The purpose of marketing,” management guru Peter Drucker said, “is to make sales unnecessary.” That’s quite a challenge. And yet you know what he means. Good marketing works. Think of the brands and products you feel most loyal towards – the supermarket you like best; the car you drive. Can you express in tangible terms what it is you like about them? Or do you go all vague when you try to say why you prefer, Morrisons to Asda, or a Seat to a Vauxhall?
Marketing is difficult precisely because this world of brands and image is so hard to pin down. How can you measure its success, really?
It follows that procuring marketing services must be one of the hardest purchasing challenges of all. It is easy to get hoodwinked, and then disillusioned. This issue’s cover feature
provides some vital tips and ground rules on avoiding that sort of disappointment.
But perhaps one extra tip could be added – which is to think like a customer. It is funny how often otherwise highly competent business people forget to see things from the customer’s point of view.
Think a bit harder about your end customers. What do they really need to know about the goods and services you are offering them? How much time have they got, in reality, for marketing messages?
How much of their attention can you realistically expect to hold? And shouldn’t you consider some unconventional or unexpected approaches at
getting some of that attention?
I know: everyone’s an expert on marketing, except the people who have to do it. So good luck as you step into this mysterious and slightly daunting world.
Manufacturing’s coming home – maybe. The logic of globalisation and free markets is that everyone should be free to compete with everybody else, and that prices and competitive advantage will go up and down over time.
So it is that as the “cost arbitrage” of offshoring has declined, as wages inevitably rise in emerging markets, so suddenly British employees and plant may be priced back into a competitive position.
Not only that, but the practical benefits of shorter supply chains are obvious. When the Icelandic volcano erupted three years ago and left people and supplies stranded, businesses reconsidered how they operated. Equally, with every scandal that occurs in China, bosses must question how easy it is to control sites on the other side of the world.
Fast-moving consumer goods are so called because you want them to move quickly. A “fast fashion” retailer like Zara tries to keep the final stages of production close to home to ensure new-look clothes can be in the stores rapidly. And Sir Philip Green said that last year his Arcadia Group increased the number of British factories it uses by 27 per cent to 47 sites.
“The whirligig of time brings in his revenges,” says Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. British manufacturers that can compete on quality, speed and cost will always have a future.
☛ Stefan Stern is visiting professor of management practice at Cass Business School