What I love most about working in marketing is meeting clients and hearing about their business so that my team and I can get really creative with their communications. I love it even more when a client says to me that they've tried certain elements of digital marketing before and it didn't work. It's normally one of those meetings where no matter what I say, the answer is aways "We've tried it and it didn't work".
This exaggerated answer is simply a culmination of frustration by a business owner or manager because they have tried lots of marketing efforts and reaped little benefit. As an ex owner/operator myself I know how hard it can be, and take my hat off to anyone busting a gut to make their business great. To those owners/operators and managers I say don't despair, you have something that no other firm has...you and your passion, but don't be afraid to get professional marketing assistance, we aren't all bad!
So how do agencies and digital marketers approach planning marketing activity? What makes it succeed for them (and it doesn't always succeed!) and fail for others.
The key in my opinion comes from creative concepts, enduring and sustainable campaigns as well as smart strategic planning. I'm going to start with the latter.
Strategic planning isn't just deciding when you're going to post a Facebook status update. Your marketing activity needs to be thought of as a war. Before waging war you need to decide why you are waging war? What are you hoping to get out of it? Is it oil, land, religious reasons, human annihilation or flipping it to business; increased market share, increased share of voice or maybe increased sales? Once you know what your objectives are for war, get a really firm idea on what figures you are hoping to reach and by when. Eg I am waging war on country X to steal 80% of their oil reserves and I will achieve this by 25th December 2017. Or a refined objective of your marketing activity may be to increase sales of crockery by 100 units within the 30-45 year old B, C1 and C2 female market by December 25th 2017.
So you've waged war. You know what you want to achieve, and there will be probably 3-4 objectives (any more than this and you may have got your objectives wrong and probably created tactics prematurely) that need to be met.
What's next? If you were in charge of the entirety of your country's armed forces, you need to know what resources you have at your disposal to assign to achieving the objectives. You wouldn't be creating plans for exactly how each mission is going to be approached at this stage, you would look at what resources, tools and capabilities you had to deploy relevant to the task and the market and would look something like this as a strategy: I am waging war on country X to steal 80% of their oil reserves and I will achieve this by 25th December 2017. To achieve this my strategy will be to use Air, Sea, and Land resources in an aggressive, reckless and generally genocidal manner, with media companies and their agents being utilised to maintain and control public perception. Or in this business case, to increase sales of crockery within the 30-45 year old B, C1 and C2 single or recently separated females females by 100 units by December 25th 2017 I will utilise my resources of social media (youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram), Blogs, Web site, SEO, PPC Advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing in a manner to create demand from 30-45 year old B, C1 and C2 single or recently separated females, profile the company to increase awareness and activate discount promotions to the retail chain of ancillary cutlery items.
n our war efforts, we now have to decide how to deploy our resources to make best use in terms of effectiveness and financial capabilities but also to be hard hitting and kill the most amount of innocent people. What most businesses make the mistake of doing is to deploy solitary resources e.g. a newspaper advertisement, with no consideration for the overall creative campaign, integrated messages, tone of voice and purpose. They've sent in one unit to fight the entire war rather than attack at multiple points on the land to fulfill the operational requirements. They've basically lost a platoon of highly trained special forces who were told to go behind enemy lines but not given any instruction as to why or what to do once there. Poor bastards.
Lets then assume that as we are in charge of all the military resources. We now need to decide when and how each one mentioned in the strategy is going to be used to achieve the objective. We would now need to get creative with our campaign. For this example we'll say that the campaign is to send in air strikes to take out all main infrastructure targets and generally weaken culture in country X so that normal society starts to breakdown and the people have less to lose so will be more likely to rise up against the regime you are fighting. We could call this
aggressive approach something silly like "Operation Shock and Awe" or for business: "Should have gone to Specsavers" or "I'm loving it", something like that. The key here, is that taking what you know about your customers or target customers, products, products usage or anything which is a strong messages and achieves the objectives in a creative way is your campaign name. Have a think about what makes your campaign what it is. For example, our "shock and awe" is shock and awe because we are using shockingly aggressive air and ground tactics to defeat the enemy in a very quick time and the result will be an awe inspiring rapid defeat of that country's dictatorship and the country will carry on without any societal breakdown.
We now need to decide what the actual tasks are within our campaign and when it will all happen in order to achieve the main objective, using the strategy outlined. These tactics will always be directly related to the operation shock and awe. For example, a strategy may be to destroy all hospitals in country X but the tactic will be to use laser guided bombs. If the tactic was to send in a convoy of diggers to slowly dig away at the foundations, it wouldn't fit into the operation shock and awe. Likewise if the campaign is called Should have gone to Supersavers, then a tactic may be to run a social media campaign that shows the humorous outcomes of what happens if you do things without wearing the right glasses, or create a user-generated portal where audiences can submit their own videos, and automatically receive a discount code for a second pair of specs.
In the example of the crockery, we may decide to turn the hillside adjacent to a busy commuter route into a mural of the company logo using the crockery, syndicate this story and images for press releases, social media posts, and create specific landing pages using the images and special offers for visiting customers. This could be supported by a promotional offer of products in your retail chain, online and at high market festivals such as Countryfile Live, with giveaways, handouts and a competition to win the whole cutlery range in exchange for email and contacts. You can begin to see how the campaign is taking shape.
The key thing now is to plan your marketing activity to run over a set period of time (e.g. 3-6 months) and ensure that every element of your plan is instantly recognisable as part of one campaign. This means using the similar concepts, approaches, looks, feel and tone of voice potentially, even if the creative angle is different. Consider what is referred to as the four pillars of integrating marketing communications. It sounds complex, but that's because it's been created by academics. Content - What kind of content do you need dependent on target market? Stakeholders - Who are you aiming your material at? your market segments. Channels - What channels are most focused on your target market? e.g. If you know that your customers gravitate towards Mumsnet, then you need to think of a way of getting the message across on there. Results - How are you going to best measure if your marketing material was successful? if you can't measure it, then you won't know how successful it was!
Once you've planned your campaign and what you are going to do, why you are going to do it and when, taking into account seasonal activity and getting ready well in advance for things like Christmas, Valentines, ongoing gifting potential, you will need to see what you can reasonably afford to do. Some people would argue that you should start with the budget, but I'm a believer that if you start with what needs to be achieved ideally, then you can refine to what can be achieved financially and you'll be a lot more creative.
A somewhat confusing and misleading term often used or rather unused by agencies is integration. This is something that is just as controversial as the meaning of the word "marketing" and is highly subjective. What I want you to take away from it is an appreciation for whether the individual elements are clearly recognisable as part of the whole, in the same way a jigsaw piece is an image in its own right, but forms part of a grand picture. Integration goes far far deeper, but I'm not going there in this piece.
Returning reluctantly to our military analogy; let's now assume we have our objectives for war, our strategy for attaining objectives, the campaign creative direction, integrated approaches, our individual mission tactics within the campaign, schedule of activities that all complement each other and work to attain the objective, and we ensure that we can measure the success against the desired objectives (e.g. collateral damage, human meat per kilogram or oil wells captured) so that it can inform future campaigns, now we have to start running it. Measure the success and failures of each element in a simplistic but informative way and remember one last point...BE CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN WITH IT!