Keep your marketing up to date with real trends

The general competitive pressures in business continue to ratchet up. Productivity increases, technological innovation and the emergence of new players in the business of producing commodities, all combine to increase the pressure on marketing people to find new areas for growth and salespeople to take on higher and higher targets.

Then there is globalisation. The move towards global brands and international account management has been steady over the long term but is getting faster and faster.

So the marketing function has to research much more widely and build communications and feedback systems from remote countries. The need for co-ordination emphasizes also the need for a marketing strategy that is understood and accepted by all parts of the business.

Salespeople in turn need to build international account plans and it is as much their job to sell these internally as it is to sell them to the customer.

The main problem that concerns both functions is that of differentiation. Commodity sales, such as the hardware that makes up computers and workstations, have lower and lower margins as the basic product becomes a commodity.

The gross margin for hardware in the computer industry, for example, has dropped from 55% to somewhere between 15 and 20% over the last 20 years. This change has brought havoc to the sales and marketing function. They are either going to be a commodity broker buying and selling components or complete systems to a market whose sole differentiator is price, or they are going to discover new ways of adding value to the basic product.

Added value one day can be a simple industry standard the following day; so the other big real trend to watch for in the sales and marketing function is the need for huge flexibility, the welcoming of re-training and learning new skills and the ability to accept that doing your job well tomorrow will not be the same as doing it well today.

Note my careful use of the term ‘real trends’. It is also quite easy to see a trend where there is a blip or a management fad. This can lead to dips in the creation of interest which, for a major brand, can be very serious.