I’ve just read a good article in Forbes about effective marketing. If you skip over the naff headline, there’s a lot of sense in it and it struck a chord with my experience …

Too many organisations, the author says, focus on ‘small marketing’ instead of ‘big marketing’. These aren’t the terms I’d use but I agree with the principles.

What he means is they dive into marketing tactics—a web site, a direct marketing push, a social media campaign etc—without a without a focused strategy to guide what they’re doing.

Exactly who are your customers? What do they want?  What do you really have to offer? Do you articulate that in clear, compelling terms?  Where are the best places to tell your story?  What are the best ways to tell it?

Work that out first and then get on with ‘doing’ marketing and communications.

But too many people do things first—and work out the best strategy not at all. This usually shows through in their output:  web sites, brochures, presentations, press interviews and so on that are obscure, confused, misshapen, half-baked—or all of these. You can probably think of your own examples.

By no means does addressing the bigger picture need to mean a long, ponderous, navel-gazing exercise. It’s about being clear, precise and inspirational.

Of course this is all conceptually straight-forward, but I’m glad the Forbes article acknowledges the difference between ‘simple’ and ‘easy’. In practice, this clarity is often tough to achieve—especially by company managers working internally as it can be hard to be objective.

But it is vital to crack this. A clear view of your customer and a cleverly articulated message is at the heart of marketing and communications that will really make an impact.