When asked for their marketing objectives, clients will often say, “I want more sales,” or, “I want more donations, more members, more growth.” Unfortunately, this all-too-common response puts too much emphasis on the outcome rather than on clear objectives, strategy and process that can lead to the desired outcome.
Sales are an outcome of activities (tactics) guided by an objective and supported through strategy. That is why developing a marketing plan before spending money on tactics is important. However, we have better informed and more demanding consumers, along with rapidly changing and expanding digital mediums. This can cause some exasperation when formulating that strategy.
But there is no need to reinvent the well-established principles of marketing. Instead, focus on the fundamentals.
- Have a clearly defined objective. An objective is a clearly articulated and measurable outcome (e.g., a 5 percent increase in sales from a new product line within one year). Each objective needs to have a plan. If the investment your company is making in marketing is not supporting the overall objective of the business, then your marketing plans are out of alignment. Know your business objectives first and then align your marketing objectives to them.
- Do your homework. Once you establish the objective, conduct a classic gap analysis. What do you know, what don’t you know (that you need to), and how are you going to get the insights? What is your competition doing? What are the trends in your industry? Data is not enough — use your data to synthesize insights, which in turn can guide your marketing strategy.
- Know your target audience. This is arguably the most important component of any marketing strategy. Too often, especially in a B2B company, there is this notion of having developed the most awesome product or service, and when you tell the world, customers will flock to you. Do your research. Ask how your product or service will improve the lives of your target audience. To answer that, you need to get to know them. Learn how they think. Understand how they feel and act when something triggers a need for a product or service.
- Know your brand. Authenticity is key. It comes down to the basic virtue of doing what you say. Has your company established a clear and inspiring vision and mission? What is your value proposition — what are your customers going to get in exchange for their time and money, and what are your employees expected to deliver on a consistent basis? Taking it a step further, and ask, when is the last time you reviewed your company values and how they are being applied?
- Create great experiences. The traditional marketing funnel model has evolved into an ongoing fluid journey. We live our lives with needs and wants and endless distractions while being constantly bombarded with brands. But if the right message intercepts us through channels we use and aligns with what we believe will make our lives better, we will take the time and energy to consider what is being offered, and hopefully share our experience with others and come back for more.
So, when things get crazy or seem overly complicated, go back and focus on the basics. Clearly define your objective, never forget who your customer is, be true to your brand and create great experiences. ●
Dean Ilijasic is co-founder of Long & Short of It