Love her or hate her you couldn’t ignore her. The news, earlier this month, of Margaret Thatcher’s death at the age of 87, dominated newspapers, news channels and social media, with as many people apparently celebrating her death as mourning it. She was certainly a phenomenon – but what has she to do with marketing your business? What can small business owners learn from the ‘Thatcher Factor’?
The value of a clear vision
Whether you agreed with her politics and policies or not there was no chance of you doubting her commitment to those policies, or confusion over which side of the political fence she fell on. She had a clear vision, which various political commentators have could recount in the weeks since her death. And for a long time, she managed to unite her party (and voters) behind that vision. Compare that with today’s leaders and their wavering policies and the difference is stark.
Do you have a clear vision of where you are taking your business? Are you clear to your employees (and your customers) what you stand for and where you are heading? A lack of business vision will make it very difficult to develop a coherent marketing strategy, as after all the marketing activities you undertake must be designed to deliver against a clear vision.
A strong visual image
Think of Margaret Thatcher. I bet like me you can picture her very clearly, even if your image is slightly confused with a Spitting Image puppet or a Janet Brown impression. In my mind, it’s the hair, the handbag and the blue suits that typify the Thatcher look.
When it comes to a business the visual image is expressed in everything from the building from which you operate (if it’s customer facing), your website, company brochures, advertising, business stationary, in fact anything that has your name and logo attached to it.
Your image needs to be appropriate – if you claim to be a forward looking, modern business an old-fashioned look creates dissonance and means you are less likely to be believed.
Your visual image needs to be consistent – that’s why larger businesses will go to the expense of developing image or brand guidelines to inform anyone in the business and any suppliers how the company image is to be expressed in printed and online materials.
Small businesses often fail to make the most of limited budgets they have for marketing because they fall down on this first principle. If you take their website, letter head and an advert in the local paper they all convey a different visual image – as though they could have come from three different organisations. This means they miss the multiplier effect in terms of creating awareness and convincing their audience of their message.
All businesses need to create a strong visual image and use it consistently across all marketing materials. As I often say to clients at the point that you are starting to get bored with your look, that’s the point customers are starting to recognise it.
Listen, adapt and survive
Initially Thatcher was able to adapt, as a woman in a man’s world. She even changed her voice. But her mistake, if we are to believe her political allies as well as her enemies, was her failure in the end to listen – to her advisors, to the voice of the country and even, it’s said, to Mr T, when he told her it was time for her to step down.
For business owners, the need to listen is acute. You need to keep your eyes and ears open constantly, to learn what customers think of you and your products; to know what the competition are doing; to take account of market changes and outside forces. Without an ability to listen and adapt success is made more difficult to achieve and your ability to survive may also be in question.
I was amazed to read comments in an article about Client Satisfaction research in the Law Society Gazette last week. Knowing the difficulties in the legal profession, as it struggles to modernise, I wasn’t very surprised to learn that only 20% of people who’d used a solicitor in the last 3 years had been asked to complete a satisfaction survey. I was astounded however to read the comments from one solicitor that they didn’t feel the need to ‘impose’ on clients by asking them to complete a satisfaction survey and that it was the job of the lawyer to ‘know’ whether the client was satisfied or not. That’s a very interesting take on client research in my view and a very short-sighted way of looking at marketing intelligence.
Business owners need to find ways to gather both market intelligence and customer feedback and act on that information. That’s what all the best and most successful businesses do and it’s the cornerstone of a marketing led business.
A time of reflection
So, love her or hate her why not take an opportunity to reflect on the Thatcher Factor and consider whether you and your business will succeed where she failed and keep your public (or customers as we tend to call them in business) on side for a fourth term.