Sometimes it takes a crisis to force you to step back and look at things. It’s not the best way to do it. You should really be taking a step back on a regular basis.
2020 was a year that forced me to stop look at what I was doing and what I was about. Even bigger, what was my agency about?
Big questions to contemplate but it was good.
I always start with the big picture and then start connecting the smaller steps of what I need to do to achieve my big picture vision.
Essentially, it’s what I do when I plan for myself and others.
This isn’t always easy. When it comes to myself, I have tendency to sometimes overcomplicate things. Maybe you can relate.
One day, I remembered the story of how when Steve Jobs came back to Apple he famously told his team that they were going to work in four areas:
It was a move to simplify what Apple did and also save money. It also focused the company.
Marketing and communication isn’t much different. There are so many options of what you can do but doing them all likely means that you won’t do any of them particularly well.
With Steve Jobs as my inspiration, I thought, what is it that I do on a regular basis? What are those things that I have to do in order to be successful when doing my own marketing or when I’m doing it for somebody else?
To be clear, I’m not talking about tactics. I’m talking about what I do at a higher level. I’m talking about process.
I thought about it awhile but it wasn’t until writing a blog post one day that it clarified in my head. As it came into focus, I thought to myself, this isn’t just what I do, it’s really anybody who is doing marketing and communication should be doing.
It boils down to four things:
These four things are the bedrock in which everything else happens.
To be clear I’m not advocating that this be your process. I am advocating that they be part of your process because if you’re not doing them, chances are good that your marketing and communication efforts aren’t going to do well.
Do Your Research
Everything should really start with research because what you learn from it informs everything that you do but why?
One, you have questions that need answers. Maybe you are trying to discover why people aren’t converting on your website or you need to know how a landing page is doing.
Two, you need to better understand the situation. You can see that people are visiting your website and staying on it for a good amount of time but they aren’t converting. Maybe you need to research how to better execute a certain tactic like SEO.
Third, you need to confirm what you think you know. In some cases, it may be that you think you know your audience better than you do. In others, you have a gut feeling. In either case, you need to get data to confirm what you think you know or feel.
Research falls into two categories: quantitative and qualitative.
Quantitative research is based on numbers. You’re finding a quantity.
You see quantities all the time. If you follow sports you see how many touchdown passes Patrick Mahomes has thrown. How many points Trae Young has scored. How many strikeouts Jacob DeGrom has.
In business you can see how much revenue Apple has made or how many phones Samsung has sold.
In the world of marketing, you can measure how many conversions the sales team has or how long people are staying on you’re website.
Qualitative research is non-numerical. It goes beyond the numbers and aims to add depth and insight.
You get this research through interviews, observation (first-hand or participant), questionnaires, and focus groups.
It can answer such questions such as:
- What kind of content would your audience like to see in the future?
- How did you hear about our product?
- Why do you use our product over our competitors?
- What do people like about your website?
In many cases quantitative and qualitative research work alone but you should always be mindful of the times that they work better together.
If you do quantitative research to find out how long people are staying on your website Google Analytics can give you this number but it doesn’t give information why. To get this information you need qualitative data.
You have access to data that marketers would have killed for 20 years ago. Don’t take it for granted. Do your research.
You Need a Strategy
Strategy is how you are going to meet your goals. It is often one of the most overlooked pieces in marketing and public relations (PR). This is because it often takes a backseat to tactics.
When you engage in tactics without strategy, you’re throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. Yes, you might see some results but this is a huge mistake.
I get it, you want to get things done, and executing a bunch of tactics helps both you and your boss feel like your doing something.
I’ll concede, you might even see some results but this isn’t the same as getting the right results and it isn’t the best way to reach your goals.
If my goal is to drive to Seattle from Boise it doesn’t make much sense to drive through San Francisco. That would be a pretty bad strategy. Sure, I’ll get there eventually but it will take me 22 hours instead of 7.5.
It’s not easy to create strategy. It takes time and forces you to think but it tells you how you’re going to execute and why. I’ll talk more about execution in a minute.
If done right, strategy will address both the long-term and the short-term.
However, none of this means that your strategy has to be elaborate. It can be simple as long as it helps you meet your goals.
And, of course, it should be written down as part of your strategic plan.
Execute Your Plan
You can have the best strategy that has ever been created but if you don’t execute it you won’t see results.
This seems obvious and it should go without saying but I’ve often run across prospects who have a strategic plan but never did anything with it.
It’s the equivalent of making dinner when you’re hungry and then throwing it in the trash.
Plans are only as good as their execution.
If the plan doesn’t work, there are only two possibilities. The plan wasn’t very good or the execution wasn’t very good. Well, there is a third possibility which is neither the plan or execution was very good.
The truth is, you can have a brilliant plan that gets mediocre results.
Creating your strategic plan is identifying and then stating how you are going to meet your goals. So, part of your planning process should be identifying what you can execute and where you might need to hire somebody to help.
If you are planning on creating video as part of your strategy but nobody on your team knows how to edit it, there is a potential issue with the strategy being executed.
As an organization, even as a marketer, you need to have the skillset to properly execute. If you don’t, you need to get some training or hire somebody.
You also need to have the proper metrics in place which can help you can see how you’re executing.
Don’t Forget to Measure
I wish I could tell you that I can whip out a strategic plan based on research and execute it so well that results are guaranteed. I wish could say that but if I did I’d be lying to you.
I have many talents but being omnipotent isn’t one of them.
I’m human. You’re human. This means we aren’t perfect and will have tweak our marketing.
When it comes down to it, marketing is a test. You put something out into the world and then measure to see how it does.
A good marketer realizes that nothing is etched in stone but is written in pencil so it can be edited if needed. You know, in case something unexpected happens like a pandemic.
Here are four reasons why you need to measure.
First, in many cases, you are going to have different versions of ideas. This is another way of saying you should be doing A/B testing to see what hits and what doesn’t.
Second, you need to optimize your marketing. It’s like a great song. It can go through many variations before it gets to the final version. Likewise, you are going to have to optimize your marketing to get the best results.
Third, measuring is a step in showing attribution. You need to identify how each piece of your marketing is helping get a conversion. This goes back to optimizing your marketing. There are multiple pieces and you need to understand how each performed.
Fourth, you need to show results. You are accountable to your boss or your client. They have made an investment and you need to show the return on that investment.
You can probably think of more reasons these four are arguably the most important.
There are multiple tools you can use to measure but the most popular is Google Analytics. No, it’s not perfect but it will give you data that will help you be a better marketer and achieve your goals.
The Bottom Line
There can be many pieces to your marketing but at high level you should be using these four on a regular basis.
They are integral to the success of your marketing.