Is Your Marketing On Track? The 4 Point Check

We're two months into the new year now and your marketing plan is in full flow. Yes?/No?

Like the rest of us, good intentions are often derailed by new opportunities, fresh ideas and all manner of life getting in the way. If this sounds familiar then the good news is, it's relatively easy to get back on track by considering a few basic questions.

1. What are your marketing objectives?

Look at your marketing plan and remind yourself of the agreed definition of marketing success e.g. increase revenue by X%, drive business growth by Y, produce Z number of new leads per month etc. Keep this on your desk, stick it to your pinboard and refer to it often. Once you start to implement, marketing resources can quickly find themselves stretched. Keeping your agreed objectives visible, helps the business understand where and when you can be flexible.

2. Are your communications working?

Think about what you have to tell the world and make sure you know who cares enough to listen.
  • Look at the months ahead as an ongoing conversation with your target audience(s). Your outreach ideally needs to take them from strangers to your product/service to advocates of it and that doesn’t happen overnight or with one email blast 
  • Make your messaging clear, concise and consistent. Stay away from business speak and make it conversational if possible. Your customers are just as smart as you are, so don’t send communications that you wouldn’t be delighted to receive yourself 
  • Talk benefits rather than features. The only person really interested in your product/service is you. For everyone else you have to create a need, solve a problem or generate enough excitement that they decide to buy 
  • Quality of your content should be the driving force. Before you send anything, think – so what? Never send an email to your installed base telling them you have updated your website, unless there’s an actual benefit to them knowing that (i.e. downloads, discounts etc.). Otherwise you’ve just interrupted their day for nothing and that’s a wasted opportunity 
  • Think about your ‘call to action’ on each communication and prioritize next steps in your outreach based on how your customers respond to the last one, rather than pigeon holing them too early. Make sure to work with your sales team on this one 

3. Keep monitoring which tool(s) are most likely to help you meet your objectives

I’m constantly amazed when companies launch into social media campaigns without knowing why they’re doing them or indeed if the people they’re trying to reach are even on Facebook, Twitter etc.
  • Think combination campaigns, which use multiple channels to reach your audience e.g. if you’re staging an event, you could send an email, set up a micro site, link to this from your blog entry, tweet, post details on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. You’ll also want to produce a printed document for the sales team to leave behind and if you use great imagery you might even get picked up on Pinterest! 
  • Go where your audience are. If your target group read a particular publication then you’d obviously want to advertise there. In the same way, influential bloggers can make or break an idea or campaign. You don’t have to be everywhere - just where your customers are. 
  • Look at how your various customer groups have engaged with you in the past. You’ve probably got multiple data stores, (even if its just excel spreadsheets on each sales persons laptop). Revisiting this information can really help you personalise your outreach 
  • Before selecting, draw up a pros and cons list for each tool which might do the job e.g. Twitter is great for immediate, small amounts of information and interaction, but the immediacy means information is quickly out of date or lost and 140 characters might not do your message justice 

4. Check that your marketing is building the future you hope for - test and measure

Used properly your marketing tactics should not only achieve your immediate goals but also enhance the overall customer experience.
  • Make sure that all outreach adds value to your brand. In this wonderful world of information sharing, you can never really predict where your messaging might go, so craft each piece to reflect your brand values and what your company stands for and you’ll always be proud 
  • Make it clear how customers can contact you, not just to take up the offer, but to provide feedback, ask questions and engage. Remember long-term relationships are built on trust and hiding behind an ‘info@’ email address doesn’t inspire confidence, unless you respond to it within an hour or less (which would then be a definite ‘wow’ factor)

Above all, make sure your marketing delivers on the promises made to your customers. Future years marketing budgets and ultimately customer loyalty, are won or lost on this fact.


4 Key Steps to Marketing Plan Success

Now that 2014 is well underway, the messy business of planning can begin. I know we all think that preparation and resolutions are solely a January pursuit, but in my experience the real planning begins somewhere between recovering from New Year and just before Easter eggs start appearing.

Coffee in hand, it's worth considering the following 4 steps when designing your marketing plan.

Step 1 - Ask

What does your business want to achieve this year and how can marketing contribute to meeting those goals?

Define specifics, (marketing will do XYZ) and then tactics, which are the tools to make XYZ happen (social media, direct mail, campaigns etc).  Asking what your business needs from marketing, makes it far easier to choose tactics and show your contribution month on month.  The result might be something like - increase sales by X% in Y timeframe across Z geography.  With this goal in place you can weigh up the options to decide which marketing activities will have most impact.  These are the bare bones of your marketing plan.

Step 2 - Agree

Make sure everyone in the organisation knows what to expect from marketing by agreeing specifics in advance.  The devil really is in the detail, so make sure you include timelines, budget/resource constraints and a definition of what success looks like.

To go back to the example, increasing sales by X% in Y timeframe across Z geography - this could mean you need to attract more new customers or make existing customers more profitable.  The timeframe set could be to coincide with a product launch or quarter earnings release and the geography target might be building on work done in previous years, or to gain first mover advantage.  Being clear on the “why's”, will clarify future marketing decisions and highlight any budget or resource constraints before they become critical.

Step 3 - Build

Produce a detailed marketing plan.  A month by month overview of marketing activities will highlight any gaps or clashes with projects from other departments and help you see how your brand will reach customers. Remember to show who each activity is aimed at (existing customer, new lead, internal etc) and what you expect the target group to do as a result of each marketing activity. Setting the scene will help your business feel informed and open communication channels.  Without this, sales teams (and others) often develop their own materials, leading to all kinds of mixed messages to your market.

Think of your marketing plan as a story.  What do your potential customers need to know about your company, to help them choose your product over all available alternatives? What are the frequently asked questions you need to address?  Your plan should focus on delivering consistent, relevant and personal information to the waiting world.

Step 4 - Engage
  • Create your marketing plan so your activities flow like a conversation between your company and your audience.  
  • Get your brand recognized both off and online, by using the same fonts, tone, colours and imagery.  
  • Create messaging and employ tools which meet the needs of your audience. 
  • Consult with sales and customer service before crafting content to ensure best fit. 
  • Spend time creating content that resonates.  
  • Show how your product/service solves a problem or provides a benefit.  
  • Think about why customers might use/buy your brand rather than alternatives.  
  • Make it clear what makes your product unique. 
  • Listen for feedback from your customers, fellow employees, bloggers, social media etc.

Simple as it seems, planning is never a sequential exercise, so grab whichever part gets your attention first and get started.  For new businesses much of the above will involve educated guesswork using one of the many free tools available to better understand your target market.

Having a plan means you have something to chart your progress and measure your results against. How else will you know when to crack open the champagne?


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