Build a business that is good for you

You’re no doubt aware that marketing is about creating something that people want and convincing them to buy it from you. But in small business, do we take too narrow a view of it?

Consider the ‘official’ definition of marketing as presented by the American Marketing Association: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

It’s easy to understand the first part about creating and delivering value to customers. But take a look at the last part of the definition: it also includes doing things in a way that creates value for our partners and society in general.

This is a part of the equation that big businesses forgot over the years, as they selected suppliers based on the lowest possible price, regardless of how those suppliers had to slash their own margins or screw their own employees to do that.

They also closed local factories and went offshore to source ever-cheaper goods, and tried not to think about conditions in those factories. In terms of affordability, this was great for the customer: think about what you pay for clothes and electronic goods compared to 10 or even 20 years ago. But it was not so good for local suppliers, or workers in those factories.

When businesses realized the damage this approach caused to their reputation, they went down the path of corporate social responsibility, investing in ‘good works’ to restore their reputation.

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New wine, old bottles

From my NETT blog:

Despite working with new technology every day (or maybe because of it!), I like to collect old wares, and my idea of a good weekend includes some time spent trawling through antique and vintage shops.

A recent acquisition was a set of books on ‘modern business’ produced by the Alexander Hamilton Institute back in the 1950s. I was, of course, drawn to the volume on marketing. On leafing through it, I was surprised by how relevant much of the information still was, after nearly 60 years and several seismic shifts in marketing and selling.

Here are a few snippets from the book (with my annotations):

“Marketing concerns itself with all those business activities which begin in the producer’s shipping room and continue until the goods finally come to rest in the hands of the ultimate user.” (This is a timeless reminder as many people equate marketing with just the advertising and promotional aspects of the process. This broad spectrum definition is today even broader as digital and social media marketing extend the process past the delivery of goods and into an ongoing lifetime relationship with customers.)

“The satisfying of human wants depends to no small degree upon the personal and subjective wants and desires of individual consumers.” (This is increasingly relevant as we have moved from the age of mass marketing, which was gearing up when that book was written, to today’s trend toward mass customisation.)

“The basic law of marketing is the ‘law of convention and revolt’. A new mode of life may be created or established, but it will last only until a new style is introduced, often by quick substitution.” (When that was written they were talking about seasonal changes in fashion; now a style can go in and out with days. It’s not strictly a business marketing example, but how long did the planking craze take over public consciousness – was it a couple of weeks, or even less?)

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“Stupid strategy, if you ask me”

Here’s a video I helped produce recently for HotHouse Interactive, announcing their move down the road to new premises. Look for the Hitchcockian cameo at about the one-minute mark!