Holistic Marketing – Meaning, Concepts, and Importance
Marketing is a very diverse field. If you ask ten different marketers to tell you the best marketing approach, there is a high chance you will get ten different answers.
Some will swear by viral marketing, others will swear by brand marketing, others by channel marketing, some by celebrity marketing, and yet others will swear by content marketing.
Actually, there are over 100 different types of marketing. In such an environment, choosing the right approach that will give your business an edge over your competitors becomes quite a challenge.
At the same time, the marketing environment has undergone a lot of changes.
With the rise of the internet and issues such as hyper-competition, globalization, and social corporate responsibility, traditional marketing approaches are no longer effective.
In addition, technological advancements in the last few decades have given everyone the ability to produce cheaper and better products at a faster rate.
This has made it increasingly difficult for businesses to compete on price or quality alone.
Instead, businesses today have been forced to compete using intangible assets, such as customer relationships, brands, customer service, and so on.
According to branding expert Ron Strauss, intangible assets represent 84% of a company’s market value today, but they only made up 17% of a company’s market value in 1975, less than 50 years ago.
In light of these changes in the marketing environment and in the way we do business today, the best and most effective marketing approach is to approach it from a holistic perspective.
The concept of holistic marketing looks at marketing not as an isolated aspect of business, but as an element that needs to be integrated into each and every aspect of the entire business.
This is the only way for a business to remain relevant and profitable in today’s world.
WHAT EXACTLY IS HOLISTIC MARKETING?
There are two major definitions of holistic marketing.
According to the Business Dictionary, holistic marketing is
“a marketing strategy that is developed by thinking about the business as a whole, its place in the broader economy and society, and in the lives of its customers. It attempts to develop and maintain multiple perspectives on the company’s commercial activities.”
Philip Kotler, an American marketing professor and consultant on the other hand defines holistic marketing as a concept that it
“based on the development, design, and implementation of marketing programs, processes, and activities that recognize their breadth and interdependencies. Holistic marketing recognizes that ‘everything matters’ with marketing and that a broad, integrated perspective is necessary to attain the best solution.”
The holistic approach to marketing is based on the premise that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
For instance, in an automobile, there are several different parts.
The engine, the wheels, the brakes, the exhaust system, the electrical system, the steering wheel, you name it.
In order for the automobile to function as it should, not only should each of these parts be working, but they should all be able to work in concert with each other.
The car won’t work very well if the steering wheel works independent from the wheels or any other part.
Holistic marketing uses a similar approach, such that all aspects of the business work together as an interconnected entity with a common goal.
With the holistic approach, marketing is a shared activity that involves everyone related to the business.
Ordinarily, a business is comprised of various departments, such as finance, sales, marketing, HR, R&D, procurement, and so on.
Under the traditional marketing approach, the function of each of these departments was siloed from the rest of the organization.
The marketing and selling of product was the responsibility of the sales and marketing department, while other departments focused on other things.
Under the holistic marketing approach, all the departments within the organization work together towards the marketing and sale of the organization’s products.
They are all required to come together to create a unified and positive brand image in the minds of the customer.
All of them have the responsibility of making sure that the customer buys from the organization rather than the competition.
The holistic marketing approach also encourages the unification of marketing communications.
In today’s environment where customers have multiple channels for gaining information about a company – social media, the company website, paid ads on the internet, traditional mass media channels, brochures, bill boards, and so on – it is very easy for a business to send out a fragmented message.
Unfortunately, this only makes the business lose credibility in the eyes of the customer.
Holistic marketing ensures that a uniform message is sent to the customer regardless of the channel they use to gain information about the company.
This in turn contributes to a stronger brand image.
In addition, the holistic approach considers all the stakeholders who are involved in ensuring the success of a business.
These include the employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, as well as the community in which the business operates.
All marketing decisions are made after considering the impact of the decision on all the stakeholders.
Marketers need to make sure that all marketing decisions are in line with the decisions of the other stakeholders.
Only by doing this can a business survive and thrive in today’s hyper-competitive business environment.
For the holistic marketing approach to be successful, there is need for the following:
- A common goal: The holistic marketing approach requires that all parts and aspects of the business work in harmony towards one common goal of delivering a great customer experience.
- Aligned activities: All business activities, processes, communication and services should be aligned towards the achievement of the common goal of providing a great customer experience.
- Integrated activities: All activities and processes within the business should be designed and integrated in such a way that they work in concert to provide a consistent, uniform and seamless customer experience.
COMPONENTS OF HOLISTIC MARKETING
In the past, marketing typically followed a linear “one-to-many” communication model where the company broadcasted information through one channel to many customers.
Today, this model has become obsolete.
It has been replaced by a “many to many” model where customers can get information about your business from many different channels, some of which you don’t even have any direct control over.
Today, customers’ perception of your business depends is influenced by various channels, including what you post on your social media pages, what their friends are saying about your business on social media, what is on your website, your employees’ behaviors and attitude, both online and offline, what review sites are saying about your business, and so on.
To ensure that there is a unified message despite the broad channels through which customers learn about and interact with your business, the holistic marketing approach has five different components which come together to unify your company’s brand image.
These components are:
This component of holistic marketing is focused on building strong and long lasting relationships with all stakeholders who can directly or indirectly influence the success of the business.
These include the customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, channel partners, regulatory bodies, and financial institutions.
The aim of relationship marketing is to focus on marketing activities that create a strong, emotional bond between the business and these stakeholders and cultivate loyalty from them, rather than simply interacting with them only during transactions.
To do this, the business needs to start by understanding and then meeting the needs, desires and goals of these stakeholders.
The result of effective relationship marketing is a strong marketing network.
When the customers have an emotional connection with the business and are loyal to the business, they are more likely to leave positive reviews about the business, they are more likely to make repeat purchases, and are more likely to recommend the business to their friends, helping project a positive brand image even if you have no direct control over what they say about the company.
When the employees are loyal and have an emotional connection to the business, they are more likely to act in a way that projects a positive brand image, even when they are outside the office.
The same applies to all the other stakeholders.
The stronger the relationship they have with the company, the more likely they will be involved in positively marketing the business, whether directly or indirectly.
Think of a company like Apple.
The company’s customers are very loyal to the brand, and act as the company’s brand ambassadors all over the world.
This has contributed to making Apple the most valuable brand in the world.
Integrated marketing is about creating a unified and seamless customer experience across all the touch points where the customer interacts with the brand and ensuring that all marketing communication – sales promotions, advertisements, digital marketing, print advertising, direct marketing, public relations, etc. – deliver the same message.
Ensuring that all the marketing communication is in sync helps deliver an efficient and effective message to potential customers and projects a strong and focused brand image.
Most companies put a lot of resources on external marketing, but only few of them place any focus on internal marketing.
External marketing is the standard form of marketing that is geared towards customers. Internal marketing, on the other hand, is geared towards the company’s employees.
But why should a business market itself to its employees?
The simple answer is because the employees play a crucial role in marketing the organization and its products to the external customers.
The internal marketing approach requires that the organization’s employees be treated as internal customers who need to be convinced of the organization’s vision and mission.
Internal marketing also involves ensuring that the internal employees are aware of the role they play in the marketing process, even if they are not in the marketing department. Internal marketing also requires the organization to ensure the satisfaction of its employees, since employee satisfaction has a very major influence on customer satisfaction.
Under the internal marketing approach, the organization should hire the right employees, train and motivate them, and inculcate business values in them so that they can provide the highest quality of service to customers.
Employees’ should have full information not only about the organization’s vision and mission, but also about the organization’s products and service.
Without this information, they will do a poor job convincing customers to purchase the organization’s products and services.
Finally, internal marketing is also about ensuring that there is coordination and harmony among all the various marketing functions within the business.
For marketing to be effective, there should be no conflicts between the marketing department and other departments, or within the marketing department itself, since this would negatively affect external marketing as well.
Socially Responsible Marketing
The responsibility of the organization is not limited to its customers. It also extends to the society in which the organization operates.
Socially responsible marketing requires that all marketing decisions and activities should be guided by laws, business ethics, society, and respect to the environment.
The organization should avoid any marketing activities that are socially harmful, even if these activities are economically profitable.
The marketing activities need to be adopt responsible behavior towards the society.
In addition, the organization can also engage in socially responsible marketing through corporate social responsibility and philanthropic activities.
Engaging in corporate social responsibility not only helps the community in which the organization operates, it also helps to enhance the organization’s brand.
This is an often forgotten component of holistic marketing which is focused on the returns of marketing activities to the business.
Marketers should be able to show a return on investment on any resources spent on marketing and to show the effect of these marketing activities on the business.
The five components of holistic marketing come together to ensure that all aspects and departments of the business work together as a single unit with the common goal of increasing sales and delivering a great customer experience.
IMPORTANCE OF THE HOLISTIC MARKETING APPROACH
The holistic marketing approach has a number of benefits. These include:
Like we saw earlier, a company’s brand as well as other intangible assets make up about 84% of the company’s market value, which is a very huge increase from 50 years ago.
In addition, consumers’ approach to shopping is also changing.
Today, customers pay more attention to the brand than the product. This shows that there is need to put greater focus on brand building.
The holistic marketing approach helps build a stronger brand by projecting a positive and unified image among all the company’s stakeholders and across all the touch points through which customers interact with the brand.
Consistence is vital for any brand that wants to remain relevant in the long term.
Today, people and other businesses have less disposable income floating around, and before making any purchase decision, consumers are taking a lot of care to ensure that they are getting worth for their money.
Before buying, consumers will research the company and the product both online and offline.
This is usually done without directly engaging the company.
During this research phase, it is crucial to ensure that the customer experience is consistent across all the channels the customer might opt to use to learn more about your company and products.
An inconsistent experience will make it harder for customers to trust your business, which means you might be losing customers without even knowing about it.
By ensuring that a unified message and brand image is sent out through all channels and to all stakeholders, the holistic marketing approach helps maintain consistency.
Holistic marketing also ensures that all touch points through which customers interact with your business are integrated such that they provide a seamless experience to the customer regardless of where the customer is interacting with your business.
This consistency helps build customers’ confidence and trust in your brand.
We have already seen that the aim of the holistic marketing approach is to ensure that all the aspects of the business are working together in harmony towards a common goal.
When there is such alignment, it becomes a lot easier to ensure that resources are deployed where they will be most effective.
Having all the aspects working in harmony also reduces the likelihood of duplication of effort, making business processes more efficient and helping the organization to save money and time.
Finally, when all aspects and departments are working in concert with each other, it becomes easier to spot opportunities and take advantage of them, and identify potential risks and address them before they pose a real threat to the organization.
The holistic marketing approach focuses on the bigger picture rather than on the smaller details.
This bird’s eye view creates a powerful synergy that effectively enhances your brand positioning and brand messaging in the eyes of your customers.
THE HOLISTIC MARKETING FRAMEWORK
The holistic marketing framework is a process that helps organizations use the holistic marketing approach and the interactions between the organization’s various stakeholders and collaborators to create, renew and maintain customer value.
The holistic marketing framework is comprised of three value based activities, which are:
This is the process through which organizations identifies new opportunities for value creation. In order to develop a value exploration strategy, the organization needs to have an understanding of how the following three spaces interact together:
- The consumer’s cognitive space
- The organization’s competence space
- The collaborator’s resource space
The consumer’s cognitive space refers to your customers’ existing and latent needs, as well as other customer dimensions such as the need for freedom, stability, participation and change.
The organization’s competency space refers to the organization’s capabilities.
The collaborator’s resource space refers to the ability of the organization to partner with other organization’s to either serve the organization’s value creation or to exploit market opportunities.
By evaluating how the relationships between these three spaces and how they interact with each other, business can easily identify new opportunities for value creation.
After identifying value creation opportunities during the value exploration stage, the organization needs to develop value creation skills to take advantage of the opportunity.
In order to do this, marketers need to determine any new benefits the customers want from the customer’s point of view, and then use the organization’s core competencies and strategic partnerships with collaborators to deliver these benefits.
The key thing during this step is to get into the customers minds and understand how they think.
This can be done by observing who the customers interact with, who they admire, and the people that hold the greatest influence over the customers.
Finally, the organization needs to actually deliver value to the customers.
In most cases, this requires the organization to make huge investments in both infrastructure and capabilities.
The organization will also need to become competent in managing customer relationships, internal resources, and business partnerships.
Managing customer relationships means that the organization needs to have a clear idea of who its customers are, their behaviors, and their needs.
This makes it easier for the business to properly respond to customer opportunities.
In order to effectively respond to customer opportunities, the organization needs to be able to able to manage the resources and processes involved in delivering value to the customers.
Finally, the organization needs to be able to manage any business partnerships it will enter into in the delivery of value to customers.
With the changing face of the business environment and increased competition, the holistic marketing concept has emerged as one of the greatest ways for businesses to remain competitive.
Under the holistic marketing approach, marketing is not viewed as an isolated element of business.
Instead, holistic marketers understand that marketing is most effective when all aspects and elements of the business work together towards a common goal of selling products and delivering an exceptional customer experience.
If you haven’t started using the holistic marketing approach yet, give it a try and see the great benefits it will unlock for your business.