Business

Marketers need to market themselves better!

With a very different landscape looming large, how are businesses going to market themselves? Tony McKeown, chief executive of Silverwood Smart Marketing, a new full-service agency based in Newry, believes now more than ever that the marketing profession needs to be seen and heard

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OPERATING in a small economy has meant that businesses here have always had to work incredibly hard to grow.

But thankfully we have many inspirational success stories of entrepreneurs and brands who have done just that, not just nationally but internationally.

In my own city, the likes of First Derivatives, Norbrook and more recently StatSports are some great examples. They make me proud to call Newry home, and are a real inspiration.

These businesses have been able to spot a customer need and meet it with a great product or service, almost intuitively so. This is real marketing at its best – if you read any business book it will tell you that you need put the customer at the heart of your business.

However, too often the marketing function, in other words those professionals who are supposed to be central to customer understanding, are not always at the top table. There are not many Northern Ireland jobs who have the title of chief marketing officer or marketing director.

To make this change happen, I think the north's marketing industry needs to take a look in the mirror. Those in the most senior role need to work more in collaboration, share ideas, encouraging professional qualifications and training.

A directory of chartered marketers in Northern Ireland, shows there are currently less than 100. This is tiny in comparison to around 4,000 chartered accountants and over 3,000 chartered surveyors members here.

On the face of it, these numbers reinforce the perception that marketing is not as strategic as other roles. The pathways to professional qualifications after graduating from some of our fantastic universities, is perhaps not as well promoted as accountancy.

However, I'm delighted to see that the Chartered Institute of Marketing has recently announced changes to its chartered status. They have opened up a new route via continued professional development (CPD), rather than just academic.

For those who have three years' experience (or level six qualification) or have completed two years of recorded CPD followed by an assessment, can qualify. This move is to be welcomed by all, including myself, who like many others have not prioritised becoming chartered.

For graduates and school leavers, there should be better signposting and encouragement to upskill. I have worked with many fantastic people who invested time and effort into CIM qualifications. This has a direct impact on their job satisfaction, salary and in turn their company's performance.

So, during the Covid-19 lock down, I would encourage marketers to upskill, take part in seminars and get that qualification you said you would do someday. There's no time like the present.

When we come out the other side of this crisis, let's get together, share best practice, collaborate because one thing is for certain, business is going to need effective marketers more than ever!

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