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Strategic Control — Marketing Control Tools

Audio Version — 9:18

The final of the four primary marketing control tools is strategic control. Every company should occasionally reevaluate its strategic approach to its marketplace. They need to determine if their overall marketing effectiveness — concerning long-term goals — meets their response to the marketing environment by reviewing their approach. Specifically, the review helps determine the firm’s overall strengths and weaknesses and answers the question, 

“How far is company leadership (or marketing leaders) capable of exploiting emerging marketing opportunities and facing potential market challenges and threats?”

Strategic Control Methods

Marketing professionals use four tools to measure strategic control:

Following are brief descriptions of each strategic control tool.

Marketing Effectiveness Review

The marketing effectiveness review involves a thorough analysis of marketing performance to identify if the firm has an effective-performing marketing department or an ineffective one. (See the table on the Traits of a Company with Excellent Marketing Orientation.)

The table below highlights the standards a company should follow when reviewing for marketing effectiveness. Companies that can successfully claim to follow all standards are considered a highly effective marketing organization.

 

Traits of an Excellent Marketing Company
The organization selects target markets it enjoys greater advantages and leaves or avoids markets where it is intrinsically weak.
All company employees are customer-minded and market-minded.
Marketing, R&D, and manufacturing share a good, collaborative working relationship.
The company shares a positive and effective working relationship between marketing, sales, and customer service.
Company incentives are established and lead to the right behavior.
The firm consistently builds and tracks customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
The organization manages a value delivery system in partnership with strong suppliers and distributors.
The company demonstrates knowledge and skill in developing and promoting its brand name(s) and image.
The company demonstrates flexibility in meeting customers' differing needs.

The Marketing Audit

The marketing audit is a comprehensive, systematic, independent, and periodic examination of an organization’s or business unit’s marketing environment, objectives, strategies, and activities. Its purpose is to determine problem areas and opportunities then recommend a plan of action to improve its overall marketing performance.

As mentioned earlier, a marketing audit is composed of four components:

  • Comprehensive
  • Systematic
  • Independent
  • Periodic

I will examine each of the four components:

Comprehensive

Marketing audits cover all aspects of significant marketing activities, avoiding focus on smaller troubled areas. For example, in a B2B company with a large sales force, suppose the company experiences a significant turnover rate within the sales department. One attribution to the substantial turnover could be poor training. Suppose you conduct a thorough marketing audit. In that case, it may reveal that poor or weak company products and sales and marketing promotions lead to a frustrated sales force, which is the cause of a higher turnover.

Conducting a comprehensive marketing audit allows key stakeholders to identify the actual source of the problem.

Systematic

The marketing audit is an orderly (systematic) examination of the company’s:

  • Macro and micro marketing environments
  • Marketing objectives and strategies
  • Marketing systems
  • Specific activities

The marketing audit identifies the essential improvements and incorporates them into a corrective action plan with short-term and long-term actionable steps.

Independent

Whenever company representatives evaluate their operations for audit purposes, they introduce bias and lose objectivity. However, employing a third-party consultant — not associated with the firm — brings objectivity and experience in varied industries they can draw upon in their marketing audits. 

Periodic

Typical firm-level behavior is to conduct a marketing audit only after issues arise and not during effective and positive performance times. Rather than wait for problems to arise, companies should conduct ongoing marketing audits when they are in good health and when their marketing systems are failing. Periodically conducting an audit can benefit a company and keep them from falling short in its marketing initiatives.

An effective marketing audit requires an explicit agreement between company officers and the marketing auditor regarding the audit’s objectives, timeframe, and who gets to ask the questions.

The marketing audit’s general rule is:

Don’t rely solely on company managers for data and opinions. Ask customers, dealers, and any other outside stakeholder or group.

Most firms are not fully aware of how their customers and dealers view them, nor do they fully understand the needs of their customers. 

Marketing Excellence Review

The marketing excellence review encompasses three performance categories in regards to their level of marketing excellence:

  • Poor 
  • Good
  • Excellent

Each category identifies a list of traits that a firm practices regarding marketing initiatives. Excellent marketing companies initiate a series of best practices that ensure they have achieved marketing excellence. See the Marketing excellence chart in the article titled, Does Your B2B Company Measure up to Marketing Excellence? 

The Ethical and Social Responsibility Review

An ethical and social responsibility review is undertaken by companies that set higher standards for their overall existence and operations. These types of companies are socially conscious toward their employees, customers, community, and environment.

As part of the ethical and social responsibility review, organizations must examine their marketing policies and practices and determine whether they are ethically and socially valid. In the same way, marketing practices should adhere to societal norms and values; a company’s products, policies, and practices must not negatively impact its customers, stakeholders, and the community.

Some standards used to review the ethical and social responsibility of an organization may include the following list.

  • The company should have a clear set of definitions for the meaning of illegal, immoral, and antisocial activities.
  • The firm actively practices, promotes and communicates its moral principles (company values) while holding its employees responsible for observing the values.
  • A company makes contributions to the social welfare of its employees.
  • The company follows all local, state, and federal laws and regulations that relate to social responsibility.
  •  They are actively engaged in business ethics in the product, price, promotion, and distribution (placement).

Companies that fall short in achieving excellence in their ethics and social review can better determine how to correct their actions to serve their employees, customers, and community. 

Summary

Conducting a strategic control review requires a complete commitment from an organization’s leadership. Leadership should conduct strategic control reviews frequently to see if the organization meets its objectives. If they are not meeting their objectives, they should have a plan to improve their strategic goals.

Marketing professionals have four strategic control methods at their disposal to evaluate the company’s strategic readiness. The methods include:

Each method has its own set of criteria to follow in determining its effectiveness. Companies that regularly engage in strategic control review and conduct marketing audits are market-oriented and better positioned to excel in their respective market environments.