Our company went through a branding exercise recently. Imagine that, the top CMOs in the country sitting around spending time analysing their brand. There were some disparate opinions as to what we should stand for in the market place, but also (I’m pleased to say) a real meeting of the minds in the key areas.

The fascinating part about our business, is that we get to experience so many other businesses. We have clients who are manufacturers, IT companies, finance businesses, consultancies, retailers, wholesalers and so on. There is a lot of experience in solving the problems of some of these businesses and we have a substantial impact in a lot of cases. I was asked at our brand session, what I personally wanted the business to be known for, and it didn’t take me long to come up with an answer.

I still do most of the sales calls in and around Sydney, and in the process I get to see businesses of all shapes and sizes. The one outstanding commonality between all the businesses I see, is that we are in an extremely competitive cycle. It has been that way since the GFC, and the confidence has never really returned (if you haven’t seen it already, go and see ‘The Big Short’). As a consequence, there is just a sniff of fear around in business at the moment. Government is generally perceived as ‘a bit fat’ and consequently the private sector does not get the focus it deserves. Without getting political, people are on the whole, edgy.

I get very passionate about this subject, because almost instantly in businesses we can get a very clear picture of what a business should be doing, but usually isn’t. I see it personally across all businesses, and it can be a source of frustration. In most instances, I am longing to fix it, because I really do want the businesses we work with (and even those we don’t) to thrive. Often though, it is a mountain to climb to convince people where the starting point is.

We’re often told, “We’ve just done a new website” or “We’re about to develop a marketing plan” or something along those lines. But that’s not where you start. The starting place isn’t social media, or even any media channels, neither is it your brand or your logo, or a series of events. The starting place is your customers. Always, every time.

Customers need clearly defining; we need to talk to them about what they like about us or our products, our competitors, what they find frustrating, their roadblocks, their hurts, joys and so on. Dig deep, much deeper than ‘quality, reliability and the same as everyone else’ approach. I think without going through this process, a business is always going to be ‘me-too.’

The good news though, is that in each category including some of the most competitive, we see star performers. In every instance, these companies have differentiated themselves from the competition because they have addressed the key concerns their customers have, in a way that nobody else does. Their message has dealt very specifically with the issues facing their customers in dealing with their business, and for the really successful, the message resonates with the customer. At last somebody is speaking to them and addressing their issues. No more ‘me-too.’

We are so passionate about it, that the first eBook in our series based around our 12 Goals is about customers. It is the heart and soul of what we do, because we see the difference it makes in our customer’s business when they start to get it right with their customers.

If we could be known for one thing under the Marketing Director Centre brand, it is helping businesses to win in their category, by getting them really focused on their customers. Let’s get started it will make all the difference in the world to your business, because it makes all the difference in the world to your customers.

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