“Marketing is facing unprecedented challenges”
Amid ongoing challenges including the economic crisis, the pandemic, technology disruption, the higher costs of marketing and advertising, more competitors and uncertainties, businesses face tight constraints because they must cut costs during the crisis but at the same time must invest in transformation and intensify campaigns to boost sales.
The budgets that must be slashed first are budgets for marketing and advertising. Although their reduction produces quick results that are plunging costs, its long-term damage to business is greater than imagination especially when it comes to the value of brands which have more impacts on the financial performances of business than what we can see. Some organizations react differently. Unlike their competitors, they considerably increase their marketing budgets to promote their brand, invest in transformation and increasingly use data. After passing uncertainties, their growth can be times as much as that of their competitors and they may leave their rivals far behind.
What makes such organizations think differently and perform with superiority?
Saroj Laohasiri, Head of Marketing Transformation and Marketing Strategy at Bluebik Group Public Company Limited, said many organizations stalled or foresaw no profits because they could not handle the rapidly changing marketing landscapes that involved technologies, consumers’ behaviors, competitors and new trends. On the inside, organizations must apply new technologies for their transformation and on the outside they must build their brands and conduct marketing communications. The burdens make the people who are at work every day too exhausted to see the big picture and have a vision that requires knowledge about business, finance and investment as well as strategies, technologies, data, branding, creativity and marketing communications.
Organizations need a “specialist in generalist” who is the “third eye” that can formulate comprehensive strategies. This refers to a marketing consultant who draws up sharp and comprehensive strategies, properly writes briefs, requirements and terms of reference (TOR) and calculates the return on investment that is in line with overall business goals. These will be forwarded to agencies or technology partners and maximize the efficiency of clients and agencies.
When marketers of organizations and agencies work together, they find it difficult to relate to rapidly developing knowledge. From the start they lack the strategic plans that are comprehensive and the lack obstructs their work. Finally, such problems prevent organizations from achieving their goals. Meanwhile, agencies are tired with efforts to carry out the assignments, briefs or TORs that are unclear.
Figuratively an organization gives a “recipe” for an agency to prepare “a dish” accordingly but “the dish” may not attract customers or may not be economically feasible. A marketing consultancy can come to the rescue by selecting “the recipe” that is in demand and guiding an organization through the process of sourcing “ingredients”, managing costs and picking “a right chef” to prepare “the very dish” that will ensure the best result, meaning sustainably growing sales.
With a consultancy, an organization that has a conventional work process can achieve its goal. A consultancy can help senior executives formulate strategies and policies, translate business directions into clear briefs, select the right agencies and let them do their best in their respective fields of expertise including communications, media, creativity, digital technology, platforms and production.
Saroj said: “I was a marketing manager of a world-class organization and a co-founder of a leading digital agency. Working in the field of consulting, I clearly see the room for marketing consultancies to play their roles in improving teamwork between organizations and agencies by:
- plotting the strategies that clearly connect all dimensions
- turning marketing data into the benefits of business organizations
- bringing about good briefs.
This is different from the misunderstanding by many parties that the roles are duplication or that marketing consultancies are the competitors of agencies.
The present services of marketing consultancies have grown beyond the past perception that experts would sit down to recommend strategies and submit a single report in exchange for their high fee that raises a doubt on value for money. A marketing consulting firm has comprehensive services and is ready to present the strategies and action plans that are practical from the start to the end, not any abstract advice. Bluebik places great emphasis on this.”
Saroj also said that there were four main areas where marketing consultancies can support the work of marketers but agencies cannot.
1. The application of strategic analysis models of world-class consultancies to analyze the types of problems that organizations face
Organizations have different problems. They can be categorized into four groups. The first one is “Known Knowns”. This category gathers the organizations that have good awareness and understanding of their problems. Meanwhile, many organizations are considered as “Known Unknowns” as they are aware of their problems but do not know the causes of the problems. There is also the “Unknown Knowns” group of the organizations that understand their circumstances but have not been aware of their problems. Some organizations are in the “Unknown Unknowns” Group as they have neither awareness nor understanding of their problems. Marketing consultancies can deal with all the four groups with “Hypothesis Driven” and “Driver Analysis” models.
Without a marketing consultancy, some organizations that understand their problems and already have solutions in mind may ask agencies with specific expertise to help them solve some issues. For example, an organization that is aware of brand-related problems may approach an agency with brand expertise. If an organization cannot communicate with its target groups, it may assign an agency to work out a media plan to reach customers. However, this may not solve root-cause issues. There will be considerable obstacles on the way towards solutions unless there are awareness and understanding. The briefs that organizations give to agencies will still be extremely broad and it will be very difficult to work out an effective marketing plan. Moreover, major problems can remain unresolved. A marketing consultancy that has profound knowledge and understanding about all problems can help solve one problem after another, address root causes related to strategies, and recommend the right experts who will solve specific and difficult problems.
2. Business sustainability strategy focus to pave the way for goal achievement
Agencies have expertise in specific fields. Some agencies are experienced media planners while others are advertising or data technology experts. A few are all-rounders. Marketing consultancies can offer comprehensive advice through top-down and broad visions because they work closely with executives of organizations. Marketing consultancies can even foresee the reorganization that will increase efficiency in overall marketing operations for good because they have personnel with various and profound experiences, who can help improve businesses and organizations in all industries.
Agencies are evaluated with the success of individual campaigns. Marketing consultancies are duty-bound and determined to draw up the strategic plans that will lay the foundations for success. Metaphorically marketing consultancies write “a bible” to give clear criteria and directions to personnel at the operational level. Marketing consultancies can also recommend the agencies that suit the different units of organizations. In Thailand, marketing consulting is available with leading end-to-end consultancies.
3. Specialist in Generalist
As the saying goes, a marketing consultant is a “specialist in generalist”. Although marketing consultants are generalists whose skills can be applied in various dimensions, the skills are not superficial. Their skills cover all industries and can be integrated to help business organizations see the possibility of business expansion with modern tools.
In the present world of business, new elements are emerging as the dots that have yet to be connected. They include marketing technology, artificial intelligence, blockchains, metaverses and big data and they are strong and rapidly growing trends. The selection of the generalists who can help organizations connect the dots and keep up with trends is a challenge. A marketing consultancy that gathers world-class experts who have worked for leading businesses in various fields can deal with local contexts and is ready to connect the dots in the different types of business. The consequences will be greater marketing efficiency and high profit.
4. End-to-End Process of Working
Bluebik has three main areas of work. The first one concerns “Strategize & Conceptualize”. It analyzes data and works out the plans that guarantee the best implementation of strategies. It also provides “Business & Digital Implementation” which is operation-oriented consulting. Besides, it is also duty-bound to “Go to Market & Iteration” to ensure that plans can be really implemented in real markets. This reflects Bluebik’s philosophy of “Ambition to Reality”.
The work of consultancies can be deep enough to reach the level of project governance, set long-term goals and figure out suitable methodologies. They can recommend if organizations need restructuring and how that should be done. Consulting can begin with laying the foundations for a change. It can include workshops to create understanding.
Marketing consulting also covers the analysis of competitiveness and recommendations on fundraising. If an organization needs restructuring or a new project but are unable to afford it, a marketing consultancy can recommend fundraising channels, a merger with a potential partner, budget reduction, divestment, an end to activities that lack long-term benefits and internal mergers for flexibility and fast growth.
Saroj concluded that the world was moving towards integration. For example, stored data should not be used for the formulation of marketing plans only.
Business organizations should have the assistants that help develop the integration, boost competitiveness and address the weak points of departments. Data experts may not be good at creativity and creatives may lack data skills. Proper integration with good strategies can help organizations reduce costs and times, boost staff’s morale and guarantee good reputations in the world that is complex and changes faster than any imagination.
“In the world of rapidly changing technologies, a common pain point we have found with organizations is that the marketers who know only about their own business cannot keep abreast of the changes because they are already busy with day-to-day operations. They cannot compete with the rivals that can adapt faster,” Saroj said.
“World-class consultancies work at the high level and take part in corporate strategies. Bluebik is the Thai consultancy that thoroughly understands local contexts. So, we can go to markets, really reaching the operational level. If business organizations, regardless of their sizes, realize the value of marketing consulting, it will be the best value for money. If you are ready to try it, you can experience exponential growth and even the disruptive growth which will turn the situation of being disrupted into new business opportunities. The use of marketing consulting can definitely help organizations attain their goals and this is the definition of Bluebik’s ‘Ambition to Reality’ philosophy.”