By Stephen Curzon, Founder and CEO, The Curzon Consultancy
Through this recession the need for a more cost-effective and flexible approach to bringing experienced marketing into businesses has never been greater. It’s no surprise then that ‘associate marketing’ is becoming increasingly popular with its innovative approach to marketing hire.
Business pundits have been banging the marketing drum for a while now and as the recession brings more pressure and scrutiny on marketing, investment to come out of the recession stronger and ahead of the competition is the case for the defense. Easy to say but harder to do when faced with the pressure to cut costs as well as build business.
However, far worse than doing no marketing is to do it badly. The successful brands are relevant, attractive and visible to their ideal customers with the really important strategic decisions being made when addressing the first two of these.
Leaders of SME’s need the marketing talent around them to make the ‘business of marketing’ the business itself; to make their brand more relevant and attractive by understanding their customer, getting the proposition right and channeling marketing effort (and money!) to best effect.
Instead the focus of marketing is too often just about visibility - the ad campaign, press release or leaflet. But why spend on visibility if the other two aren’t properly cracked?
Invest in getting the strategy right and marketing will prove its worth, helping retain customers, maintain margins and win new business. Many hard-pressed CEO’s already have too little time for marketing, or a team with too little experience to answer the important marketing questions.
And the option of taking on a full-time marketing director is just too big a commitment and probably more than they need.
More and more, businesses are using temporary marketing solutions to fill the strategic gap without adding to the overhead. With no lengthy recruitment process and no budget lost to recruitment advertising or headhunter fees, associate marketing brings director-level experience into a business as an in-house associate, quickly and cost effectively, from just 40% of the cost of permanent hire.
For a developing business the approach can mean a rapid injection of experience at a fraction of the cost opening up new opportunities. Even for larger businesses it can strengthen the team as a cost-effective alternative to interim marketing.
As the Managing Director of a leading consumer business told me recently, “I may have to lose people but the [marketing] work still needs doing."
The flexibility of associate marketing has helped Adnams PLC develop an effective online proposition, Kettle Foods build a competitive brand communications strategy, and film & theatre company, Red Rose Chain, grow revenue and brand profile.
Andy Wood, Managing Director of Adnams PLC, sums up his experience of associate marketing, “The balance of strategic direction with practical management has established Adnams online as a key contributor to the commercial success of Adnams Retail.”
Marketing matters but good marketing is what matters most, and interest is growing in new ways to plug a 'capability gap'. The need for flexibility is here to stay and a ‘rental model’ that delivers effective marketing solutions can be the vital key to help businesses succeed through difficult times.
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