Marketing: too often entrepreneurs (especially new entrepreneurs) think of marketing as something that’s isolated from the other aspects of the business. The mission of the marketing department is considered to be related to, but separate from, the overall mission of the company. When marketing is an entire industry unto itself, and marketers are expected to be able to market anything they’re paid to, that kind of thinking is understandable.
Ultimately, though, that approach can be detrimental. Thinking of marketing as a completely separate sphere can actually damage the brand in the long run, and hurt the business overall.
That’s why it’s important to commit to a philosophy of integrated marketing. The key to great marketing is not to see it as a separate chore, but as part of who you are and what your business is. Your brand, your identity, and your philosophy has to be woven into every aspect of the culture of your business. Your marketing message is not a facade to be plastered onto your business. Instead, it should be part of the foundation.
Integrating Your Marketing Strategy
Even if your business has a marketing department, or certain team members who are understood to be the marketers, marketing should be something that everyone feels responsible for. In a sense, every employee of the company is part of the marketing department. Every single time a team member interacts in even the most seemingly insignificant ways with the public, they’re marketing.
Anyone who talks to customers in any capacity- not just through ads but even in customer service, is marketing. Every answer to every email is marketing. A complimentary mint at a restaurant is marketing. A greeting at the door of a shop, the design of your invoices, the layout of your website: it’s all marketing. Each little act of communication with the outside world adds a brushstroke to the overall picture of your business, just as much as your advertising does. The sooner you realize this, the more control you’ll have over your company’s image.
Getting Marketing Right
There are a few steps you can take to ensure that your business is marketing itself well. Start by inculcating marketing into your office culture. Communicate clearly with your entire team, and make them understand that every one of them is in the marketing “department.” Make this clear during the hiring process, and reinforce it along the way.
At Business Republic, we take this approach with all of our employees. The software developers for our webinar platform know that the software itself is an act of marketing, of communication with our customers that’s going to have an effect on our brand. Our customer service professionals know that the way they handle customers’ needs informs our image and what we represent. When we compose blogs, we do it in the honest and straightforward way that we like to think defines our approach. Even the team members responsible for accounting are marketers: if a refund or invoice isn’t handled properly, it tarnishes our reputation.
Second, be social media mindful. Your online presence is an important aspect of your marketing footprint. That might sound obvious, but it’s not just about shooting ads out into the Twitterverse or making sure to post enough on Facebook. It’s about the way you interact on social media, that you take the time to converse with people and respond to questions or even mentions. Good social media marketing isn’t just about the content. It’s about the willingness to engage the online community and thus “market” ourselves as actual people, not just content producers.
Lastly, it’s important to interact (and not just advertise) in the physical world. At conferences, trade shows, and any other industry gathering, the way you treat other people is all part of your marketing. Every handshake and conversation is an opportunity to define yourself and your business. This isn’t meant to be understood as glad-handing or politicking. Rather than cynically schmoozing with others, commit to being a genuine member of your industry’s community, one that cares about and interacts with other people as if they’re…people.
Marketing Through Customer Service
The people who work in customer service do almost as much marketing as the people in the marketing department. Handling customers’ needs with genuine commitment to their satisfaction is only the beginning. Customer service will have the best impact on marketing when it’s done with empathy, even in the face of unreasonable behavior. Dealing with irate or just plain arrogant customers, while never pleasant, is an opportunity to make a bold statement about your company’s approach to customer service, and therefore really help define the character you’re trying to market.
Even the most patience-testing haters, when extended courtesy and respect, can become your most loyal customers and horn-tooters. Some will be truly impossible to please, but when a person is shown patience when they’re being less than their best selves, experience dictates that they’re likely to become your most vocal supporters (after they’re done apologizing, of course).
Marketing Your Character
Improving your marketing isn’t just about your approach to advertising, or even just the business culture you try to instill. In the end, the best way to perfect your image and brand is to improve your own personal character, which all of us can and should do.
When you stay humble, refuse to let success inflate your ego, and keep yourself guided by a personal commitment to honesty and respect, people can’t help but associate that with your business. To paraphrase the Buddha, don’t be a jerk. You’ll find that people’s feelings about yourself and your team are the greatest factors in influencing your company’s brand, no matter what your ads say.