Anyone who has done any form of formal business training is likely to have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow presents the idea that a person has basic requirements, the absence of which will make them unhappy, but that to be truly fulfilled they have more esoteric requirements like prestige and the ability to fulfil their goals. After over 30 years in business, I am recognising that marketing has a similar hierarchy of needs. These range from the basic requirements of any professional marketing activity, through to those things that turn marketing into a truly effective strategy for business development. However, too often this marketing hierarchy is turned on its head leading to an approach that could be more effective.
The Marketing Hierarchy
Maslow divided his hierarchy into 3 categories:
- Basic Needs
- Psychological Needs
- Self Actualisation
In marketing, I suggest the equivalents are:
- Basic Requirements
- Operational Requirements
- Business Objectives
Let’s look at these in turn.
The key factors here are things like design and content. While specific focus and priority will differ depending on the market you are in, these are the things that, if done badly, mean you won’t get past first base when trying to get your message out to your market. Get them wrong, and your marketing will look amateurish and unprofessional. Even if you can deliver real value and benefit, your risk potential customers not seeing this as they don’t get past a poor first impression. In short, the basic requirements just have to be right. However, just because you have got them right does not mean you marketing will work. Like Maslow’s basic needs, whilst customers probably won’t acknowledge, or even realise, their presence, absence of the basics will make someone unhappy,
Anyone who has done any marketing will probably have a pile of unused flyers/posters/brochures etc cluttering up their offices. These are a great example of what happens when you focus on the basic needs without thinking about broader objectives. Getting marketing collateral produced and looking great, including websites and online material as well as print, is relatively simple. There are armies of designers and copywriters out there who will produce a brochure or website for you, but the real question is what are you going to do with it once you have it? How it does your website or brochure fit into your marketing mix and how is it going to support wider marketing activities. Too often “The new website” can become THE END rather than THE MEANS to achieve a wider marketing goal.
You may get the first two elements right but to be truely effective you should place your marketing activities in the context of your overall business objectives to create a broad marketing strategy backed up by a series of joined up, measured marketing activities. The question, underpinning all your marketing should be:
"What are we trying to achieve as a business and how do our marketing activities support this objective?"
Having a clear understanding of your goals is the key to good marketing.
Where it all breaks down
The SME Perspective
In large organisations with well resourced and diverse marketing functions, seeing marketing activity in the context of business objectives is the norm. However, in the SME world, marketing is usually either handled by the man at the top or more usually by a Marketing Manager with a small department. Here the focus tends to gravitate to the Operational Requirements of the hierarchy and become activity focused…
- Buidling a new website
- Taking part in an exhibition,
- Bringing in specialists to focus on Google ranking.
These can all generate loads of activity and create the appearance that there is lots of “Marketing” going on, but the fact is that this isn’t necessarily being effective.
There has to be a better way – And there is
By focusing on the Marketing Hierarchy it is possible for even the smallest organisation to get it right. Continue to focus on the “essentials” like good design, copywriting and content creation but make sure that this activity take place in a broader context centred on, and driven by, the objectives of the business. If you’d like to read more, here are a three posts on our blog that you might find interesting:
- Planning & Action – Get the balance right
- 5 Rules for effective business planning
- The cost of failing to plan
If you want to get a grip of your marketing and focus on delivering real business objectives, drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always ready to chat.