There are four main parts to any business, four simple to describe, yet hard and complex steps that every single business has to undertake to survive and succeed. It doesn’t matter how big or small an enterprise is, these four key functions must happen.
What are these four magical areas?
Firstly every business must make something, be it bread, airplanes or a massage. A business must create something to be offered for sale.
Next you have to actually have a process for selling that thing that you do, and providing the services needed to keep it sold. Whatever you do you need to sell it to someone else to be able to keep in business? And of course this includes having a process for getting the stuff you do to your customers. And once you have sold something you need to offer some level of support to keep it sold.
And of course the third discipline is getting the money and doing it legally. Accounts, finance and the law are important areas for every business.
And then there is the fourth discipline, marketing.
Marketing is often overlooked when a company starts up, and is either seen as part of the product building or selling disciplines. But the truth is that marketing is as complex and as important as each of the other disciplines. Marketing starts when you build a clear and unique view of what it actually is your business can do for someone else. Once you understand your own value it becomes much easier to tell others about it.
It is amazing to me how few businesses actually understand what their value is. In every hundred businesses I suspect less that five actually can clearly answer these four key questions:
1. What business are you truly in
2. What problem to you solve
3. Who has this particular problem
4. How to they choose to solve that problem
Sounds easy doesn’t it? But the simple truth is that most businesses are not in the business they think they are in (no that’s not a quote from the Princess Bride).
To understand what business you are truly in, think deeply about why your customers buy your product, why you and not your competitor? Why Coke not Pepsi? Why Jet Blue and Not Delta? Why Ford and not Mercedes?
Then think about the reason your employees come to work every day, the reason beyond their salary, think about the reason you are all passionate about what you do.
Then think again about your customers, why they choose to spend money on the thing that you do. If you can clearly articulate your passion and your customer’s desires then you are getting closer.
Great marketers start with this type of thinking and build a simple and compelling understanding of the business they are in, and can effectively answer those four questions. They have a million techniques for doing this of course. But great marketers in great companies know that there is no perfect best practice they can lean upon, they have to build it for their specific business.
Every business is unique, and the clearer a business understands its own uniqueness the better it will be able to compete.
And this where marketing starts, but there is a lot more.
It’s all too easy to spend a fortune with marketing agencies and get nothing of value back. If your company doesn’t understand those key four questions listed above there is a very high chance that you are not marketing well, and are frustrated by the high costs and minimal returns.
But once you have a compelling set of answers to those keys then all of a sudden you understand who to focus on, what to say to get them excited, and you will see you marketing costs fall and your results grow.
Once you have the clearest view of what you do, why and for who, then you can focus on telling all the who’s about what and why.
Marketing is the fourth discipline of every business. If you don’t feel this passion in your business, then I suspect you are not really marketing. Most businesses use the word “marketing” but do not truly have any marketing going on. But just like in any twelve-step program, the first step is to recognize that you have the problem, and then start the process of fixing it.