The Most Powerful Marketing Action You Can Take: A Strategic Trip

THE MOST POWERFUL MARKETING ACTION YOU CAN TAKE: A STRATEGIC TRIP
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Imagine for a moment that you’re planning your first trip to Greece. You call a friend, who says “Greece — wonderful! I just took a cruise there. All you need are a few swimsuits!” A business associate hears where you’re going and says, “I love Greece. Be sure to bring hiking boots.” The professor who lives next door warns you, “I went for an archeology conference. Take enough paper and several pens — I almost ran out.” You take all the good advice and pack your suitcase. When you arrive, you don your swimsuit and hiking boots, and grab your paper and pens — for your ski trip on the slopes of Parnassos.

I know, you’re thinking the whole scenario is absurd. Nobody would spend that much money, have that much time to plan, and have this once-in-a-lifetime trip, and blow it by making inappropriate choices based on other people’s trips. But people do it with their companies — where the stakes are a lot higher than a ruined vacation — all the time.

A business will see a “great deal” on a newspaper ad and feel like they can’t pass it up — even though the company’s prospects don’t read that paper. Somebody at a network lunch mentions they got great results using a late night infomercial, and four different CEOs call their marketing departments on the way to the office. A retailer gets on the blogging bandwagon, and the unplanned blather tears down the image they’ve cultivated for years.

What’s the cause for these missteps which, at best, are a waste of money and, at worst, do irreparable damage? The lack of a marketing strategy. A company’s strategy is foundational. If you don’t have one, go clear your calendar for the rest of the day and get one. It’s that important.

In order to determine your company’s marketing strategy, do our 2×5 analysis: two topics, five questions each. They seem simple, but dig deep. Call in people from your office — heck, call some of your clients or vendors if you need to. Do what you must to discover the answers to these questions.

Topic 1: Your Company
Ask yourself the following questions about the business:

  1. Who are we? What is your brand personality? What’s your company’s identity? Look at your key people, your culture, projects where the company has excelled, the clients you attract and why. Craft a brand identity that is compelling to your ideal customer and that authentically fits who you are and what you do.
  2. What are we selling? What are you offering? What are the products, services, benefits and emotions you provide?
  3. Why are we in business? Go to your mission statement, vision, values and goals. Examine the unspoken values as well as the published ones. Compare the original vision to the ideal the company aims for today. How do these fit in your marketing plan?
  4. Where is the competition positioned? What positions have been taken by competitors, and what haven’t? What characteristic are already “owned” by a major competitor? How do you differ from the competition, and how are you similar?
  5. How do we differ? This is your Unique Selling Proposition — or better yet, your Extraordinary Value Proposition. What do you do that is credibly, sustainably, energetically your own?

Topic 2: Your Message
Ask yourself these questions about what you should communicate.

  1. Who is our target audience? Do you know who your ideal client is? What does a qualified prospect look like? Do you know their demographics? If it’s an organization, what are its characteristics? Most importantly, what “pain” does your ideal client feel that you can help cure?
  2. Why are we communicating? Why are you talking? What is it that you want to say? Develop your message and your core story. Everyone in your organization should be able to communicate your core story in 30 seconds and 5 minutes, with key players able to deliver it in a 15 minute conversation and a 45 minute presentation as well.
  3. What are we going to invest? Time to put your money where your marketing is. How much are you willing to spend now, and how much on the long term?
  4. How should we communicate? Given who you are and who your clients are, what marketing ingredients make sense? What media matches your message? What media conflicts with the image or message you’re trying to portray? Commit to a “hands-off” policy for whatever doesn’t fit — no matter who talks it up, no matter how good a deal you can get.
  5. When will we use the methods? Figure out your priorities. What’s urgent, what should be done in the next 6 months, what needs to be done sometime in the future? I suggest creating a rolling 90-day marketing calendar to keep the momentum going.

A marketing strategy will save you money, because it prevents throwing money into ineffective marketing tactics. It will prevent public perception missteps, because it will give you and all your employees guidance on who the company is and who it’s not. It will help you uncover opportunities, spend wisely, communicate consistently and attract your ideal customer over and over again.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll tell you outright, strategy is my passion. Nothing excites me more than to see an organization transform through my proven strategic process. And the process generates results. Whether it’s opening up a whole new market for a credit union, taking a portable air conditioning company from 8 straight quarters of declining sales to a 42% increase in sales over 12 months or helping a technology company obtain 7 million in new business, it works. If you don’t have a comprehensive, authentic marketing strategy, or if yours needs to be updated, take care of it now. It’s the most important thing you’ll do.

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