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“The secret recipe for growth” – Mike Colling, Founder and Chief Executive, MC&C

by on April 16, 2015 in Business, Latest News, Lead Article, Lead story, News you can use, Nuggets, Small Business, Startups

With the backdrop of a lingering recession, negative interest rates and rising living costs, output is being increasingly scrutinised and marketers must work harder than ever to demonstrate their value.

Without any need for additional budget, Mike Colling, founder and chief executive of the performance media agency MC&C, explains the secret recipe for business growth...

Forget what you thought you knew

The companies that thrive in tough times are the ones that can prove their expertise by combining value, creativity and measurable output. ROI, once championed by the profession, has failed to stand up to continued scrutiny. Quite simply, it is too easily manipulated. For example, any fool can make ROI figures appear more favourable by cutting out the least efficient 10% of a market investment. But if you want to really prove your worth and gain competitive advantage, marketers must turn their back on what they once knew.

Growth is gold

Now, profitable and sustainable growth is the new goal. Growth must be measurable, and proven to achieve results by the volume of incremental net profit generated over a five year period. This is no easy feat. To achieve momentum, brands must innovate. Naturally, innovation means change, which is at odds with the classic performance agency mantra that “it worked then, so it’ll work now”.

Prepare to fail

With change comes risk, and risk inevitably introduces the possibility of failure. Many companies run scared from this, and as a result failure is viewed as a dirty word, something to avoid at all costs. Too many times marketers will decide that it is better to take the tired but safe route, rather than the exciting route less travelled, even if the rewards of a calculated risk vastly outweigh the benefits of the old approach. The secret to growth is not to avoid change, but to embrace it.

Crucially this means recognising the possibility of failure as a fundamental necessity for evolution; as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained! The key for brands is to have a series of clearly defined and understood short-term targets that enable swift identification of failure (if it occurs). It is also vital to cultivate a culture where it is permissible to own a failed project. Growth is created as much by recognising and acting upon failure, as it is from building upon your successes.

Win the CFO first

For too long marketers have focused narrowly on engaging solely with the consumer, whilst overlooking the need to also connect with the financial director. Engaging with financial teams may seem counter intuitive, but marketing can be seen as a cost centre rather than an investment. In our opinion that’s because marketers often fail to project and report data to finance. They don’t speak their language, and inevitably fail to connect with the very people who are funding their work. It’s the cardinal sin of generating brand affinity, yet it happens far too often. We avoided this dilemma by combining consumer analysis with a robust financial model, typically a five year cash flow model showing the net returns at the end of the time period.

Within this model we build a series of KPIs ranging from the very short term response, all the way through to net retention rates at year four. When we share these models with finance and other senior management we provide the insight to both the goals we seek, and the risks we face. By speaking their language, and using their modelling techniques for our discipline, we normalise what is often seen as a soft science.

So what is the secret recipe for growth? It’s innovation, mixed with a climate of support and a liberal dash of communication. Marketers must allow their employees to thrive by implementing a receptive culture which supports new ideas and approaches, and provides employees with the space to succeed, as well as potentially fail.

On top of this, we must go after long-term sustainable and importantly, measurable growth, rather than focusing on the short term. Indeed, traditional marketers recognise that it is essential to connect with the consumer to grow, while modern marketers acknowledge that they must also engage with those around them to excel in every facet of their business.

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