First Thing’s First
Maybe I should first start by saying to never ignore the planning phase of marketing to begin with! Because that seems to happen a lot, much to my amazement. That’s an entirely different blog post. More to come on that topic later.
For now, let’s assume we’re all on board and ready to develop a marketing strategy. Or to revisit our existing strategy and work to improve it (which we should all be doing along the way, anyways).
Where Do You Begin?
I always recommend starting with a discovery workshop. Face-to-face. Talk to each other. Your marketing strategy is going to be far less effective – and more difficult to advance – if you’re working in a silo. Involve others. Ask questions. Review business plans already in place. Get together. But do so in an organized manner. Have an agenda. Bring in a facilitator. Keep it collaborative.
For that discovery session, there are few key topics you should always be sure to cover.
- Your Business
- Your Offering
- Your Audience
- Your Brand
- Your Success Metrics
By talking through these topics with others in your organization – in this workshop environment – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how effectively you can work through areas of dispute upfront in this process. Saving the pain of someone shutting you down after you’ve invested too much of your blood, sweat and tears to get a campaign prepped for market.
Seems silly to even bring up, right? Well, it would be certainly be silly if you ignored it. And you’d be surprised how many marketing teams forget to – or choose not to – include other areas of their organization. Like sales. Or forget to reference the business plan that likely already exists in their organization. Knowledge is power. Use what you’ve got!
When in that room talking about your business, be sure to ask questions like:
- What are our current business challenges?
- What are our market challenges?
- Who are our competitors?
- What is trending in market right now?
- What is our future vision?
- What is the market predicting?
- What are our overarching business objectives?
The answers to these questions are all pretty critical to understand before you start talking about a marketing plan. So ask the questions.
Having a clear understanding of your product or service offerings, including revenue breakout by such areas as market, product, service and beyond, will also assist in determining where you should strategically invest your marketing dollars. Work with your team to map out things such as:
- Number of products and services you offer
- Highest and lowest revenue and margin contributors
- Division of revenue by market
- Future product vision
- Sales process – how you go to market
You might determine that one market is more relevant to invest money in than another. Or that from a financial perspective, one product or service offering is worth emphasizing above and beyond some others. You might discover a disconnect in your understanding of how your sales team actually goes to market versus how a piece of paper says they are going to market. Know your product and how it’s being sold before you start deciding how to market it.
You’ve now discussed the business and financial side of things. A must. But the next mandatory is looking at your audience. Because they are as equally important of a topic as those just discussed. If not more. Because they sort of drive your financial success. And should also be the ones that help determine what your messaging will ultimately be – as well as where you should be messaging it.
Talk about all your audiences, and discuss such things as:
- Who your various audience are and the relevance of each on your business
- Who your priority audiences are, and why they are considered a priority
- Which roles within your various priority audiences you should be focused on
- What makes these priority audiences tick – what keeps them up at night, what excites them and what you offer to address those areas of concern or interest
- How these priority audiences feel about your offering
- How these audiences seek out information about your product or other similar products
- How your customers work through the buyer’s journey and what you are doing at each phase to keep them moving through that cycle
The discovery workshop is often simply the beginning of what might later turn into a more robust audience study, where you can then back up these initial discussion points with more quantifiable data.
Understanding your point of differentiation in market is critical to successfully setting your company apart from your competition. There are a ton of articles you could reference on the impending death of brand loyalty (or the fact that it’s already occurred), so it’s more important than ever to stand out and stay true to your audience and their needs – to have a brand differentiation strategy.
This is an awesomely collaborative portion of discovery workshops as you work through topics such as:
- Why us? Why are we the cool kids on the block? What makes us stand out from the rest?
- Why change? Why should someone actually consider making a change and move over to our world?
Before taking your focus off your brand, take a few moments to now document your existing company assets. What do you currently have in place that can help communicate this message and engage your audience?
I love this portion. Hopefully everyone leaves feeling the brand love.
Your Success Metrics
Eventually, it will be important to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what will ultimately prove the success of your marketing efforts. While specific success metric identification doesn’t need to all be figured out at this point in time (since you haven’t actually formulated a plan yet), it is helpful to understand upfront what initial metrics might include, as well as understanding what type of metrics are currently available.
So what should you be talking about?
- What success looks like – how you think you can best justify your marketing spend
- Financial metrics – outline the financial metrics you current track (i.e., top line revenue)
- Productivity metrics – outline the productivity metrics you current track (i.e., new customer acquisitions)
- Performance behavior metrics – things like turnover, customer service and engagement – document what you feel is most important to your efforts
Identify the things that will ultimately help you secure – and keep – your marketing budget. Believe it or not, not everyone in your organization believes in investing in marketing. What?!? Let’s find a way to prove them wrong.
Well – that can take up a few days of your time! Now what?
Now your facilitator documents all of that great intel (which is why it’s sometimes worth investing in a consultant to help with this phase). From there, you’ll be in a great position to identify next steps based on all the great information now documented. You might discover the need for more research – be this brand research, audience research or competitive research. You might recognize the need for a messaging strategy, or a brand face-lift. But at some point, you’ll have all of the parts and pieces to come up with that amazing marketing strategy to get you where you want to be.
And getting there is a beautiful thing.