So, how do we reach our target markets?
Recently, I was fortunate enough to participate in a Q&A with Marketing Insider Magazine. Here are some of my thoughts on the current marketing climate and marketing planning, in general.
MI: What business-related questions should be answered before tackling a strategic marketing plan?
Mark: I think you have to be very specific with defining who you serve and creating the vision that corresponds that market. When you are explicitly clear on that, you can start to turn your attention to a short list of goals. In fact, the creation of those goals is easier when you are clear about “who” you serve.
MI: How do you take a marketing plan from tactical to strategic?
Mark: I’m not sure I truly understand the question because typically the process would be focused on translating strategic marketing into tactics. In other words, strategy means nothing without execution. So, it follows that our objectives drive our overall strategies relative to a defined market and specific action plans are built to make those strategies come to life. In turn, I think it is critical to limit both the strategies and the action plans in number and timestamp them with hard deadlines. This allows us to focus on the things we can truly accomplish and eliminates distraction.
MI: What should be the balance between customer acquisition and customer retention? How should resources be allocated?
Mark: Customer retention is much less expensive than custom acquisition. So, I believe you must devote the lion’s share of your time to retention and developing devout followers. In this day and age, people buy from only those that they trust on some level. And they have all the tools at their disposal for cocooning themselves. Therefore, the opportunities to develop a relationship are fewer and certainly more challenging. I am not saying you should not spend time on acquisition, but I might redefine it as community development rather than acquisition. You have to create an environment where they are able to find you as opposed to you knocking on their door.
MI: How do you measure the impact of brand awareness tactics? What provides the most bang for your buck?
Mark: I think that connecting your sales performance to the size or velocity of your community makes sense. If you can correlate a good stretch of sales to a robust community that is engaged with your activities, then that is a relevant measure. However, investments as line items don’t necessarily mean anything. As an example, if I invest in a printed ad, and sales don’t move, then some executives would abandon it. I think ROI lacks merit. It can provide some insight, but by itself a single tactic cannot stand alone. In fact, if ROI was a real thing where you could make an investment and guarantee a return, then everyone would be winning.
MI: How do you define “customer experience”?
Mark: It has a lot to do with the level of intimacy between customer and brand. My experiences are always more valuable with my loved ones than complete strangers. So, if the brand or company becomes part of the customers life, then the experience will be greater.
MI: What can an SMB do to enhance the customer experience?
Mark: I am biased, but they should commit to the publishing process. It is not motivated by selling and allows companies to explore, research, and develop relationships within their target markets.
MI: Where can marketing efficiencies be built in, in time and/or dollars?
Mark: I think marketing gets inefficient because the pressure for ROI and the validation of effort contradicts the real reason the organization exists in the first place. The greatest brands on earth invest their time and effort in connecting at the most granular levels. They do the stuff that does not scale before trying to scale. The efficiency of marketing begins with the person in the corner office and their commitment to textbook strategic marketing.
MI: In terms of content, where do you place a premium: volume or value?
Mark: Both. Sorry for the cop out. But, I don’t see value in putting out content just for the sake of putting out content. I think you need to have an ongoing conversation – which is the publishing process. This creates relevant content at the appropriate time and in the appropriate quantity.
MI: How can marketers better integrate with their sales counterparts?
Mark: Make them a part of the publishing process within a specific market segment. Too often, the salespeople are organized around the Industrial Age mindset of selling products and services. But, that means that what they are selling is a commodity and they do no exist for that. They must dedicate themselves to communities with common denominators and evolve to be defined by that community and not by the product or service they sell.
MI: Any advice for the next generation of marketers?
Mark: Go talk to people and check your ego at the door. Our world is missing some manners and when young people engage with veterans and have genuine curiosity about the past, they gain knowledge. Most people don’t do that. They simply Google something and move forward. But, information is not the same thing as knowledge. Go seek it out for yourself and have some first person experience.
MI: Marketing predictions for 2018: What trends can we anticipate stepping to the forefront?
Mark: Trends suck. I say ignore trends because everybody just globs onto the next thing (see QR codes, social networks, or content marketing). The facts are that great marketers are driven by the markets they serve and if they are truly a part of it, they know all the tools of engagement will be at their fingertips when and if they need them