If Virgin is constantly changing the rules of the market, it is more difficult for his competitors to gain a commercial advantage. Virgin is also made up of linked but separate commercial units. This means that if one unit fails, there is a smaller risk of that failure being a contagion affecting other business units.
Clearly, the CEO who was giving the talk was at Kotler’s stage one. If she is to grow to a business which can compete with the multi-nationals which dominate her particular market, she may need to take a leaf out of Virgin’s book.
On a separate matter, I have being doing some CPD in relation to my project management skills and was taking notes from the book Project Management by Dennis Lock. Again, this is a standard text for business and engineering graduates.
In the book, Lock states that a major reason for project failure is a poor project definition. He lists ten reasons why inappropriate project definitions can mean that a project can fail at the outset. These are:
- The project scope is not clearly stated and understood
- Vague technical requirements
- Estimates of cost, timescale and expected benefits are over-optimistic
- The risk assessment is incomplete or flawed
- The intended project strategy is inappropriate
- Insufficient regard is given to cash flows and the provision of funds
- The interests and concerns of stakeholders are not taken into account
- Undue regard is given to the motivations of people undertaking the project
- Insufficient regard is given to the reactions of those affected by the project by changes imposed upon them
- Politics and personal goals overtake the aims of the project.
Reading Lock’s list, I couldn’t help thinking of Brexit. In particular the comments of Sir Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office who has complained that the UK government proposals for leaving the European Union are “vague” and that there is a lack of cross-departmental work in government which could “crack open Brexit like the first tap on a chocolate orange”.
I concur, the UK approach to Brexit appears so slapdash, it will likely cause severe damage to the UK economy and be disastrous for the UK business community.