Put marketing before design. Seriously.

“We’ve got some new products, can you help us market them?”

“We’ve designed a new website, we need to let people know.”

“We’ve launched a new service, now we need people to buy it.”

“We’ve got a new brand, can you launch it for us?”

“Of course,” I reply. “How far down the line are you?” And all too often, people have left marketing until the last minute. That’s not a problem. It’s what we’re used to. Fast, rapid response to get instant results. However, once, maybe just once, it would be great if we got the call right at the beginning.

It got me thinking. Why is it that even after all this time, marketing is considered usually when people have got all the other aspects in place? For many people it’s because they haven’t got anything to talk about before that. At least, that’s the most common reaction.

Perhaps it’s also just the word. Marketing. Tends to bring up images of ‘going to market’, something closely aligned with selling your wares.

But from my perspective, that’s the first and possibly the biggest lost opportunity. As business owners we can get caught up with doing the next big thing, coming up with a brand new concept and ideas, getting all creative. Of course, that’s the fun part. We usually have put figures beside it and have some sort of strategy that supports our idea. By now the cash has usually gone, and now we need to prove that it works. Quickly.

We call up marketing and PR people to give us a hand to get the word out there. We have to do it cheaply because, as I’ve said, the money is gone. Up until this point, many of us haven’t spoken to anyone at all. The pressure is on. If it doesn’t go according to the (non-existent) plan, the fun really begins.

The sales people blame the marketing people that no one knows about the latest doobrey whatsit. Marketing says that it takes time to build a brand and reputation, no one knows about us after all. If you’re in the middle of this blame game, you know it’s not fun.

We go round in circles. Doing a lot but achieving very little.

But there is a different way.

When you have a new product to launch, involve marketing right at the beginning. In fact, why not let your marketing people go and talk to the market – your customers and potential customers – about what they need. Ask for their input. Use their advice to define what you’re offering and how you talk about it. From your design, packaging, product design, service descriptions, sales materials and marketing plan – let your market inform it all.

And if you need to test what you’ve developed, that’s a great opportunity to go back to them for further input. They become engaged in what you’re creating. They become invested in the process.

Then when you’re ready to launch. Go back to the market. Tell them what you’ve found out. That you’ve listened and created something they need. Tell your customers that there is demand for what you’re offering (you’ve got the facts to prove it). Perhaps those customers who were involved will become your early adopters.

If it’s too late to do this on your next project or the one after that, don’t worry. We’re used to working like that. But do remember there is another way of doing it. One that makes it easier and the results better.