10 Reasons NOT to Launch a Marketing Campaign

March 29, 2011

Sometimes marketing is viewed as a magical elixir that will somehow cure whatever ails you.

In my 20-plus years of marketing experience, I’ve come to realize that good marketing is based more upon common sense than upon creativity. Though marketing can work wonders, it is not a panacea that will transform failure into success.

As much as I value good marketing, I believe there are times not to launch a marketing campaign. My advice is to delay any marketing activities when:

  1. We are unclear what success will actually look like. Without clearly defined goals, we are merely groping in the dark, hoping to grasp something—anything—of value.
  2. We feel compelled to act before we think. In our fast-paced world, we will always experience the strong gravitational pull of urgency. Focusing on what is urgent, though, will often entice us to overlook strategy and jump prematurely into tactics.
  3. We want to begin with communications. A good marketing process ends with communications but that’s never a good place to begin.
  4. We focus on obstacles rather than opportunities. Though we must always understand reality, we will never leave the starting blocks if we focus on the hurdles between us and the finish line.
  5. We have no champion for the product or service. We may all agree that a particular program is important, but unless someone with passion assumes ownership of the program’s success, it will flounder. Of course, marketers will be the easy targets of those who need to blame someone for a product’s failure.
  6. We believe everything will be okay if only we can “get the word out.” I cannot be more emphatic in stating this: raising awareness is not a marketing goal.
  7. We talk more than we listen. Marketing success on a 2.0 world is all about having conversations, not trying to speak louder.
  8. We are unable to profile a target audience. Only the naive believe there really is such a thing as the “general public.” We are headed towards marketing failure if we neglect to define a primary audience. After all, to target everyone is to hit no one.
  9. We ignore the concept of marketing exchanges. Marketing is based upon the premise that we must build win-win relationships where we exchange value for value. Marketing is never a one-way transaction.
  10. We cannot differentiate our product or service. If we don’t know who our competitors are, and if we cannot articulate how we are different and better, then my advice is simple:  Turn off the lights, lock the door and go home. The party is over.

Why Are You Telling Me This?

August 25, 2009

Too often I find myself sitting in a boring meeting, reading a dull newsletter or yawning through another pointless PowerPoint presentation.

I’m tempted to interrupt and ask, “Why are you telling me this?” Or “What do you want me to do with all this information?”

Quietly, though, I endure and amuse myself by mentally replaying a favorite scene from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin, as you may recall, turns to John Candy and says, “When you’re telling these little stories, here’s a good idea:  Have a point! It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.”

Excellent advice, Steve! Effective communication must have a purpose.

As simple as that sounds, communications planning too often begins at a tactical level. In a meeting someone might say, “We need to raise awareness!” My immediate question is “WHY?” Raising awareness is a means to an end, yet we tend to think that “getting the word out” is the ultimate, end objective.

Tactics not tied to strategy only contribute to the noise and clutter.

To help me think more strategically and communicate more effectively, I developed the following chart to visually illustrate how certain questions should be asked in the right sequence.

Strategic-to-TacticalPurpose and Goal. First, why do we want to communicate? What do we want to accomplish? What measurable outcomes do we we hope for?
Target Audience. To whom are we trying to communicate? What do we know about our primary audience? What is our relationship with them? Are there secondary audiences who might be looking over the shoulder of the primary audience?
Desired Impact. Once the target audience has received our message, how do we anticipate they’ll respond? What actions do we want them to take?
Key Message. In one sentence, what single message do we want to communicate to achieve the desired results? If time permits, what secondary messages would we like to communicate?
Barriers. What perceptions or misperceptions might hinder the effective delivery of our message? Are there other barriers that might obstruct our communications?
Media. What are the most effective ways to deliver the message to the target audience? What is the right combination of traditional and new media? A newsletter? Print ads? Web site? Billboards? Twitter? Verbal presentation? Facebook fan page? A blog? News release?
Communications Activities. What specific tasks must be completed to achieve the strategic objectives? Who will assume primary responsibility? Who else will be involved? When is the deadline? What budget is available? How will we measure success?

My mantra is simply this:  Think strategically before acting tactically. Anyone with me?


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