I never imagined anyone would be reading my stuff; so I did not consider continuing to write. Anyhow, thanks to all. The responses have been inspiring, and I deeply regret not answering your comments, some of which I just realized existed. What a marketer, ey? Please read on...
Someone once asked me, "What is one of the first things you would do to determine a proper marketing direction seeking better results?" My response was rather simple and direct. If the measurement or evaluation of your efforts in each (and I do mean "each," because all search engines are not created equal, a brochure is not the same a s a flyer, radio is not just radio...) marketing area is proving positive to the desired degree, then you should seek avenues for improvement (there is always room for improvement). If you have no measurement or evaluation criteria or system, and you are designing and launching programs (web pages, brochures, information meetings, radio and the like) because this is what has always been done (what I call historical ignorance), or because this is what the industry does (what I call collective stupidity) then you should immediately stop EVERYTHING. If tossing resources out the window without second thoughts is what you are after, then go ahead, do that - stand at the window and throw them out; why bother with whatever you are calling "marketing programs"? And then, of course, blame your lack of customer, or client, or student, or patient, or whomever response on the economy. Blame your budget cuts and layoffs or firing people (except, of course, yourself - the "leader") on decreasing revenue.
What I found sad about that short conversation was the immediate response of, "Manny, we can't do that!" "How can we possibly stop our marketing efforts?" To this, I understood that "marketing" had to continue, regardless of results or lack thereof. "Marketing" must go on, perhaps to justify expenditures and show someone that we are doing something, and that the decrease in revenue, or sales, or units, or enrollments is not our fault. Could it be there is a year-end budget fear? That fear that if we don't spend what we said we would, then next year's budget will be shorter? Can't have that, now can we? Could it be that we really don't have a clue about marketing and how it works and what it should do and how it should do all the things it does?
Maybe you took a principles (and, please, it is PRINCIPLES, not principals - use a dictionary for the sake of your readers. I have seen this on education institution brochures and websites) of marketing course at the undergraduate level, and a marketing strategy course at the graduate level. Now, you are prepared to tackle the marketing world. You have answers and techniques. I don't think so!!! Some stories I could tell about failed "marketing" efforts of some of these folks. (Oh, oh. That brings to mind some teachers of the profession who have never practiced - went through undergrad, grad, post-grad school; read all the books, learned all the jargon and formulae; participated in round-tables and wrote papers, but never actually worked in the field, never actually did anything; never had to meet a payroll; never had to design a program that someone was actually depending on for revenue to meet payroll. Ah, to have tasted the blood of battle!)
We need more money. We have insufficient resources. Our people need to work the phones harder. We need to make more pitches. We, blah, blah, blah... Somehow it is never enough.
Of course it is never enough! How can there ever be enough when there is no understanding of even what is required. It is not about what you have, rather about what you do with what you have. It is about endowing your resources with increased wealth-building capacity (this is what I offer my clients). To do this, however, to endow your resources with such power, you must understand the game and its rules.
On the first night of class, I always like to ask my students to introduce themselves. Who are you? What do you do? For how long have you been doing it? Why are you here? What do you plan to do with this once you "finish"? I have received some cute answers, some pie-in-the-sky answers, some answers the likes of, "Gotta do it. My employer demands it if I am to get a five-dollar raise next year or a lateral move to some obscure department". The one that truly blew my mind, though I know for a fact that this is happening in many industries, many enterprises, every day, happened at a summer term course: "I work for a company that has exercise centers, and sells and distributes exercise equipment. I have just been promoted to the position of marketing manager, and I can't even spell the word." Was it just me, or did anyone else feel the slap in the face?
"Well, we need a marketing "person." Joe, the assistant over in accounting, is pretty good at graphic design - maybe a good choice. Then there is Jane. Jane has, for several years, been receiving calls from potential students and answering questions about our programs and requirements and general queries; she has also maintained and updated our student database, as well as printed letters, licked envelopes and sent out mailing pieces. That certainly qualifies her to be promoted into a marketing position. Of course, there is also Judy, who knows about web pages." And the story goes on. Subject-blind people using improper criteria for such a critical issue.
Let us remember something of crucial importance: Nothing happens until somebody makes a sale. If revenue is not resulting in "cha-ching" in your cash register, then, my friend, all you have is a hobby; it does not matter if your cash register is not-for-profit. I don't care how elite your professors. I don't care how unique your products. I don't care how many wonderful buildings you have or how beautiful your grounds. I don't care how astute your financial people. I don't care how great your accounting methods - accounts payable, accounts receivable, accounts throw-awayable, what accounts because you have no revenue. I don't care... whatever. I don't want to hear the babble and mountain-high BS. Truth is, you have nothing without customers. And get off your cloud, please. They are ALL customers. These are the people who pay you a salary (I don't know, maybe you're special and God sends it to you every payday. Or maybe you get paid from instituional endowments. Your students, not customers, are special people who are a raw material, who pay a "tuition" not a "price", that you mold into something better. Yeah, tell that to your mortgage lender at month end) - the salary that allows you to go to work (the job you got because you were able to "market" yourself to someone) every day because you were able to buy a car (from someone who "marketed" to you) and put gas in it. The salary that allows you to eat, and pay mortgage, and buy dogfood (hopefully not for personal consumption), and send your kids to school, and set aside money for retirement. I won't go on with the list, you're already bored to tears.
Without true marketing you have no buyers, you have no revenue, you have no business - period! Or did you think nature would send you customers because you're such a nice person with such a good idea? If you believe that, you must be the person who created the better mousetrap; better buy a new lawnmower because the grass is probably pretty high as no one has yet beat a path to your door.
People, we marketers - true marketers - are screaming this at the top of our lungs. We want to help. We want success for the masses. We want success for YOU. If you are not successful, then neither are we; we may all have to resort to eating dogfood. If you are not getting results, then perhaps your methods suck. If your marketer is not getting you results, then maybe your marketer sucks. If your marketer sucks, then perhaps you, too, suck. Are you listening?