airt insights

December 14, 2011

Keep that tactical wish-list in the bottom drawer for now

First focus on the why's and what's of marketing strategy

In the traditional advertising world, December and January are typically the months when agencies sit down with clients to help them create their annual marketing plans.

Often the process consists of meetings in which smart people say things like: "And we'll need one of these, and two of those, and don't forget three more of the whatchamacallits we did last year, and . . ." You get the idea.

The problem with such wish-list thinking is it's backward, focusing on the how rather than the what and why. This runs completely counter to the practice of evidence-based marketing design.

An evidence-based approach is by definition outcomes driven. That means all aspects of the marketing strategy are held accountable to valid metrics.

And sales and revenue goals aren't enough. Every business hopes to increase its revenues in 2012. The question is, what marketing metrics can be applied that would positively correlate with meeting increased revenue goals? This is not always an easy question to answer. After all, whole textbooks have been written about metrics-driven marketing. And it takes a lot of honesty to admit how much we don't know about our own business's performance. No wonder so many companies start by thinking about colorful and picturesque tactics, which seem more fun, creative and tangible.

But resist the temptation. Before even considering programs, tactics, budgets and schedules, start by thinking about big-picture objectives, quantifiable goals and valid marketing metrics. Defining these is what makes a mere marketing plan a real strategy—and what gives that marketing strategy good reality.

This disciplined process typically leads to leaner budgets and better ROI, too, since pet tactics that serve no purpose go by the wayside. Once you know where you're going and why, the route gets clearer.

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