Adrienne Lenhoff: Essential marketing questions every CEO should ask Featured

7:01pm EDT January 31, 2012
Adrienne Lenhoff Adrienne Lenhoff

When was the last time that you sat down with your marketing specialists and really discussed your company or brand marketing strategy?

Too often, when I meet with CEOs, they tell me that they’ve been remiss at taking a hard look at marketing. For many, they either have rested on the laurels of their brand or company’s reputation or have been distracted or juggling other more pressing issues of running their business. The fact is, more than ever, it’s time to pay some close attention to your company’s overall marketing strategy and ask some hard questions of your marketing specialists in the process.

Before you can rely on your team to help guide where your company’s marketing direction is headed, you first need to determine if they truly understand where the company has been, where it is today, and if the team understands where the company needs to go. When CEOs start asking the tough questions of their teams, it’s amazing how often they discover that there’s disconnect between the C-level suite, the marketing team and even the sales team.

From exercises as simple as asking your team to go through an updated SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, a competitive analysis or asking for your team to describe your company’s ideal customer or prospect, the next step is asking your team how they’re gathering their information.

Every company and brand goes through a continuous and accelerating market change. How is your company determining the changing and varied needs of both your existing and target customers? Markets are becoming increasingly segmented into smaller and smaller sizes, some of which are worth pursuing, while many more are not. What’s your company’s marketing strategy for reaching, engaging and ultimately converting these groups into customers and brand evangelists? If your customers have been leaving, what have your marketing and sales teams been doing to determine why your customers are leaving and where they’re going? Why is a customer choosing to do business with your company over your competitors? What is being done, or needs to be done, to realign your marketing and branding to maintain or regain a competitive advantage in these changing marketplaces?

With new technologies being developed at lightning speed, how is your team incorporating these innovations into your core marketing strategies, to not only reach customers but to conduct intelligent market research to help your company keep ahead of the curve and give your customers what they really want and need? The reality is that markets are changing faster than most companies’ marketing practices. Past marketing practices are more likely than ever to misfire in these new and emerging marketplaces. How is your company incorporating tried and true marketing practices with these emerging micro-markets and changing technology?  If your company is like most, you’re probably finding that many of your traditional profit channels are eroding or yielding diminishing returns. When CEO’s go back to the fundamentals of asking the hard questions of the marketing and sales teams, everyone is forced to take their blinders off and step out of their internal corporate silo to begin looking at the company and its brands from the eyes of the external environment that impacts where your business is today and where it needs to go. It’s the old adage of getting out from behind your desk to shake hands, kiss babies, and to ask your customers and prospective customers what most influences their purchasing decisions.

Once these initial questions have been asked, you, your team and your company will be much better equipped to continue to ask the hard and probing questions needed to determine the best marketing strategies to move your company forward.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.