How well-tuned is YOUR marketing engine?

The C in RCR stands for Capability: the ability to turn good intentions about marketing and business development into actions.  Or what we often refer to as the Marketing Engine Room.  And building that capability is often one of the toughest challenges for an SME because we’re not just talking about the ability to get something done once or occasionally; we’re talking about the capability to keep your revenue generating activity going on a consistent and repeated basis.

Because when clients ask us what constitutes good marketing, we tend to reply that it’s creativity (distinct positioning, unique IP, stand-out campaigns) AND the ability to make it all happen, over and over again, like a well-oiled machine.  Why? Because in business to business (b-to-b) marketing, we very rarely make a sale (or achieve any goal) with the first ‘touch’; statistics show that it tends to take between 6 and 12 ‘touches’ to convert a customer.  So the odd flash of brilliance may be eye-catching but it’s rarely going to deliver sustained results.

What’s in the engine room?

Having got clarity on WHY you are doing marketing (your vision) and WHAT you are going to be doing (your strategy), capability in the engine room is all about HOW to make it happen.  The graphic below depicts the components of a well-functioning marketing engine room:

What is marketing capability?

Let’s look at the seven components in turn:

1 Functional reporting and responsibility:

Is it clear who’s responsible for doing what to implement marketing and business development, and who reports to whom?  As a rule of thumb, if two or more people are responsible, no-one’s going to do anything.  And if no-one’s responsible, ultimately it ends up as the CEO’s headache.  Lack of clear responsibility is a big factor in things just sliding.

Clarity on reporting is also important.  This isn’t necessarily about hierarchies of bosses (although knowing where the buck stops is important), but also about how you keep yourself and your colleagues ‘honest’ through regular meetings, written reports and project management tools.

2 The marketing plan:  

Without a written plan it’s hard to have a sense of direction and focus.  This is really about the WHAT of marketing strategy and you’ll find some useful pointers on developing a marketing plan here.  Some key indicators of a useful marketing plan include:

  • Is it written down in some way, even on one side of A4?  If not, it’s not real.
  • Is it regularly updated, at least every six months?
  • Do people consult it or does it sit in a drawer?

3 Skills and experience:

Some of us are born marketers or salespeople but most of us aren’t.  And if something feels scary or new, the chances are we will avoid doing it as no-one likes to look stupid or feel vulnerable.  A lot of the work that RCR does is in coaching and training clients’ teams in the skills they need, and encouraging them to gain the experience that will give them confidence.

4 Tools:

Have you got the tools you need to make your revenue generation happen easily and repeatedly, without reinventing the wheel every time?  These might include a functioning database, an email marketing engine, a decent website, or the right marketing materials.

5 Cash and time budgets:

In most businesses that we work with, the latter is probably the most important.  Whether you set a hard and fast figure (eg: 10% of your team’s time) or agree individual marketing plans with your team, making sure people have the time, and that marketing is a priority, is vitally important.  It’s all too easy, as most of us know, for marketing and sales activity to come last on the ‘to do’ list – things that get done if and when you have some time to spare.

While lack of time is often a block to progress (or a good excuse!), cash is also important.  And by this we mean not just the actual amounts you invest, but also the written, shared budget that ties into your marketing plan, and which identifies clear budget holders.  It’s hard to run an efficient marketing engine if every tiny spending decision has to be signed off, every time, by the CEO.   Plus setting a clear budget will make it easier to measure return on investment, and on which point….

6 KPIs – how do you measure success?

How do you tell if you are getting a return on investment?  How do you know whether to reward people for the work they are doing?  KPIs might be measure of outcome such as revenue figures or numbers of new clients.  Or they might be source measures of levels of activity such as new business meetings held, mailings done, email click-through rates, or client plans formulated.  Having determined the KPIs that are meaningful for your business, make sure you monitor them on a regular basis and take note of what they are telling you, incorporating the insights into the reviews of your marketing plan.

7 Finally, culture:

Do you have a marketing and business development culture in your company?  In most SMEs nearly everyone has a role to play in growing the company’s revenues, even if it’s only chasing invoices in a way that doesn’t alienate existing clients.  Building the right culture is a huge topic and one of the toughest challenges for any CEO or management team.  We don’t have the space to cover it in depth here, but it has to come from the top and be driven by a shared vision for the future.

Where to start?

Whether you’re building a marketing engine room from scratch or just contemplating some fine-tuning, trying to create or finesse all seven components at once is probably unrealistic.   Start by taking a look at each of them and scoring your business using the graphic above; give each

  • A tick if it’s working well and doesn’t need any attention
  • A neutral dash if it’s not perfect but it’s not a major headache right now
  • A cross if it’s a problem, and needs fixing immediately

Now take a look at your picture.  In most instances, there will be a handful of crosses which will identify where you need to start.  If you’ve more than three crosses, pick the two or three components that will make the most difference to your business if they are working properly and start with them.

Investing some time in your engine room doesn’t always feel like the most glamorous or exciting thing to do (most of us would much rather be dreaming up creative campaigns or nurturing clients), but when your revenue generation activities are humming along sweetly then you’ll be glad you did!


 

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