Are you hitting your marketing goals?
Are the initial reports showing that your product is getting into the hands of your best prospects?
Is your marketing plan working?
Tough questions that require clear-eyed focus and honesty. If you answered no to these questions then keep reading. After twenty years in the marketing trenches, I’ve refined a few cut-through-the-noise tactics that have kept our clients on the right track. Let’s get started.
Ask Tough Diagnostic Questions
As a marketer, it’s easy to get caught up in your own hype. A marketing plan that sounds and looks good on paper tends to get used even when reality says the plan is a mistake.
For example, many small businesses decide to use advertising as a tactic for growing sales. Billboards, newspaper, radio and even tv is used to fill the funnel. The problem is that these tactics reinforce brands, they rarely grow them. In reality, smart publicity, customer retention, and referral tactics are the better play.
Getting real means getting your numbers and answering some tough questions.
- Do you have enough budget to invest like the market leader? If not, do you need to rethink your strategy?
- Where do you get your current sales? Can you scale up your investment and get better returns? For example, many B2B companies get most of their business from referrals. However, they spend most of their budget testing out new tactics with mixed results.
- If you only had the resources to invest in one marketing tactic, what would it be? Raise the stakes, what if you had to get 10 sales in the next 30 days, what would you do? Your answer will be the clue pointing to a realistic marketing plan.
Know The Difference Between Intention & Action
Early in my career, I learned that marketers fall into two categories. Dreamers, Planners, and Doers. Unicorns, those who could dream, plan and do were rare and often decided to quit marketing for others and start their own companies.
I observed that Dreamers and Planners were company killers because they tended to make the same mistake. Dreamers and Planners tended to confuse intention and action.
At one point I worked for a manager who would craft intricate and often brilliant planning documents. My job was to turn these plans into presentations. Every presentation was welcomed and approved by our clients. The problem was my manager quickly lost interest in the plan once they moved from intention to action. The daily grind of putting the plan into motion, creating and optimizing tactics held no appeal.
The Doers can’t stand dreamers and planners. They are efficient and love the grind. Unfortunately, Doers are often ineffective. They can’t stand to think through an action before diving in which means they often pick the wrong marketing tactics to deploy.
The challenge is to never Plan or Do in isolation. Stop creating plans that don’t have specific short-term actions. Try this, refuse to consider a plan that can’t offer a proof-of-concept within one week of you giving the go-ahead. Recently a client asked us to create a plan for achieving an internal BHAG. They asked for a plan and they wanted it within a week. I told them I could give them a one-page outline of the overall plan with a detailed step-by-step process for achieving the plan’s first milestone. I told them that a plan would have the “thud factor” but it would waste time and be speculative at best.
My team quickly outlined the overall plan and fast-tracked a powerful tactic that we deployed within days. We came back to the client with the outline and proof that we could get deliver quickly on a key part of the plan. We achieved the goal (actually we blew that puppy out of the water.
Marketing Challenges Are Often A Question of When Not What
We are obsessed with answering “what” questions. The popular ones are “what social media platform should we invest in?”, “what customer segments should we pursue?”, what emerging technology should we pay attention to? Excellent questions but often not the right ones.
In reality, marketing innovation has been slowing since the 90’s. Branding in the 80’s, the Web in the late 90’s and social media in the early 00’s inspired new words and a few interesting tactics but the marketing toolbox is well known. “What to do” is fairly simple to figure out. The issue is “When” to execute a tactic.
Earlier I mentioned that businesses often mistakenly invest in big business advertising tactics. The mistake isn’t deploying the tactic, the mistake is using the tactic too early. Paul Graham says startup founders should “Do Things that Don’t Scale”, like cold-calling and closing your first 10 customers. The process sucks but you’ll learn invaluable information that will make it easier to find and close your next 10 customers. Do the hard to scale stuff first.
I’ve watched too many smart businesses stumble along because they invested too much in the wrong tactics too early. Are you executing your marketing strategy out of sequence?
Use the Power of Momentum
I love sports because it’s where the power of momentum can be seen and felt. New England Patriot fans felt it when Dont’a Hightower forced Falcon’s QB, Matt Ryan’s fumble which led to a Patriot score, just one touchdown + 2-point conversion away from tying the game. Momentum happens when you focus on small wins. Small wins are confidence builders that inspire people to believe.
Smart marketing leaders use momentum to inspire world-class performance. They start with creating simple wins. Once, I was encouraged to write a blog post every day. Of course, I was intimidated by the goal. The same mentor challenged me to write a paragraph of crap and submit it. He knew that once I got started, I wouldn’t stop. One crappy sentence led to a decent paragraph which was edited into a good post. One win done, 364 to go. Momentum had worked it’s magic again.
Pull up your marketing plan.
Now focus your attention on the weekly actions and goals. If you don’t have weekly goals and actions, create them. They are momentum building blocks. If you do have them, look for opportunities to publicly celebrate each win every week. Emotion often evokes action and action reinforces a culture of achievement.
Creative people are driven by “starting”. They like to dive in and see what happens. A clean white board is a visceral challenge. The problem is most marketers don’t finish. They just peter out once they project becomes a grind or another challenge comes along. I’m convinced that the best ideas are the ones that marketing directors don’t complete.
I know this from personal experience. I created something called the Content Toolbox. I remember setting up the membership site. I invested at least 200 hours and invested around $5,000 into the project. I loved it until it became…well…you know…WORK. I let it peter out shortly after launching it.
Guess what – Pushing Social visitors still love it. The Content Toolbox has over 1,200 members. I decided to honor my member’s faith in me by finishing this project. It’s smart because it’s one of my most valuable marketing brands.
Finishing demonstrates that you honor and value the tough process of creating something new. Finishing is just as addicting as starting. Here’s the deal though, starters get the glory but it’s the finishers who get rich.
Putting it All Together
Get Real. Ask tough questions and answer honestly.
Take action. Thinking about it isn’t the same as doing something about it.
Do the right thing at the right time. Visualize how you will implement your plan. Make sure you are doing everything in the right sequence.
Create a plan that use small wins to create momentum.