The difference between career-vaulting wins and career-damaging failures often lies in how the details of a company's marketing program are executed. Campaigns are frequently derailed in one of three areas: strategy development, message platform construction and implementation of tactics. A disconnect at any of these key junctures can result in program failure.
Successful marketing utilizes these tactics, helping ensure a campaign's success--and the team's continued place on the payroll.
The leading cause of strategy failure is over-complexity of the campaign plan. A team brain-dump of ideas on a whiteboard often renders campaigns difficult to launch, almost impossible to track, and usually doesn't translate into success at the field level.
A common downfall is "marketing by committee," where stakeholders across an organization come together to build a strategy. Differences in perspective, experience and responsibility can lead organizations down the path of consensus-based marketing. Different product marketing groups want their wares included, regardless of the original purpose of the effort. Advertising, social media, public relations, digital marketing and program management all have different areas of emphasis and want a seat at the table.
Although integrated marketing campaigns are vital, divided ownership of strategy usually results in prolonged program development timelines, ballooning budgets and a mash-up of unmanageable tactics. The best campaigns start with a simple, clear objective. They have one leader who involves key stakeholders for support of the vision, communicates objectives and cooperative marketing elements, and finally, manages the timeline, budgets and ROI expectations.
Democracy has no role in developing effective campaign strategies.
It is critical that organizations consider their product or service offerings from their prospects' perspective. Lack of empathy for the potential customer's situation quickly leads to a messaging disconnect.
It's common to believe that the target audience cares about your product or service. Prospects and customers care about improving their business, its productivity and budgets. They care about the problems that cause them angst, about their careers and about their professional success. They don't care about widgets, wondrous innovations, engineering marvels or brilliant service offerings--unless they can clearly see how these substantially improve the things they do care about.
Don't assume that the audience understands a product, service or industry jargon. Odds are, they speak a different business language. Watch out for acronyms; they often mean different things, even within the same industry.
Don't attempt to convey multiple messages. The temptation to tell an entire organization's story and feature multiple products and services results in saying nothing. Odds are, your audience doesn't need, or care about, everything you offer. Successful marketing campaigns convert a few percent of the target audience into qualified leads--something that is seldom done by trying to sell an entire product line in one campaign.
A message platform should be constructed from a customer-care perspective. Engage sales teams to help identify tangible benefits that your products or services provide to existing customers. They understand why people buy from you. The message needs to be simple, with minimal jargon. Get to the point of the problems you solve.
Finally, be realistic about your call to action. A business-to-business marketing campaign can't be counted on to sell big-ticket or complex products or services, but it should allow your sales team that opportunity.
Implementation of Tactics
So the strategy is sound, the messaging is concise and clear, and now the rubber hits the road and the campaign goes to market. To get the expected results, message delivery vehicles have to be rock-solid.
Email blasts play a role in nearly everyone's marketing, but don't rely on email alone. Declining open rates are a fact of life. Internal opt-in email lists should perform well, but rarely do the quantities suffice to meet campaign targets. Outside lists must be tested and proven.
Direct mail efforts rely on clean lists as well. Verifying contact and address accuracy can reduce returned mail and deliver higher response rates. Inexpensive postcards and flat mailers are perceived as junk mail by many recipients; don't bet the farm on these. Integrate several tactics and delivery mechanisms for best results.
Follow, Evaluate, Repeat
Don't miss the opportunity to sell sales teams on the validity of the campaign; back it up by delivering high-quality leads. Campaigns that generate leads with no perceived value are quickly swept under the rug. Those that deliver actionable, qualified opportunities will generate pipeline and ROI numbers.
Too often, people engage in shiny-object marketing and forge ahead building the "next" campaign while the current effort is still pulling well. Rather than starting from scratch, inject new products, offers and/or lists into an existing campaign framework. Stay focused on the successful execution of your marketing program--and you won't have to worry about the execution of your career.
Craig Conard is president of Sudden Impact Marketing, a Columbus-based firm that specializes in high-tech B2B clients. He can be reached at (614) 515-5072 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted from the September 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.