Non-market strategies

Marketers are generally comfortable with the notion that we can shape client expectations, build barriers to competitors, enhance business relationships and mould our market environment. We also happily engage in initiatives to demonstrate that our firms are great corporate citizens.

However, we are collectively less comfortable with trying to mould our social and political environment, despite the substantial ‘non-market’ context in which we operate. Here, political characteristics prevail – majority rule, due process, broad enfranchisement, collective action, etc. Interactions may be voluntary, such as lobbying government departments, but are often involuntary for example coping with new legislation and regulations.

It seems certain that Brexit will result in major disruption to UK business over many years:
•    At a market level, our expertise can generate revenues through helping clients navigate the shoals and rapids.
•    At a ‘non-market’ level, the record can finally be set straight over our sector’s significant contribution to the communities that we serve. The catalyst here is the recent emphasis on Industrial Strategy. Government knows that the UK holds a very strong position in professional and business services. We can therefore expect to be designated as a priority sector.

The snag is that government knows very little about our sector, particularly the issues impacting smaller firms. The reason is simple. Professional firms may be excellent at promoting their products (technical expertise and the quality of their client-facing advisors), but they have made little or no effort to promote the leadership and management excellence that lie behind our sector’s exceptional financial performance. Our levels of employee engagement and therefore productivity are also dramatically higher than those experienced by our ‘command & control’ clients, yet our expertise is seldom sought on these fundamental management issues.

Mutual engagement with government to share plans, priorities, constraints, culture and world class business models is essential. Otherwise, the evolving Industrial Strategy is likely to be sub-optimal. The good news is that government is in listening mode…

At the beginning of a new year, where do we start? When next updating your firm’s business or marketing plans, seek to develop both market and ‘non-market’ strategies. Recognise the differences between the two environments while aiming for an integrated and coherent approach.

Richard Chaplin, Founder, PM Forum