This seems exactly like an oxymoron. After all, for a marketing strategy to work, it is commonly perceived that one needs to be creatively generating ideas to entice customers, so that they buy more from us. This does not seem to fit very well with working in conformance with a quality management system. In fact, most people may find that structured systems stifle creativity, and will not generate optimal marketing results, if any positive result can be generated at all.
Contrary to conventional thinking, the critical success factor of a marketing strategy or process lies not in how creative the marketer is.
The critical success factors for your marketing to work for you are:
How you generate ideas to provide products and services to meet the explicit and implicit requirements of your customers
How you can take those ideas and successfully convert them into products and services efficiently and effectively (while at the same time making sure that your customers will be attracted to you more so than anybody else)
How you can gauge whether you are hitting the right targets or not (i.e. whether you customers are actually delighted with what you provide) and more importantly…
How you can keep yourself relevant by monitoring and adapting to changing customers’ requirements.
As you can see, generating ideas is only the tip of the iceberg. Besides, the more critical issue is not about generating the most creative idea, but generating those that allow you meet you customers’ (sometimes hidden) requirements.
Creating a Quality Marketing System
If you need to know more about what are the varied requirements of your customers, it may be a good idea to approach this in a systematic way. Anything that gives you a better picture of what your customers need, want or demand can be classified as “Market Intelligence”. This important information has to be disseminated across your company, from top management to marketing to production to support services to customer service and beyond to ensure marketing success for you. This information, and analysed, distributed and acted upon, will then allow you to reap the most handsome rewards from your customers.
For example, if you operate a computer school running general I.T. application training programmes, such as MS Office, you may want to know from your existing customers regarding:
What makes your customers sign up for the training programme?
Are they paying themselves, or are their employers sponsoring them?
How will the newly acquired computer skills help them in work and in life?
What do their employers feel about I.T. training and trends in general?
Is the course duration too long or too short?
And the list can go on and on.
What is important that if out of 100 customers, 80 of them mention that they sign up because:
They are forced (and paid) by their employers to learn about using the computer, or they will lose their jobs
Other than using the computer knowledge for work, they can now send jokes and gossips to their friends and loved ones via e-mail, as well as using other functions of the computer to enhance their lifestyle
They also come to the computer classes as a form of escape from work
You can then base on this information to structure a programme that not only suits the needs of your customers (e.g. taking extra care that your customers can understand and apply what they learn, so that they won’t be fired), while at the same time structure some promotions that your customers can use their newly acquired e-mailing skills and send them to their friends and loved ones to come to your programmes as well.
At the same time, you would also need to have information about the employers, and find out if you can further serve their requirements too. After all, they are the ones who are paying. Maybe the course duration takes up too much of office hours. Maybe they are looking for something beyond MS Office, but are not quite sure what yet. Maybe they are the most I.T.-phobic ones and therefore need specialised training on how to apply I.T. knowledge onto their businesses. You have to find out for yourself.
Having these ideas and Market Intelligence are not good enough.
You have to make sure that you have:
Sets of questionnaires and documentation procedures to store and analyse your Market Intelligence effectively
Additional products and service that you can provide based on your Market Intelligence; Sets of procedures to tell your customers about your new products and services to them
Staff who understand why you are having all these new procedures, and are willing follow them; and more
In a nutshell, you need a Quality Marketing System.
Using Quality Management Principles to Boost Your Profits Directly
According to ISO, the new ISO 9000: 2000 standards are based on eight quality management principles. ISO chose these principles because they can be used to improve organizational performance and achieve success.
These principles are:
Focus On Your Customers
Involve Your People
Use a Process Approach
Take a Systems Approach
Encourage Continual Improvement
Get the Facts Before You Decide
Maintain Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationships
As shown above, the success of a system depends on 3 main areas:
People (customers, leadership of your company, staff, suppliers, etc.)
Systems and processes (how a series of small steps can result into a greater outcome, and how different outcomes are interlink to create extraordinary performance for you business)
Facts (data, information, knowledge etc)
So for your marketing to generate profits consistently, you would have to
Obtain factual information of what make your customers want to buy ONLY from you and now anybody else
Implement systems and processes to ensure that you can deliver what your customers want
Involve your people to be committed to the system, and even get them to give feedback on how the system can be further improved.
Since the world we live in is dynamic and ever-changing, having a system does not mean it has to be static With good leadership, the system can improvise and renew itself. After all,the facts you gather may still not give you a complete picture, or you were not able to have enough facts to start with. There may be loopholes in your systems that you are unaware of. Your customers’ requirements will change sooner than later. Therefore, you need to educate, to develop and to involve your people to help you continuously improve your system.
Making Evolutionary Changes to Create Revolutionary Impacts
Again the key to successful marketing is not in how creative you are, but rather how you can successfully deliver what your customers require from you. In most cases, you just need to take very simple steps to create exponential results to your marketing, and you may not even realise that it is marketing.
I have a friend who is running an auditing firm, and is looking to ways to expand his services beyond auditing. However, his staff, being auditors all their lives, were terrified with the impending prospects of doing something totally different.
I told my friend this: just tell all auditors that when they have completed each auditing job, simply list down 3 areas that the auditor thinks that could be problem areas for the client, and make short and concise recommendations on what the client could do. These potential problem areas and recommendations will be documented and distributed to the client, as well as to the administrative staff of the auditing firm.
The staff will then follow though with the client about the recommendations of the auditor (whose views are generally accepted by clients), and ask if the client needs any further help. If the client requires some assistance in the areas of financial or business planning, those certain auditors who might wish to branch out can then take up the challenges to expand their work scope.
If the areas of assistance are beyond the means of the auditors, then the jobs can be outsourced and my friend may charge a referral fee to the outsourced expert. Furthermore, my friend can use this outsourcing arrangement to allow some of his more adventurous auditors understudy under the external experts so that the skills sets of the auditors expand as well.
Through this very simple exercise, my friend will get to reposition his auditing firm to his customers as being something different, and someone who can do more than just auditing. To his staff, his firm is no longer a typical auditing firm providing routine auditing jobs. His is a firm that, by virtue of its Quality Marketing System, will ensure that all staff will be trained and developed to expand their skills and horizons.
While it is true that marketing requires a fair bit of creative idea generation, the more important issues are how those ideas meet the requirements of customers, and how you deliver those ideas effectively and efficiently. The system created has to be evolving, so that it remains relevant to customers’ requirements, and so that there will be continuous improvements made. The system relies on facts, processes and systems, and are driven by the people who are committed to making it a success.
If all these are done, you shall have a Quality Marketing System that never fails.