One of the topics that’s come up repeatedly in the last couple of days is a misunderstanding of the role of frameworks. You might call them theories or models or concepts, but they’re mostly the same thing: a place to hang your hat, a starting point. A great many people tend to look down on academic models like SWOT, 4P, BCG Growth Matrix, as being useless, antiquated, ivory tower theory with no real world basis. While it’s true that the world changes very rapidly, these frameworks exist to help us solve marketing problems by giving us a place to start.

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See if this sounds familiar: sales are down, traffic is down, and the business is struggling. You as a marketer are brought in to help turn things around, and people look to you as some sort of magician, able to wave a magic wand and bring customers through the door. Where do you start? Do you just start throwing things against the wall and hope something sticks before the company goes out of business?

This is where using the basics comes in handy. Take any of the frameworks you have access to and start matching up the metrics (and the deficiencies) against those frameworks to illuminate where the company is weakest, where the processes are most broken, especially the ones that you have control over. Maybe you start with a basic marketing funnel and map out all of the stages in it, noticing that the gap between lead and customer is especially large. Aha! You’ve found where you need to start. Or maybe you pull out a Growth Matrix, map out the company’s product lines, and realize you’re marketing and investing most heavily in the dogs and not the stars. You now know what you need to change.

Frameworks and academic models aren’t intended to be cookie-cutter solutions or “just add water” recipes. They’re starting points, places for you to hang data, so that you can start to solve the problems your business is facing. If you choose to not learn them, or worse, dismiss them as being useless theory, you will likely find yourself struggling to solve many of your marketing problems, reinventing the wheel every day until your competitors drive you out of business.

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