Reflecting on 14 years in business: three core beliefs to nurture in 2022 for our clients’ (and our) continued success

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Believe it or not, the year 2022 numerologically is a very special year. It might not feel like it at the moment as we enter the third year of the pandemic and case numbers surge with the Omicron variant running rife through most parts of the world, but according to numerologists, 2022 is a master number and represents the manifestation of miracles, new horizons and balance.

In many ways, it is very fitting that the Manning & Co group celebrates 14 years in business this year. Not a number to sniff at or take lightly. Certainly no longer a start-up or a small player; without a doubt, we are a well-established and growing international mid-sized firm. We have the accolades and credentials to support this, but really the proof is in the pudding so to speak, with several of our clients choosing to partner with us for years, even at the height of the COVID crisis when they may have had to let other partners go.

As we continue to nurture our clients – who have become part of our family – and welcome new companies as well as new team members, earlier this week I paused to reflect on the journey to date and the future ahead.

With the team, we delved into what goes into our secret sauce: the things that we need to treasure and protect in our business as we move into this next phase, as well as the things we need to focus on for the year ahead to support our clients given where the market is headed.

Here are three things that as a business we must continue to nurture and that are key to our clients’ successes in 2022.

Three things that M&C must continue to nurture in 2022

#1. Marketing as a strategic function

One of the things we must continue to nurture as a business is our belief that marketing is a strategic function that needs to be treated accordingly. Marketing is not merely a transactional function revolving around events and branded pens and notepads – a common perception that I saw often in my early marketing career more than 20 years ago, and unfortunately still encounter too frequently in certain industries and geographies.

As a seasoned marketing professional, partnering with companies and helping them to achieve a more strategic, holistic and integrated lens of their marketing campaigns is just as much needed today as it was 14 years ago when Manning & Co was first born. This is in contrast to an ad hoc, shoot from the hip, one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, or treating it as an afterthought.

If anything, marketing needs to be viewed more strategically by companies and prioritised now more than ever! Traditional forms and a siloed approach to marketing really don’t cut it in today’s changing omnichannel world, where digital channels remain the main avenue of marketing communication given the latest disruptions due to Omicron.

The challenge however is that there is a lack of strategic marketing talent. Companies struggle to find experienced professionals who are well versed at this; who understand strategic, integrated marketing. How do you connect the dots and develop a strategic content marketing and thought leadership program suitable for the plethora of digital channels that now exist in an integrated and outcomes-focused way?

At Manning & Co, it is what we do day in and day out, and it is at our very core. But I have realised over the years, that while this is natural for us and simply what we do, very few know how to do this well. It is what is needed in 2022 by most companies in most sectors and what we will continue to promote with our clients and others as we move into this next phase.

#2. A partnering approach is the way to go

Partnering with our clients is what Manning & Co thrives on and has been built on. It is in our DNA, intrinsic to the way we work. I only learnt though over the last 5 years from my time in Asia, that this is not necessarily the approach of all marketing consultancies or marketing agencies as is the preferred term in some parts of the world. For me the term “agency” speaks to a transactional relationship – you are my agency, I pay your fees and you service me. Don’t get me wrong, servicing is front and centre in all that we do; however, we like to take a partnership approach, where our focus is on helping our clients wherever we can take the pain away for them.

Yes, we have our way of working – processes, structure and formulas – however, we are always prepared to go above and beyond, to take the time to understand our clients’ businesses intimately and promote being as integrated as much as we can, to deliver a high performance as if we were of an extension of their team.

We are problem-solvers and will always find a way to help our clients. To be more strategic in delivering on business outcomes via marketing, our clients need partners to lift them up, to provide unconditional support and to help transfer significant marketing knowledge and experience along the way so that there is upskilling of internal marketing talent as well.

My advice to companies in 2022: think of your external providers as partners. Let them add value by bringing you expert ideas, by working with them on your requirements along with listening to best practices and suggestions to help you get where you need to and achieve your business goals. Like any professional service, your marketing providers can be strategic partners that can really help you through a year where businesses will need to continue to compete digitally to get ahead.

We will continue to partner with our clients as we always have done and will help those who are new to this kind of working relationship realise the value along the way.

#3. Doing business the ‘heart’ way

There is nothing wrong with having a heart when you do business, especially when you are driving a business like ours. We give our clients our all. We believe in what we do. We believe you can have a real impact when you approach marketing strategically, when you have great execution and project management making things happen, and when you are ethical in how you conduct business. Manning & Co has always had heart in all that we do. We have passion. We have purpose. We do more than provide marketing services; we help make a positive difference to businesses by helping them grow through initiatives that benefit all stakeholders – be that customers, shareholders or the community at large.

Even though we are operating in a highly digital environment and will continue to do so in 2022, you have to be human in business. You need to connect with your customers, have empathy, and be genuine and ethical. You need to be able to communicate effectively to do this.

Businesses must work out how to master this in an environment that is remote and largely disconnected from human interaction. Having heart and caring is something that we aren’t afraid to claim or show, as it is in our DNA and not something we have to try and do. We are proud that we care so much about our clients’ businesses. We are proud that we will go out of our way to help make things happen. Some might see the concept of having heart and caring as wishy-washy, but I see it as good business.

People don’t want to deal with heartless brands or companies. People want to deal with businesses that stand for something, who do business the right way, who are good at what they do, are friendly to deal with and who make doing business easy while caring about what is going on around them.

Speaking from a position of walking the talk, we look forward to helping companies also find their ‘why’ this year. What is at the core of your business and why do you exist? Why do you care about what you do? Companies need to get familiar with their own ‘why’ and learn how they too can do business with heart and passion this year.

So, these are three things that I am most protective about in the brand we have built over the last 14 years. These are things that we will continue to nurture ourselves in the year ahead with our clients. And these are three things that we will help our clients to embrace and master in the months to come.

May 2022 be a more positive year ahead for all, despite the challenges that many have already faced in these first few weeks. Stay strong and remember to be strategic with your marketing to drive sustainable business outcomes, value your partners around you who can help you through this time, and connect into your why to ensure you can continue with heart this year in business – I think the world needs that right now.