Putting Clients at the heart of relationships - leader article

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum ...

Well, maybe not, I just always wanted to use that line. Two short years ago I moved from the world of professional services to digital marketing with UNICEF. In the same short period we have continued to witness the turbulent tide of technological, social and economic change.

Indeed the digital world is so transforming and the speed of change so fast that it brings enough challenges of its own, demanding a management capability for rapid response to changing marketing needs. The world is changing. Big will not necessarily beat small, it will be fast beating slow.

Embracing the digital world is an essential element of modern marketing, but it is important to recognise that the aim is to make marketing more effective, and not to treat effective use of digital tools as a replacement for other marketing components.

Back in my student days, when the web was in its infancy, I had written a paper on political marketing. In today’s digitally driven landscape, it may seem hard to believe it was once possible to be elected, or to promote political parties and ideas, without a socially driven, viral, tribe building, digital engagement strategy. But seemingly it did happen, and for quite a long time too.

In my professional life I have often used a quote from Alfred Taubman (invented the shopping mall – before you reach for your smart phone) that “there is more similarity in the marketing challenge of selling a precious painting by Degas and a frosted mug of root beer than you ever thought possible”. With some of my background also rooted in art history this phrase always stuck! As professional services marketers we can easily slip into a mind-set that PSF marketing is somehow different. I would contend it is not.

So the clarion call is to refocus on what marketing is really about. A succinct definition courtesy of the AMA is ‘a process for creating, communicating and delivering offerings that have value for customers, clients and partners’. It sounds simple – so simple as to be instantly memorable. However for some, much marketing emphasis is focused on the first half of the sentence! With the upcoming September conference in mind, it is a timely reminder to place clients and value for our clients at the heart of what we do.

Peter Fisk once proposed a ‘Marketing Manifesto’ to invigorate marketers to demonstrate the value to their customers. In most cases that value needs to be defined, measured, reported and become central to the activity of the firm. Our challenge as marketers is to deliver that value proposition to our own firms, and to demonstrably show that marketing should be valued not as some necessary cost, but rather as an essential endeavour, integral to a firm’s very success.

Now back to that Forum…