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GFC … what GFC?

July 23, 2009

One could be forgiven for thinking there was no financial crisis. So many business owners are doing business-as-usual – operating without a clear strategy, and presuming that the way to weather the storm (if they even believe there is one) is to simply whittle back expenses, sit tight and hope for the best.

Regardless, in tough economic times the first sacrifice to be made is the marketing budget ….

I really thought that, by now, EVERYBODY would understand that there is a synergistic relationship between marketing and sales. No matter the size of the business, we are seeing such a consistent pattern it’s the kind of thing you could comfortably fall asleep to  – it’s that consistent, that boring – and of course so consistently disappointing.

As i’ve been saying for years:

marketing is to sales as the juicer is to the juice
no juicer, no juice

It indicates such a basic misunderstanding of how economies work … money doesn’t disappear, it just takes on a different pattern of circulation. We are recommending to many of our clients that when everyone else is slowing down, they really should think about accelerating. Not mindlessly, of course. Certainly not unstrategically (if there was such a word). But as Zig Ziglar famously once said ‘when they zig, you zag’.

Think about it – ‘going with the flow’ may be a great central philosophy of living moment-by-moment, but think about where the flow takes you in business – you wind up in the same cesspool of detritus as the rest of the world. The purest water, the greatest inspiration, is to be found at the source. Perhaps we should be exhorting our clients to go against the flow, to keep leaping upstream to regenerate.

Businesses fail – over and again. In the current economic climate, businesses are failing faster than ever.

It’s trite but true that businesses don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan – yet the question that rarely gets asked is why …..?

Knowing what we know – in the millions of business books freely available to anyone with a library card, or on the tens of milions of website pages freely available to just about everybody in the so called ‘developed world’ why do businesses not plan effectively?

Businesses fail because they lack a clear and compelling vision, and an intelligent and flexible strategy for achieving it.

It’s not something that marketers typically take into account – because, to be honest, it’s not really their job, is it?

Their job, ultimately, is to help you achieve a specific outcome – they presume (and fairly enough) that as mature, responsible, intelligent adults, their clients do actually know what they’re doing and why.

The problem is, and again, regardless of the size of the enterprise this has been a consistent experience, people are people (so why should it be, you and i should get along so awfully … sorry, Depeche Mode flashback that will only make sense to the Gen Xers amongst us).

People being people are not rational. They are inconsistent, fluid and fickle. Their needs change, not just over time, but moment-by-moment. Corporations and cottage industry are all run by people.

Where people don’t often change – and if they do, it’s certainly not quickly – is at the level of their values.

Values and visions are clearly aligned. Values form the identities of people, just as much as they do of businesses. A CEO’s primary role is to hold the space for the vision/values to be realised through the activities of the organisation. A President’s role is to the hold the space for the vision of a nation’s population. A visionary’s responsibility is to hold the space for a whole new world.

LOHAS enterprises are founded by visionaries, those with an interest in ‘making the world a better place’ and, somewhere along the line, making themselves a living. Sadly, LOHAS businesses fail faster (from what I’ve seen) than most – because a vision, as compelling as it might be – needs to have a clear pathway for its realisation.

Man may have dreamed of flight, but it took the Wright Brothers to sit down and figure out how to build the first plane before the dream became a reality.

In the current economic climate – and in the interests of true sustainability (not the limited eco-brand of sustainability dominating media at the moment) – businesses need to reflect upon their values and visions, and ensure that they are clear and compelling for the stakeholders, shareholders, staff and clients.

Then – and this is the absolutely critical part – they need to figure out how to make it happen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 27, 2009 13:17

    Applause! Applause! Brilliantly stated. Thank you (you’re my Personal Jesus – sacrilege forgiven in pursuit of parallel pop reference).

    As one who works with clients and their advertising/communication needs, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. Communication cannot shut down in a constricted economy. It must be more judiciously and surgically applied, yes; but to silence your company’s message in a downturn is sure death.

    Thanks again for the blogpost. Best, M.

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