This article was originally published on the Marketing Score Blog. We decided to share it here as well because we think you'll find great value in it. Let us know what you think in the comments!
The first section of the Marketing Score assessment focuses on business cores, as these factors are the fundamental building blocks of an organization and brand. Use Marketing Score to benchmark your organization’s business foundations, and fuel meaningf
ul conversations between marketing and management.
Rank Your Business Cores
In this post, we run through each factor featured in the assessment, categorized as business basics, product/service foundations, and team strengths.
Let’s start with the basic factors that determine if the foundation for success is in place:
Corporate Culture: Defined as the blend of values, beliefs, taboos, rituals, etc., which all companies develop over time, corporate culture can ultimately determine the way employees think and act.
Consider findings of Corporate Culture and Performance, by John Kotter and James Heskett, which argues that,“strong corporate cultures that facilitate adaptation to a changing world are associated with strong financial results. We found that those cultures highly value employees, customers, and owners and that those cultures encourage leadership from everyone in the firm.”
Does your corporate culture nurture positivity, performance, and innovation? Healthy corporate cultures fuel the best ideas, talent, and work—from marketing through product development.
Financial Stability: Businesses struggling to maintain financial stability are often under pressure to keep costs down, which can directly impact the quality of work coming from that organization. Financially stable businesses are able to invest in the best people, processes and technologies, without looming financial worries. These organizations don’t act out of desperation, and tend to remain committed to long-term, organic marketing programs that lead to sustained growth and success.
Innovation: Does your organization innovate, or does it copy existing models? Innovative companies thrive on bettering existing processes and working through challenges. These are the types of companies that move products, services, and the people associated with them, forward.
From the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “I believe innovation is the most powerful force for change in the world … innovation fundamentally shifts the trajectory of development.”
Tolerance for Risk: How much risk can your business handle? Does it often take calculated risks to achieve set goals? Growth demands some tolerance for risk, especially in terms of new business and marketing tech adoption that demands we learn to fail fast (to succeed faster).
Vision: What’s your organizational vision? Is it clearly articulated by leadership, and does it inspire and resonate with how the business operates?
The following quote was adapted from Zingerman's Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist's Approach to Building a Great Business, by Ari Weinzweig:
“A great vision is inspiring. It gets you and everyone in the organization excited to come to work; it's the cathedral everyone is coming to work every day to construct. This is not mere wishful thinking. A vision must also be strategically sound. You have to have a reasonable shot at getting there.”
For more on the importance of vision across a business, check out the full 2011 Forbes article, Creating a Company Vision.
Product & Service Foundations
All the great marketing in the world may not be enough if the product or service you’re providing doesn’t work. How does your offering perform? Consider the following:
Competitive Advantage: Can you define the competitive advantage of your organization’s product or service? If not, marketing that product or service is going to be an uphill climb.
Market Share: Does your product or service stand out in a crowded market, or is it in a market of its own? Know the overall market demand for your organization’s product or service—as well as where your organization stands in terms of existing and forecasted market share—to better align business and marketing goals with realistic expectations.
For more on market share, see this Investopedia guide.
Pricing Strategy: Your organization’s pricing strategy is critical to its financial health and sustainability. When determining optimal price points, consider brand positioning, market demand, costs, profit margins, point of differentiation, customer loyalty, and more.
Need more pricing resources? Our team recently connected with Price Intelligently, and found the Price Intelligently blog to be filled with solid pricing strategy information.
Product/Service Quality: Would you use and recommend your company’s product or service? Identify issues around product and service quality early in your business and marketing planning to devise smart, transparent strategies that address similar issues your customers are sure to also experience.
“Do a comprehensive review of your product, the benefits it offers and why someone would want to use it … involve in-market research, focus groups or asking non-biased people for their thoughts. What you’re seeking is honest, frank and constructive criticism, even if it stings. If your product isn’t good, let alone great, you’ve got a problem that no amount of marketing is going to fix.”Conversations around the overall quality of your offering will also fuel more realistic marketing and business result expectations. Mark Evans (@markevans) lays it out well in his post, The Best Marketing Is a Great Product.
Internal Communications: How does your team communicate? Are you a slave to internal email chains, or do you take advantage of internal social networks like Yammer? For many organizations, efficient internal communications yield better productivity, collaboration, and products or services.
External Communications: Do you have a sound communications strategy for all your external audiences—customers, media, vendors, job candidates, analysts, etc.? Are your communications consistent with your brand positioning across all channels? An integrated communications strategy is paramount to building brand preference and loyalty.
Overall team strength—in terms of skill sets, as well as drive and attitude—can make or break a business.
Community Involvement: Does your business support employee volunteer efforts, or provide opportunities for employees to engage in community event opportunities?
Corporate citizenship—including having a positive social impact—is on the rise, and more employees expect the opportunity to give back and engage with their communities. According to Service Leader: “Businesses have begun to realize that their bottom line, delivery of profitable products and services, reputation, and retention of high quality employees all depend on their commitment to responsible, community-centered business practices.”
Additional business benefits that show the impact of community involvement, according to The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, include:
- A more cohesive, motivated workforce.
- Improved leadership and interpersonal skills.
- Improved employee performance and productivity.
- Better brand reputation in local markets.
Customer Service: Awareness, nurturing, and the sale are just the beginning of your organization’s relationship with its customers. Service, satisfaction and loyalty from existing customers can be one of your organization’s greatest assets—and revenue channels.
Your customer service team is often the point of most direct contact with existing or prospective customers. Rank your customer service team or help desk’s professionalism, resourcefulness and effectiveness.
Consider this: 89% of consumers reported doing business with a competitor after they received poor customer service (source: Oracle’s 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report). Would you be happy with the experience after contacting your support? Does poor customer service keep customers from calling, or drive them to switch to a competitor?
Marketing Team: How would you rate the overall strength of your marketing team? Marketing teams must be able to envision on a strategic level, build fully integrated campaigns, and execute on the tactical level, conducting activities that drive real business results.
Consider traditional and modern marketing skill sets, including strong competencies in business, IT and human behavior, as well as proficient copywriting, web, analytics and creative skills.
Check out our Marketing Team Performance post and new PR 20/20 ebook, Evolution of the Prototype Marketer: The Hybrids Are Coming, for details on what it takes to perform in today's modern marketing industry.
Sales Staff: If your business has a sales team, how successful are they?
Consider whether that team has the best tools (CRM, lead nurturing); processes (lead scoring and qualifications, marketing-to-sales handoffs, standard presentation tools); and personality for the job.
7 Personality Traits of Top Salespeople from Harvard Business Review lists the following personality traits to consider among your team:
- Achievement Orientation
- Lack of Gregariousness
- Lack of Discouragement
- Lack of Self-Consciousness
Set a Foundation for Success
Growing your business—and moving your marketing forward—starts with a solid foundation and aligned expectations. That’s what the Business Cores section of the Marketing Score assessment is about, and why it’s absolutely critical to the overall success of your marketing program.
As you rate your business cores, consider strengths and challenges for each of the factors above. Use the honest answers as talking points with your organization’s management team.
Let us know what else you consider when evaluating business cores in the comments below.