“WE GOTTA GET A PLAN”
GOING FROM A CRISIS-DRIVEN APPROACH TO ONE THAT’S INTENTIONAL
Early in my professional life, I sat across the table from one of my first “big” clients who explained to me that they needed an ad to promote their latest and greatest boat. They requested that the ad be produced in time for the consumer boat shows that occurred at the beginning of the year. The problem? It was November and the lakes in Northern Indiana don’t resemble the blue water of the Caribbean a month before Christmas. This was in the days before Photoshop and extravagant travel budgets, so computer manipulation was not an option. (Now I am dating myself.) What we were faced with was a “no-win” situation because the client failed to think about marketing the product until their new model was sitting on a boat trailer.
Sad to say, this is the way many companies market themselves. They become so wrapped up in the development of a product or service that they forget about how they are going to tell their customers about it. I am convinced that the term “seat of your pants” found its origin not in flying but in product launches. Often, the new roll out is in response to what competitors are marketing or what they think customers are demanding. They scramble to pull together a “me-too” product and then hope that marketing will pull off a miracle to make it sell. So how should one move from the marketing crisis of the moment to an intentional step-by-step roll out?
Here are some basics:
1. Know the cycle.
Most companies know their sales seasons. If you sell boats or RVs, you know that the first half of the year is critical to marketing your product line because that is when buyers make purchasing decisions. Customers want that new boat in time to enjoy it for the full summer season. Also, the trade shows are usually held annually, so make the calendar your ally by allowing enough time to develop a marketing strategy prior to that beautiful launch.
2. Determine your scope.
Is the product or service you’re promoting a national, regional, or local roll out? The wider the audience the more time and planning will be involved. If you are a local restaurant with a new sandwich, it will take less lead time and fewer media outlets to market it than if you’re going to target the “everyman” with a life-changing widget. This too points to the scope of the number of marketing tools you will employ to do your storytelling.
3. Select a budget range.
The scope will help to determine what spending will be required. Even more, it can help inform the mix of traditional media to digital media. If that sandwich at the local restaurant has a limited-time offer or is in a testing mode, we may select more of an incentive-based social media strategy or coupon approach to impress upon the viewer that it is for a limited time. This way, further marketing can be utilized to promote it once the proprietor is confident of its acceptance. Budgets should be viewed as one more way to help establish priorities, but don’t let it be a noose if legitimate marketing opportunities are offered. That’s why a cushion should be built in to allow for these contingencies.
4. Plan and plan again.
Once the previous three elements are in place, it’s time to determine the most appropriate media mix to reach the intended audience. This step involves research into what are the most efficient media buys within traditional media, as well as a social media/online strategy. Often, tough choices have to be made based on this research in order to ensure that budget priorities are reflected. Do you really need to invest your entire marketing budget for the next ten years in that one Super Bowl commercial–because it delivers the widest audience? For most advertisers, this is not even remotely possible, but it does point to an “all the eggs in one basket” approach.
This can be the default mode for some companies that have a very narrow market and are served by legacy media choices–such as industry trade shows and publications. Tens of thousands of dollars can be invested to carry these based on “we’ve always done them.” So re-examine the reasons for each marketing investment and then put forward the draft plan for all concerned parties to review. Once feedback is received, move forward with crafting the final plan. Again, use the calendar to know deadlines for placement and a time frame for creativity, testing, and implementation.
5. Implement and measurement.
Most certainly, once the promotion hits the streets, you will receive feedback. Some will be anecdotal, while others will be more measurable. For the latter, you should be able to compile the data to determined continued direction. This information will be invaluable as you refine your marketing choices. In many cases, the age-old customer question of “How did you hear about us?” can become a valuable source of marketing intelligence. Just make sure there is a systematic way to compile the responses for continual review.
This is a very simple “I already know that” way of approaching your marketing plan. However, I never cease to be amazed at how few marketers follow through on these very basic steps. I am confident that when they do, good things happen.
Admittedly and on occasion, good things can happen even if these steps are bypassed. The sheer strength of the product’s timing, distribution and customer demand can power its sales. Remember that boat we photographed in November? They sold hundreds, if not thousands, of these cabin cruisers over several years. I figure at about $30,000 a piece, I should have asked for a percentage as payment. Instead, I received a client thank-you card and a plant for my office…
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