Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to the corporate headquarters of an international company to facilitate a marketing strategy session. The company had invested heavily in marketing platforms but wasn’t seeing a return on investment. They were very busy executing campaigns but couldn’t define their overall strategy. If this sounds familiar, here are some important steps I’d recommend to fully evaluate your overall marketing and strategy.
Determine Your Level Of Maturity
Recognizing your overall marketing maturity level is critical so that you have realistic expectations on the effort ahead. A mature business will meet all of the following levels of marketing maturity.
• You Know Your Customer: You understand who your prospects and customers are, where they can be found, what they are researching and purchasing, and you have identified personas that you can target content and messaging to.
• You Personalize Your Communications: You personalize your content and messaging directly toward each prospect or customer. If you’re a business-to-business company, this may be implementing account-based marketing (ABM) and writing articles specific to the gaps of a particular organization.
• You Engage Your Prospects And Customers: You directly communicate to your prospect and customers. Your sales representative can view prospect activity within their customer relationship management (CRM) system so they can engage personally and provide far more value.
• You Can Measure The Impact: You track and measure activity back to marketing initiatives. Call tracking, campaign tracking, event tracking, form submissions and other actions can be traced back to every customer journey.
The Research Phase
In order to establish a baseline, build a matrix of your product and service offerings as well as the campaigns you are currently executing for each (include goals like awareness, acquisition, onboarding, engagement, retention and advocacy). Document the owner of each stage, the priority of each stage and the return on investment for each stage.
If you can’t do this, you’re not alone. The client I’d mentioned earlier had dozens of offerings. Their matrix was gigantic and they couldn’t even complete the matrix. My purpose wasn’t to shock them; it was to build awareness of their level of maturity as well as the scope of the work ahead.
The Discovery Phase
Set up a discovery meeting and pay close attention to the discussion of each effort you’re executing. Define current strategies, alignment across the organization, competition and industry changes. Tag each effort with the budgetary, technological and human resources utilized or available.
As you document efforts, grade the level of confidence you have in each. Companies that struggle often do so because of bias or questionable advice. Here are the levels of confidence you can apply to each strategy.
• Absolutes: These are core beliefs about your marketing strategy that you have underlying data to prove. Absolute: “Our company’s retention is decreasing, and we have an exit survey that suggests that our user experience is negatively impacting our renewal rates.”
• Convictions: These are concepts that have an impact on marketing that you believe are impacting the business, but not necessarily data-supported. Conviction: “Our industry is being significantly impacted by consumer mobile adoption and online shopping.”
• Opinions: These are the opinions of leaders within the room. Industry leaders often have a gut feeling that may or may not be valid, so you need to pay attention and ensure you can measure their hypothesis without acting on it. Opinion: “We don’t believe our content strategy is getting a return on investment.”
• Questions: These are questions raised that you simply don’t have responses to. A question might be: “Could new technologies help our customer experience improve?”
This will help you prioritize each effort to maximize your impact on the business.
The Reality Phase
Validate each campaign to properly weigh its impact on your strategic direction. I used a design thinking methodology (rose, bud, thorn) where we labeled each effort on whether it was working, an opportunity to improve, or broken. Mark each effort on a colorcoded sticky note and plot it onto a wall. This will assist you in aligning and grouping those processes back to the overall priority, stages and efforts.
For example, a “thorn” might be moving data between systems. The sticky notes help visualize that systems integration or automation is key. Automating and synchronizing data will improve data accuracy and win back valuable time. That time can be reinvested, helping you build momentum toward improving business results.
As you progress, leadership, management, practitioners and external consultants (if you use them) should all be pulled in a unified direction on the overall marketing strategy. For example, with our client, we identified a market segment and product that dominated the overall revenue of the company but had not had equal representation of resources. We fully understood who the target audience was and identified what worked, what wasn’t working, and we detailed the dependencies for success. We also identified opportunities that had merit in the overall strategy and which should be either integrated or tested.
The Planning Phase
At this point, you should be able to meet with your team over days and weeks to build and propose finite plans from the overall marketing strategy. Everyone should fully understand the goals, how to attribute success to those goals, what the timeline is for success, how the budget and resources will be proportioned to the efforts and what pieces of the overall strategy team members own, are responsible for and have to deliver.
This may sound like a grueling process, but it’s absolutely necessary. My personal opinion is that every large organization should do this on a quarterly or, at a minimum, annual basis. Working in parallel with a business intelligence solution, you can ultimately detail the audit that I originally provided the client.
Understanding how to properly discover, weigh and prioritize your marketing strategy will not only help your marketing meet its full potential; it can also help align all of your resources toward the same goal. With everyone informed, accountable and moving forward, your chances of failure are dramatically reduced.