The Weekend Warrior –
One of the many things that surprised me last week is the discovery that many companies in Oman, regardless of how established they are, do not have a proper marketing and communications department.
I discovered this the hard way making calls to 15 companies and was told by more than half of them that they do not have such a department so my call will be forwarded to somebody else mostly to sales people whose main goal was to acquire new clients.
The information that I needed was beyond sales. The purpose of me reaching out was for a feature story I was developing. My intention was getting to know their company, trying to understand what they do, what their products are and what makes them different or what their competitive advantages are among other things.
While I understand that businesses are structured differently and people are allocated according to how important they are to the overall operation and bottom line, what stupefied me is the fact that these are not SMEs I was calling but companies that had been in operation for over 10 years and that continuously, year by year, making good profit (at least in my assumption).
The fact is, SMEs actually have better marketing and communication strategy because despite their operation being small, many of them know the importance of getting their names across so they have specifically dedicated people monitoring their social media and digital platforms and have people ready to answer questions.
One of the most memorable calls was answered by a receptionist of a big company that manages different popular food products in Oman. She was clueless about what I was talking about. I had to explain that I needed someone who can answer questions because it is related to an interview. I had to wait for about 10 minutes, end up being transferred to a manager who passed me to a few more other people.
I was hoping they’d brought up that they hired a third party to handle their PR and marketing but even that seemed to be a foreign idea to them.
While waiting to be entertained, I was left wondering: So how do they survive? In a time when everything is about traditional and social media promotion, is it enough to bank on an established name?
When people can engage with company products in real time, when users can provide good or bad feedback in but a few keystrokes, how do these companies respond? Is an established name enough to continuously ensure financial success year after year? What happens when a crisis arises? Who handles crisis management? Or do these companies just assumed that bad things can never happen to them?
Having worked in the digital marketing industry earlier, I feel a little worried and disappointed at how ill-equipped many of them are in transforming their businesses and readying them for further development and growth. I was disappointed that nobody can give me answer to questions about what they are all about — the most basic information of all.
If there is one thing I know, it is that success is a fickle thing that needed to be watered. Innovation is its primary fertiliser and marketing and communications are the help it needs to prosper.
The vital role of marketing and communications in every organisation cannot be ignored. Serving as the face of the company, this department is expected to represent the image of the brand, reach out to more customers and in this day and age, create, communicate and promote engagement among users.
Waiting on the line for 10 minutes made me think of Nokia, a very popular brand that was leading the mobile industry in the late 90s, for some reason. In their playbook, they think they were doing all the right things. Except for one thing. They did not innovate enough. So it was eventually overshadowed. Among new generation of phone users, Nokia is not a popular compared to Apple and Samsung.
The success and failure of businesses depend on the people who work on them. It depends a lot on how they manage their manpower and what sections they prioritise. As an outsider looking in, it’s always easy to spot which are doomed to failure.