A client came to us for outsourced marketing services. Among other challenges, they’d been spending their time on marketing tasks that weren’t producing results. They were marketing without a strategy. A weekly podcast, for example, took hours of work with zero traction. They had a feeling that it was a total waste of time and money, but they weren’t sure where they’d gone off course.
Reactive vs. informed choices
Great marketing is the union of creativity and planning. Like many growing companies, you have excellent creative ideas. Is it worth all the expense and staff time to discover that the idea was a bust, months into the project?
On the surface, it’s easier to go churn out marketing materials on the fly when the sales team needs new collateral. But there’s a major downside to reactive, ad hoc marketing.
Marketing without a strategy: When the spaghetti hits the wall
Perhaps the sales team is in a panic. They want something they can send prospective customers. A sales sheet? An ebook? An infographic? Ads? These are all great ideas, but they cannot occur in a vacuum.
A good solid marketing program needs a plan. It’s the best way to avoid spaghetti marketing, in which the team throws ideas on the wall to see what sticks. If you are marketing without a strategy, you’re losing precious time and money. No business can afford that.
Four essential marketing planning questions
1. What is the overall marketing budget?
Depending on the type of business, marketing spend can vary between one and 12 percent of overall revenue, according to the US Small Business Administration. B2C companies generally allocate on the higher side of that scale. Convene with company leadership to determine what you can spend overall before even considering what you are going to do with the funds.
2. Who is the audience?
You may have a great product or service, but have you truly considered what your buyers want? A common mistake businesses make is to assume attributes of potential customers. Find out what problem your audience needs to solve. Determine their daily stresses, what products are they already using, and what they care about most.
Never assume that because you think you have a great product, everyone else will, too. So often, companies will talk about how great their product is, but if that sentiment doesn’t align with the audience, efforts will go nowhere.
Find out where your audience is, and understand buying behavior. That’s more powerful information than finding out what they think about your product. Persona research could tell you, for example, that your audience isn’t the type to listen to a podcast. You’ll learn how your target buyer makes decisions. Maybe it’s by interviewing customers or consulting a committee. When you have a clear view of what your target cares about and how they go about making purchase decisions, you can tailor your programs to those concerns.
3. What works for similar companies?
Competitor research yields rich results. Check out successful companies in your industry that have similar goals. Look at their websites to see what resources they’ve published. Understanding what the competition is doing provides a great starting point for your own testing on what works and what doesn’t.
4. What’s worked in the past?
Look back at your marketing past efforts and see what converted leads most effectively. Are your email blasts converting effectively? Perhaps you’ve seen good results with social media ads. Build on your successes, and continue testing and tracking your efforts.
Create a marketing plan
Once you’ve done your audience research, it’s time to ask the tough questions. Before you even consider the long list of options available to the marketing team, take an objective look at the public face of your business. Is your brand even working in the first place? Are you going to market with the right message and positioning? Is your website effective at converting leads? Do your campaigns align with their sales goals?
Make a list and prioritize accordingly. A spreadsheet (or task management platform of choice) helps you see the plan, month by month. Don’t be afraid to adjust things to react to trends and news that your audience needs to know. Products evolve, and so should marketing.
The antidote to ad hoc marketing
Let’s face it. Creating a long term marketing plan can feel like an overwhelming task, and that’s the main reason businesses fall back on ad hoc marketing. Remember the client with the podcast? When we told them they could hit the pause button, they were flooded with relief.
The best investment you can make for your business is to bring in seasoned marketing professionals who can construct a clear roadmap to ROI. Play to your strengths. Delegate effectively.
Looking for more tips? Download the guide to 50 B2B Marketing Tips.
Ready to take your marketing to the next level? Schedule a free consultation with our CEO, Deb Andrews.