Caught in the Doldrums

If you are familiar with sailing, you’ll know that the doldrums are a calm on the seas – that down time when there is no wind, hardly any current and you are waiting for a breeze to pick up. When the wind was still the only way to propel ships across the ocean, finding yourself in the doldrums could mean death. Even today, leisure and competitive sailors attempt to cross the zone as quickly as possible. I believe most of the MRM sailing fleet of vendors are stuck in the doldrums, waiting for something to happen, hoping for a strong wind.

One of my favorite books as a child was The Phantom Tollbooth. One of the best scenes was when the main character, Milo, gets caught in the doldrums and has to find a way to get out. In the book, the doldrums are a place where thinking and laughing is forbidden. The people who live in the doldrums are very busy all day, doing nothing. But the only way to get out of the doldrums is by doing what is forbidden: Thinking and Laughing. Because if we think hard enough about what needs to change in our lives and are able to laugh at our mistakes, then change is possible.

So why do I think most MRM vendors are stuck in the doldrums? That eerie place where nothing seems to happen, while money is being spent all around them in marketing?

First of all: the doldrums are always there, so there is literally no way around the phenomenon. But you can choose the right crew and gear, and pick the right time when a favorable wind and current will drive you towards them. With a little bit of luck, you’ve gained enough speed to glide across to an area where there is lots of wind. When it comes to Marketing Resource Management, the wind that can help you through the doldrums is the money and manpower that can change the marketing landscape with the help of MRM solutions.

Ahead of the fleet there are the vendors who have crossed the doldrums and are capitalizing on their existing client base. These happy few picked the right crew, the right platform, the right strategy, the right clients, the right timing. Or maybe they were just lucky. Those who are stuck in the middle can either follow or make a bold move to steer away from the group and pick a course (a marketing strategy) so bold it may disrupt the market. Now is the time for them to laugh and think. At the back of fleet, spirits are low.  They might as well turn back and grab a pint in the pub where the spirits are high.

But being bold and disruptive isn’t the only option. Some are on the lookout for a gust of wind, that gentle breeze. In marketing terms: they focus on Need Based Segmentation, offering point solutions to demonstrate quick wins. By doing this, they are slowly moving the boat forward.

But all of this can change again if a second perfect storm suddenly appears, the sailing equivalent of the notorious double dip. This could mean serious damage and can set the whole fleet back a couple of years. Vendors should ask themselves: What’s our position, what is our strategy, do we have enough food and water to survive a storm?

In any case: never rest, not for a second.

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Author:Dennis Steen

Founder & CEO Capital ID BV. Dennis studied Advanced Information and Communication Studies. He had consecutive executive positions in Public Relations, Internet Consultancy and Information Technology companies. He stepped out of the business arena for two years to spend time on a 46ft catamaran. Linkedin profile:

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