State of the Market
State of the Market
Marketing is as old as civilisation - if you had the best looking fruit or meat, you could trade with others (alternatively, if you did have the best, they may have been stolen, of course). Making things appeal to an audience, and making sure that that audience knows about the products or services is nothing new.
Modern marketing is said to have grown in the Mid West of the USA where billboards littered the streets, and the advent of technologies like cinema, radio, TV and then online has allowed the Americans to maintain a lead in the industry, though not always with best practice.
Because marketing is so fundamental to business, and therefore has been practiced for so many millennial, everyone thinks they can do it. No need for experts, no need for qualifications - just walk the walk and talk the talk. A recent article in Marketing magazine highlights this - ITV are about to appoint former Finance Director with no formal marketing qualifications or experience to the position of CMO.
MBA graduates also feel well-qualified to take on the role of marketing managers, directors, etc., if they complete a marketing module - you would not find an MBA graduate going into accountancy after a finance module! Marketing is largely unregulated and open to all. Whilst this is a positive in free market economies, it does place a question mark over us 'professional marketers'.
So - How do you get ahead in Marketing? It seems that it is just a mixture of luck and networking - forget qualifications, forget experience...
Wrong! Marketing gets a bad press because amateurs undertake the work of professionals. There is most definitely a place in business for professional marketers, and marketing bodies such as the CIM, IDM, etc., should be making this a requirement for marketing practitioners. Consultanties should have a minimum 'ratio' of professional marketers. We pay them to provide us this 'trade' support - they are our trade unions. Any other union would be arguing for the pay, quality of the workplace, qualification of the staff (normally as a restriction of trade) - so where are the CIM, IDM, etc.?
What do you think? Is marketing a free for all, and more importantly, should it be allowed to be a free for all?
CIM's failure to meet the market
The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) celebrates it centenary next year - I am sure that every marketer will congratulate them for that... No not really!
Unfortunately the CIM suffers from an identity crisis - is it a membership organisation? Is it a examination body? Is it a training organisation? Is is a conference centre? It tries to be all of these things.
The CIM only 'represents' about 10% of all UK marketers (the actual figure is probably closer top 7%), so using our trusty Paretos Rule - the CIM are irrelevant. But, no other marketing body has as many. I think this just shows how highly fragmented and uncontrolled the vocation is - anyone can call themselves a 'marketer'.
I recently had a conversation with a good friend who had been given the role of Marketing Director. He has very little sales experience and even less marketing. He asked me what organisations he could belong to as a marketing director, and what he had to do in the role! And I wonder where my cynicism comes from?
The CIM do not 'protect' the role of marketing, it is only in the last few years that they have even started talking talking about it. The CIM qualifications are very highly regarded, BUT they are regarded by many in the form of a degree or 'A' Levels - you take them, you move on. The CIM wants people to take the exams as the first step on the ladder of CIM life-membership. My wife is one of many millions who ignored this.
And this brings us to the issue. The CIM as the exam body is the gatekeeper. The CIM as the membership organisation is the poacher trying to entice you to join and stay. The training arm of the CIM is an outreach to the 90% of non-members who are often given some form of preferential access to membership.
It is just as well for the CIM that as a rule, marketers hate figures. The 55,000 members would otherwise be applying an ROI calculation to their membership. Why be anything more than an Associate? Members and Fellows have to pay more, for very little return. The premium award in the Institute, the Chartered Marketer status is little known outside the CIM, and costs members more subscription, and more work, ensuring that they maintain their 35 hours of CPD.

Chartered Marketers

The chartered marketer status involves members (MCIM and FCIM) undertaking 35 hours of CPD per month split into 10 different categories. I avoided the first rush to become chartered because I thought it was poorly marketed and executed. 35 hours appeared to be very low, and certainly 28 or so hours are relatively easy to get.
I was in the second year of awards and have held this every year since. To get the 35 hours involves the member attending events, reading business and marketing literature, imparting and collecting knowledge.
Every year there is an audit of 10% of Chartered Marketers to assess whether they should keep their status or not. This is supposedly a random audit, but I have seen 'favourites' who have not been audited. In 11 years, this year is my first year of having to submit a new format return (the original returns meant that everyone sent their evidence in).
I did this on the online CPD portal, but as usual - the CIM digital presence is extremely unsatisfactory. As the owner of a small business, I have had a torrid time with regards the UK economy, so my goals have been very business-survival orientated rather than pure marketing. The system is also very inflexible - the paper return provides a far better method, but requires not only time, but also money in copying 'evidence' and posting it off to Moor Hall.
The Chartered Management Institute introduced their Chartered Manager status a few years ago, and their criteria are extremely strict, expensive and thorough. The CIM process is open to abuse, the 10% audit and the 'self-assessment' providing fraud opportunities, not that I know or have heard of this happening - after all, the Chartered Marketer status is not that important.
So members have the issues in terms of time, money and effort, but they pay extra for this 'privilege'. The CIM, however, have done little in communicating the benefits of Chartered Marketers to the marketplace. This is probably because they do not really communicate with those companies anyway.

A Solution?

I do not claim to have the answers - I have been involved as an activist in the CIM in the South East of England for 11 years, so I have seen some of what the CIM is or is not doing.
The CIM should split up their business sectors. The qualifications should be independent from membership and training. The membership section should start talking to the industry - not just members, and not just marketing directors - and find out what it is that they are looking for from the institute.
Local activities rely very heavily on local activists - unpaid members who give up a great deal of their time, and their own money to put events on for more passive members alongside paying the same amount for membership. The membership and regional organisation is also, increasingly becoming highly bureaucratic and inflexible. There are a wealth of experts in the local branches, but Moor Hall chose to ignore these 'amateurs' (amateurs because they are unpaid in the CIM's view)!
In the South East region, we were leaders in the field of digital marketing, developing intuitive, useable online tools for 'customers' and activists. Moor Hall took some of the ideas (eventually - about 6 years later), but refused to talk to the local experts!
Commonsense appears to be lacking in many of the activities and resources. The constant changes at the top of the CIM over the last ten years have obviously had a impact, the job insecurity of some of the 'workers' at Moor Hall, and the confused roles the institute has.
Membership Organisation?
It is coming up to 'Make your mind up time'. In the meantime, members like me still pay, loyally. Fellows like me pay more (with very little ROI). Chartered Marketers like me pay more again (and again with very little ROI). The bubble will burst very soon with members leaving the sinking SS CIM!
New books
Happy new year to all readers of this blog.
This is a quick notification to plug more of my books - I have just written a number of small pocket books for people wanting to understand particular issues about marketing. There are 20 books planned, but the initial batch include:
Principles of Marketing
Product Marketing
Marketing Pricing
Watch out for others in the HowTo Marketing series. Please click on the links to buy either the download or pocket book versions.
Local or 'Global'
Every business has a dilemma. Does it focus on its local customers, or go for any business it can get, possibly leading it further afield, including abroad?

Even 'virtual' companies must have a base, even if it someone's back bedroom. These local links are often overlooked by companies, especially when they leave the area. We have had a recent case of a large company that left the local area with a promise to help 'smooth' the transition in the community. Many of the company's former employees still live in the area, having decided not to relocate abroad, and as a result the unemployed and early retired population is higher than in surrounding areas.

As the company is still trading, it is seen as an act of goodwill to help the community with certain community projects. Obviously this support will be time limited, but it does show a sense of Social Responsibility.

Now that story relates to a community devastated by the relocation of a large organisation from a rural area. But do you chase the high paying customers, just for the sake of a good income, even if the outgoings eat into your cashflow. The alternative is to attract the local customers, charging less but enjoying shorter travel times, and lower costs.

In my business - e-marketing - I find this to be a serious dilemma. Many of the local customers are seriously uneducated in terms of Internet presence and marketing. The low prices they expect (and therefore the entry point for doing business with them) means that I have to do a great deal of work for their ever changing views, whilst educating them, and getting frustrated by their lack of e-business understanding (I am a great believer in educating the customer - but I find these locals "know their business" and are difficult to persuade otherwise).

The only way to drum home the fact that these local customers are getting a good deal is to highlight the NORMAL price, and show the discount they are receiving. Some will, of course be unaffected by this, but you will find some who will be willing to accept more from you when you demonstrate your actual worth.