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Would you hire a plumber to build your new house?

September 11, 2011

Would you? I mean a plumber or plumbing contractor is always around the inside of the house as it is getting built. They see how the walls go up and the foundation is set. They have to work around all the wiring and water, is really the most difficult thing to control – because if the pipes leak, it ruins everything. The plumber has all the tools – they have to build their own braces and cut their own holes to run the pipes through. And in a repair situation, it's clear the most of them know how to do drywall and plaster because they fix the holes they have had to make in the first place.

Would you hire this plumber to build your new house?Okay, I know you wouldn’t hire a plumber to build your new house. They have a specialty that most are very good at and they have had to learn some part of the other trades to be able to work together with them well and in order for them to do the plumbing the right way.

Now, let's take this analogy to your business. So, would you hire a web designer or SEO firm to construct your marketing strategy? Or worse yet, would you hire a web designer or SEO firm and not tell them your strategy – just let them figure it by asking you questions (and as a default, let them build your strategy). Many web designers are very good at what they do, but they aren’t paid to, and they don’t practice in, the planning and execution of a cohesive marketing strategy.

The real issue isn’t your approach or their approach. You are trying to get your business to grow and they are trying to get enough information to do their job right. What we have here is a failure to communicate around the meaning of the words marketing and strategy.

Many business people, when they hear the word marketing, assign it one of two specific meaning. Either Marketing=Advertising or Marketing=Sales. And you know what, both of those are partially correct answers because two effective marketing tactics are advertising and sales. I can go on to list another hundred or so tactics, but the other major ones that you would call marketing would include promotions, premiums, direct mail (email), public relations, referral processes/programs, public speaking, and the all the activities you can lump under branding.

If you talk to an individual (and many companies) that provide these various services and functions and ask them what they do, they would tell you they are marketers or do marketing – and they are absolutely correct.

And each of these companies or individual practitioners must develop a strategy for their specific tactic. But who is planning and looking out for the overall marketing strategy for your business. Who is the architect of the strategy and has drafted the overall blueprint? In bigger businesses, there is a usually a vice president or director who’s sole role is to make sure that the tactics are clearly integrated with the “strategy”.

Okay, so there’s that strategy word again. If the strategy isn’t the tactics, what is it? The major items that belong in this part of the plan are things like your ideal customer definition – not just demographics, but also how they think, what they believe, how you are different than all your competitors, your purpose and mission as a business, how you expect marketing tactics to contribute to your growth and what is the prospect/customer experience – from the day they first know who you are till the day they become a raving fan and referral source.

The strategy is all those pieces that make the tactics work effectively because they have direction, focus and consistency.  Having an established and explicit marketing strategy helps to ensure that the tactics work together and provide leverage.

When you build a house, you have a set of plans. You don’t just hire a plumber to show up and run some pipes. That plumber knows where the pipes will go to and where the drains will run out. Their job is to get the pipes run and working without leaks, as close to the plan specifications as possible. Your marketing plan should work the same way.

You business should have a set of plans, the marketing strategy, so that when the web developer (plumber), the SEO firm (electrician), the advertising reps (landscapers), and CRM consultants (HVAC contractor) start working with you, they know where to tie in.

If you have the plans, you’ll spend less money (in contractor terms – fewer change orders) and the money you do spend on your marketing will be more effective and producing results for your business.

So before you hire the plumber to build your house or the business coach to build your marketing strategy, hit the pause button and think about the strategy elements noted above. Do you have that all really well defined?

There are many marketing strategists out there – The Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network is one formal grouping of them – that can help you design the blueprint for making your total business a marketing driven business. And depending on your staff and requirements, you can find marketing strategy firms (Leading Results is one example) that will work with you to design the blueprints and act as your general contractor to get your marketing house built.

About today’s post - Today’s title and topic was inspired by an email exchange I had with the president of a BNI chapter in my local area (a business coach), and then reinforced by a few different conversations and meeting with other business people - a web developer, and SEO firm and a advertising promotions person. They all said they handled a clients marketing strategy – which was completely accurate as it related to their specialty – but completely incorrect when it came to the clients overall integrated marketing strategy and the implementation of that strategy.

Dan Kraus
Written by Dan Kraus

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategies, Dan Kraus has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he now uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses. As an entrepreneur, Dan understands the challenges of growing a business with limited capital and human resources. As a line of business manager in larger companies such as SAP America and Great Plains Software (now part of Microsoft), his experience launching new business ventures inside reputable organizations established his reputation as a creative and effective executive that could both plan and execute within corporate confines.

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