But whether your focus is B2B, B2C or B2G, smart marketers should remain true to (at least) four strategic steps to arrive at the right programs and priorities. These four must-dos can keep you from making stupid mistakes:
1. Know the audience. Understanding your audiences’ perceptions about your company and its competitors – among other factors – helps ensure you communicate what people want to know. You also can determine best channels and formats to reach your audiences. If you haven’t surveyed your audiences in the past two or three years, your data is likely outdated.
Determine your customers’ buying criteria and decision-making processes. Identify who they trust, how they make decisions and where they go for information. Use the results to guide the communications strategies and messages that will reap the greatest impact.
2. Shape the message. A common marketing no-no – particularly among companies that sell technically complex products – is to communicate every feature, form and function of an offering. No one cares more about a product than the product manager or design team. But you’re not the buyer. Let the marketing team use audience research and their expertise to shape messages most important to the buyer.
Whether you’re launching a new product and marketing an entire company, develop a thoughtful elevator story (stage setting, conflict, resolution and outcome), four-to-six key messages that address customer pain points, and six-to-10 proof statements that support key messages. Then test the terms on the web to determine if they’d lead customers to your site. The closer your messages come to addressing customer concerns, the better your chances of making the short list of possible suppliers.
3. Set measurable objectives. Calculating the effectiveness of your campaign occurs at the end of it; however, identifying what needs to be measured should happen at the beginning. If you wait until the end of the campaign to decide how you’ll measure success, you’re too late.
What are you trying to accomplish? (Hint: “Sell stuff” is an expectation, not an objective.) What’s your timeline? If you’re trying to “change behavior,” you’ll need to assess the behavior before and after. Finally, what does success look like – to you? To your boss? To the audiences you’re trying to reach?
4. Define the strategies. Numerous books, bylines and blogs have expounded on different philosophies about the customer’s buying journey. Regardless of which your organization has adopted, one thing is constant: Marketers are responsible for moving audiences through the decision-making process as quickly as possible.
To do that, you’ll want to devise communication strategies that (1) generate awareness, (2) help audiences evaluate the options, and (3) drive them to a decision in your company’s favor. These strategies should cover a mix of paid, earned, owned and shared communications. Remember, your target audience is not a monolith. Instead, customers and prospects are always in varying stages of the buying process. And today, more than ever, they prefer to tap information from different sources. Herein lies the rationale for conducting research in the first place.
Taking the time to plan means you’ll significantly increase the probability that your campaign will succeed. And be sure to aim everything – the message, the communication methodology and the timing – directly at those you want to take action.