Stop Shooting From the Hip: In Praise Of the Marketing Process
Successful businesses understand the value of a solid marketing process. They’re living proof. Without sound planning and a steady routine, businesses crash and burn. You can’t wing it forever without making irreparable mistakes.
Years of hard work and brand value are quickly erased when a company decides to eschew the fundamentals of sound marketing. What follows is a steady decline in website traffic, stagnating sales, and the abyss of negative cash flow.
An army would never rush into battle without a strategy. So why do so many businesses skip proper planning?
IT’S NOT SO SIMPLE
Companies are doomed to repeat mistakes when they’ve benefitted from a lucky streak. Enamored with their success, they fail to objectively analyze the true reasons for their achievement. They repeat the same steps over and over in the fruitless pursuit of the fleeting victory they once enjoyed. Lightning never strikes twice.
In other cases, business owners use “busy-ness” as an excuse to skip the hard work of marketing. It’s understandable. Everyone is busy. Especially business owners. But if you’re too busy to plan for success, you will eventually be too busy shutting down your company. There’s no justification for doing things wrong.
Businesses without a process engage in “reactive” management practices. Every decision is a last minute fire drill responding to crisis. It demoralizes your employees. It exhausts your partners. And believe it or not, your customers know.
The strongest brands are proactive. They create a strategy. They stick to a plan.
SUCCESSFUL MARKETING STARTS WITH A PLAN
You are far more likely to succeed when you have a plan for success. This is made possible by using a marketing process. Failure to use a process equals failure to plan. Failure to plan means shooting from the hip.
The steps to the Marketing Process are:
- Define Your Mission
- Analysis & Research
- Define Your Strategy
- Set Your Marketing Mix
- Execute Your Campaigns
- Analyze & Optimize
DEFINE YOUR MISSION
Simply put, this step answers the questions of “What is your company’s purpose?” and “What do you need to do?”. While these seem like straightforward and enduring objectives, your mission will always be determined by a variety of factors:
- What is our brand?
- What are our values?
- What is our culture?
- What value do we offer?
- What is happening in the market?
- How stable is our company?
ANALYSIS & RESEARCH
This tends to be the phase that companies rush or ignore.
Many business owners think they have a solid handle on their place in the market, but the fact of the matter is there is constant pressure being applied to your operation from internal and external forces. If you do not routinely assess your position and your weaknesses, you will overlook opportunities and threats that could change your standing.
There are a variety of analytical exercises to help with this phase:
SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
There are many others, including some that are specific to your industry. Whether you frequently perform these tasks or not, an extensive amount of research should be conducted during each marketing cycle.
The market is moving. Consumer interests change. Sales volume is fluid. If you’re not looking at historical data and reviewing the world around you, you won’t be able to make smart decisions on how to proceed.
DEFINE YOUR STRATEGY
Imaging a scene from an old war movie. Generals and admirals are standing around a map. They know their mission. They’ve assessed their ranks and their competition. Looking intently at the enemy’s position on the table, they run through hypothetical strategies and discuss each scenario objectively.
Much like the military, every business is subject to a wide range of benefits and consequences for every step they take. Defining your strategy allows you to identify your position, set marketing goals, determine your target audience and establish KPIs.
You may have used the same strategy since your company’s formation. If it still works, then so be it. However, we recommend running through the scenarios every time you reach this stage in the process. It’s quite likely the landscape will change one day, and you’ll be too far along to change course when it happens.
SET YOUR MARKETING MIX
For business owners who are merely winging it, this is the step where they normally start their “process”. When there is no plan and no proper process, this step usually takes the form of a last minute email blast or hastily structured social media campaign with jumbled messaging and a poorly executed strategy.
The marketing mix consists of the 4 P’s:
Product – the product or service to be sold.
Price – how much the product or service costs
Place – the means with which to deliver the product or service
Promotion – the effort to promote the sale of the product or service
It’s during this stage that decisions are made on what tactics will be used to convey the value of the product or service. Is it an ad campaign? Is it a social media strategy? Is it supported with email? Does traditional media factor into the equation?
Many business owners understand this part of the process. They’ve probably even executed campaigns on their own. But as the fourth step in the marketing process, if they haven’t thoroughly performed the first three steps, their odds for success are limited.
EXECUTE YOUR CAMPAIGNS
This phase takes up a significant amount of the time defined as “marketing”. Assets are created. Designs are produced. Messaging is written. Campaigns are structured. All of the busy work of marketing happens here.
Controlling and managing your marketing plan occurs during this phase, and it consists of multiple sub-processes that involve back and forth communication between the business owner, the marketing team, and vendors and contractors.
At Divining Point we frequently see companies who launch seemingly effective campaigns. Peaking into analytics, however, we discover there are no methods of tracking conversions. In some cases, the term “conversion” is a poorly defined conclusion. We caution companies to ensure that ROI can be tracked all the way from the bottom of the funnel up to the source that feeds it at the top.
ANALYZE & OPTIMIZE
For some agencies, this phase of the marketing process is a subset of the Execution phase. Divining Point breaks this out into its own step. Monitoring performance during and after a campaign is a crucial and time-consuming step that impacts the short-term success of a campaign and the overall long-term success of a company.
As stated above, if conversions and tracking are set up appropriately, a company can let the data be their guide towards optimization. Much like the scientific method, testing and analyzing is an iterative cycle that pushes a campaign towards greater success. You can efficiently change course if you know where to direct your attention.
The logical conclusion of this phase ends with reporting and further analysis. End of the Month (or End of the Quarter) meetings typically revolve around the metrics collected at the end of promotional efforts. The marketing process now starts over.
NEWS FLASH: THE PLAN IS ALWAYS EVOLVING
Using a disciplined routine to the marketing process allows your business to stay focused and ahead of the competition. At the end of each cycle, a new plan is developed based on the findings from the steps above.
Sounds complicated? It doesn’t have to be.
Once you’ve developed the marketing process and documented your work, a company can deftly roll from campaign to campaign while staying fully aware of market conditions and threats to their business. This is especially true for companies with a firm understanding of their brand, their buyers, and their value in the world.