CEOs: Beware the Bell-Shaped Trough
We all know about the bell-shaped curve. It is the iconic visual that shows how human (and most other kinds) of variability almost always falls into a predictable overall pattern.
Most people, institutions, characteristics, etc. fall into the large hump that makes up the body of the bell. But, inevitably, there are those who don’t fall in with the majority. For example, people may be shorter or taller than average, or organizations may be larger or smaller. These represent the “tails” of the bell, with instances of each sloping down from the hump as they become less frequent.
What is interesting about this ubiquitous bell-shaped curve is that the apex – the very top of the bell – represents the most average, the least common denominator, of the universe being displayed.
So I would suggest that for business in general and for marketing in particular, we need to turn the bell-shaped curve on its head to better represent reality.
For business, the curve is a trough.
If the purpose of business is to stand out from the competition – to have more brand recognition, greater market share, larger profits, etc. – then being at the top of the curve is the worst place to be. It means your company, your image, your ROI is dead average. It means your marketing is pedestrian at best.
So as businesses follow the latest marketing fashions, the most talked-about methods and methodologies, as marketing follows the gurus and does what “everyone knows” is the right way to go, it might be a good idea to contemplate how these efforts will position your company in the bell-shaped curve.
The last thing you want to do is to sit at the apex of the curve. The profits are in the “tail.”
That said, here are some simple, commonsense ways to avoid becoming part of the least common denominator:
♦ Before you join the mad rush to the latest and greatest marketing trend, analyze it. It doesn’t matter what the gurus and consultants tell you it will do. Does the trend, the mechanism, the platform make sense for your industry, your company, your products?
♦ Avoid title inflation and the micro-miniaturization of fields of responsibility. Don’t feel left out or left behind if you don’t have, for example, a social media manager or an executive in charge of marketing technology. You need to decide how these positions will contribute to ROI. You may need them; but, then again, you may not.
♦ Recognize that experience and expertise matter, a lot. The more your important job descriptions include a qualification of “3-5 years experience,” the more you ensure that you will have a pedestrian marketing operation. Saving money in the short term at the expense of expertise and seasoned judgment in critical roles can have a very serious opportunity cost.
♦ Don’t neglect the basics in the rush to be current. Whether, for example, you call it “content marketing,” “communications,” “lead generation,” or “lead nuturing,” a consistent, good old-fashioned strategy matters. Your brand should mean something – not a whole bunch of somethings.
♦ Managing marketing and communications operations has become a priority. It is no longer enough to have a good staff and be a “leader.” CMOs need to be generals, harnessing the myriad tactics on the ground in support of one over-arching business strategy, not overseeing a series of mini-strategies (ie., mobile marketing, content, social media, etc.).
These are all straight-forward, commonsense suggestions.
If you follow them, your company won’t be sitting at the bottom of the bell-shaped trough.