The MOST Important Word in Marketing Strategy

Few things “grind my gears” as much as headlines like “(Insert Type of Marketing Here) is the one true answer for your business” or “Stop Spending Your Money On (Insert Type of Marketing Here) and invest it with (Insert Type of Marketing Here)”. I have spent thousands of hours trying to help people understand that this is just a sales tactic, and if there is a class action lawsuit out there against marketing sales people for wasting my time, count me in.

If you tell someone that YOUR type of marketing is all the solution they need for leads/sales, you either have no actual marketing knowledge…or no soul.

I have had a successful marketing career spanning 20 years. I would hold my batting average up against anyone’s at this point, and the reason I achieve results is because I sweat the details.

In 2008 I was considering walking away from marketing entirely. I had been working in a lot of different environments, and the types of work I was doing were soul crushing. So, I went for a long walk beside the Conestoga river, and I contemplated my next steps.

Thankfully, I came to realize that my primary objective is to save jobs and make jobs. If a marketer is doing their job well, they make sure our friends, family, and fellow humans keep their jobs. In my opinion, that is priority one. Those people are the “details” I sweat every time I get a “Help Us” call from some company that finds themselves in trouble.

When I do get these calls, 99% of the time it's because they got conned by some salesperson into paying some outrageous sum for a “Perfect Solution” marketing tactic which either didn’t work at all or caused them to lose their rankings to competitors who were working with ethical/competent marketers.

Needless to say, I am still a marketer. I am more passionate now about the work than at any stage before, and that is why I get a tad bit annoyed when I see false promises all over my LinkedIn feed. So, with that context, let’s discuss what does matter from a marketing strategy standpoint for your company.

The Most Important Word in Marketing

If you find yourself in the position of trying to decide how to approach your company’s marketing, there is only one word you need to think of first: Tracking.

Being able to attribute which marketing channel is working for your business is the most important part of your plan. Sounds like a no brainer perhaps, but it is rare I see companies doing it right. You shouldn’t spend a dime with anyone until you know you will see clear data from their channel. This doesn’t mean you are trapped to only market in the digital world either. Thanks to call tracking programs, unique domains, and several other options, you can now tell if that newspaper ad, radio spot, billboard, bus sign, school sponsorship, and even business card is delivering results. This means every channel is available to be tested, and every channel should be tested.

Let’s walkthrough a very simplistic example of how this should work.

You are hired as the director of marketing for a brand that is trying to break into the US market. They need sales immediately to justify their existence, and the VP of marketing has tasked you with the development and implementation of the company’s marketing strategy. They let you know that the company has been granted $1.2 million dollars of marketing budget for this fiscal year, and that your job depends on the success of the marketing effort. (No pressure)

You decide that you are going to break that budget into 12 months ($100,000), and then do a 50-50 split for online and offline marketing for the first 3 months.  This is a good idea, because you are going to need data fast. Your plan could look like this:

marketing strategy table VonClaro.JPG

This is just a general overview of course, and not necessarily my recommendations for each channel.

Now you have a plan. Next step is to find an agency to help you get the online marketing running. The online channels already have tracking capabilities, so you just need to ensure that the agency is focused on attribution and reporting. SEO is the only slightly harder thing to track, so it’s important to have the agency define working goals, such as content creation, website fixes, etc. to allow you to measure the performance of the agency, as it can be 9 months to a year before you being to see results from their efforts. While that may seem like too long a period, it is entirely worthwhile as it increases revenue, and decreases online ad costs over time.

The offline portion is more complicated, as you will need to assign different phone numbers/domain names to each channel. This way, any time a customer calls in from a specific number, you know they got it from a billboard, or if they enter from a specific web URL, they got there from a magazine. This will give you clear data as to how effective each channel is and give you the ability to make decisions.

If you cover all these bases, sales will start to trickle in, and you will be able to start identifying cost per acquisition at the channel level. That is the magic info, because now you have the controls needed to drive the ship.

By the end of 60 days, you will have a clear view of what is working. The next question is how can the channels be optimized to perform better? For example, direct mail performed well, but the CPA was too high. So, you decide to offer free shipping/trial this month only to direct mail recipients and see if that triggers a greater response rate.

You may find one or two channels result in nothing, which is a great find. Cut those channels and move the budget to one of the channels that is working well already, or test another channel (YouTube, TV, Podcasts) using the same tracking strategy and see how they perform versus the rest.

What you will inevitably discover is that your best marketing scenario will live within a combination of channels, and no one type of marketing will rise as a standalone option. This is always true. Sure, one channel might become a stronger sales machine than others, but no successful company thrives without an integrated approach.

Quick Rules

Before I wrap this up, I wanted to share a few quick rules you should follow for success:

1.       Do not hire one agency to run all your efforts. You need to be fluid, and you need to be able to terminate agencies that do not measure up. Your web design company should not also be your marketing company. A digital marketing agency can handle your paid search and SEO but shouldn’t be involved in your newspaper ads. You get the idea.

2.       Avoid the shiny objects. I have seen many efforts fail because a leader is so busy racing around trying everything in short bursts. This only causes chaos and frustration, and results in failure all around. If you hire an expert, set the parameters and then give them adequate time (at least 60 days) to succeed or fail. Ignore the 400 emails you get a day trying to sell you some new angle.

3.       Always own your data. You should be an admin in every single platform, and your marketing data should be treated as an asset. Too often companies let others run their platforms without making sure they have ownership, and when termination comes, discover the agency/individual has possession of all their stuff, and likely won’t hand it over without a sizeable fee. Avoid that in the first place by being the admin for everything.

That is it. If you ever have a question, drop me a message or hit me up at @robtcase on Twitter. I will be happy to respond in my own time at no cost, as long as your question is one sentence, and doesn’t involve me having to write you some long document. I would rather point you in the right direction than hear about your business failing later. Good luck out there.

Rob T. Case

CEO/Head Strategist at VonClaro