An ignored function in many firms the past few years, marketing is back in vogue.

Years ago I asked the top marketing mind in the country, Regis McKenna, (the marketing genius behind Intel, Genentech, and Apple Computer) what the most fundamental key to effective marketing was. He simply raised his index finger and exclaimed “one hour per week.” He also highlighted the two most important metrics used to measure marketing effectiveness – the number of warm leads generated and the cost per lead. I’ll elaborate in a moment.

The good news is that entrepreneurs seem to be interested in the subject once again. An ignored function in many firms the past few years, marketing is back in vogue. The combination of a recovering economy, the opportunity to grab market share, and entrepreneurs tired of downsizing their way to success has re-ignited the subject. My own indicator of this interest level? Our recent one-day workshop with the famous marketing guru Seth Godin (read all his books!) sold out in less than a week – an interest in marketing I’ve not seen since 1998.

Marketing is about getting the word out, figuring out how to attract attention, getting media coverage, and deciding how to position your product and services against your competitors – it’s all messy stuff that just needs some jawbone time to sort out and be creative. For this reason, McKenna was adamant that the key to eff ective marketing is getting a handful of the right people in a room for one-hour each week, talk about what you do next to drive your marketing strategy, and then act on your ideas that week.

With over 1 billion people moving into the middle class, effectively increasing the global market for products and services by 50% over the next decade, can your firm afford to ignore the single largest market opportunity in the history of business? It’s time you consider “going east” as part of your 2010 strategic plan. And it’s as critical for small to mid-size firms to make the move as it is for top investors and large corporations.

THE REPUBLICAN’S ONE-HOUR WEEKLY

Not since Theodore Roosevelt had a Republican president gained seats in the legislature in on off -year election. Yet President George Bush did just that in 2002. The key to this enormous marketing feat was a weekly meeting every Tuesday morning at 7:30 am at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Capital Hill, initiated shortly after Bush’s inauguration. Led by Karl Rove, Bush’s top political strategist, he and a handful of other individuals used these meetings to analyze polling data, recruit candidates, set themes, and drive a weekly campaign calendar for Bush. And my understanding is that this same approach is being taken in Bush’s 2004 campaign.

There are many reasons the election went the way it did, but I’m confi dent an underlying key was the weekly meetings – the jawboning time of discussing strategies, looking over data, and sticking to a weekly rhythm of decision making and action.

we participate in a one-hour conference call together Monday mornings at 10:30 am, brainstorming, discussing, and working through a list of marketing initiatives.

In my own case, Gazelles’ marketing is handled by an outside firm. Even though they’re not employees, we participate in a one-hour conference call together Monday mornings at 10:30 am, brainstorming, discussing, and working through a list of marketing initiatives. These meetings keep marketing top of mind and serve to drive some kind of activity or improvement each and every week. And we do real work in these meetings, reviewing new marketing messages, revamping the website, organizing testimonials, and scheduling interviews, just to name a few of our more recent activities this past month.

INFLUENCERS

It was also McKenna that emphasized the importance of influencers within a market – the handful of thought leaders that exist in every industry (a precursor to Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point). A big part of his marketing discussions each week, for firms like Intel, were spent identifying the appropriate infl uencers, planning ways to reach them, cultivating relationships and garnering a favorable response from them. Some of the practical ways to nurture these influencers include inviting them out to visit your firm, serving as a resource of information and help to them, including them on your advisory board, and keeping them in the loop to receive your newsletters and announcements

Whenever he would meet someone he considered key, he would invite them to visit his manufacturing facility and pay whatever fee they asked to consult with his firm for a day.

A close friend, Gene Kirila, named one of the “Heroes of Manufacturing” by Fortune magazine a couple years ago, is brilliant at identifying and nurturing influencers in his market. Whenever he would meet someone he considered key, he would invite them to visit his manufacturing facility and pay whatever fee they asked to consult with his firm for a day. Besides learning everything he could, he would turn around and sell them on his firm, entertaining them at his magnificent lake retreat a few miles from the plant. He would also get them to introduce him to other key infl uencers. It wasn’t surprising to any of us, then, when he showed up on Fortune’s radar screen for their annual “Heroes” honor – where do you think Fortune gets their nominees but from the infl uencers in the market!

I met Graham and Simon on my last trip to China and was impressed by their enthusiasm and initiative to encourage others to leave the comfort zone of their own markets and venture out into some of the leading business hotspots around the globe.

MEASURING MARKETING

If the sales function is measured by its ability to close deals and generate revenue, then marketing is measured by its ability to find the right deals to close i.e. generate targeted warm leads. Running focus groups, designing ads, garnering feedback from existing customers, feeding ideas into R&D, and the myriad of other marketing activities all have one function and that is to ultimately generate interested customers. Keeping it that simple and focused will keep your marketing function effective. Measuring cost per warm lead will keep it efficient.

In summary, do you want to dominate your market? Pick a handful of key people, a time each week to meet, and get your brain trust focused on how you’re going to do it. Now is the time to trump your competition by out marketing them – it just requires discipline and rhythm.

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