Written by Jeff Rose, VP at Wallaroo Media.
I was recently contacted by a university professor looking for a marketing expert. He had written a textbook along with corresponding coursework for students who were trying to determine their emphasis in BYU’s undergraduate business program. Yet, he still needed feedback from an industry professional. We sat, we talked, we enjoyed some of the amazing variety of ethnic food that Provo, Utah, has to offer, and through the conversations we came to a few very important conclusions that seem applicable to students, professionals, and business owners alike.
Understand the Big Picture (and I don’t just mean marketing as a whole… I mean the BIG picture)
We’re not talking about the meaning of life here; simply understanding all of the moving pieces that can affect your business and how your campaigns and initiatives perform. Perhaps it’s too broad to say EVERY PART OF YOUR BUSINESS, since as a marketer I don’t focus much on 3PL systems or sourcing materials, but I do care what those things mean for the product, its marketability, its cost, its retail value.
But let’s move on from there and say we just want to understand the bigger marketing landscape: what each piece of the puzzle means and how it affects every other piece. I’m referring to SEO, SEM, etc. Drilling down deeper, we have subsets — search, display, social. Even further subsets — within social you have a number of useful platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (one of my personal favorites). We could go more granular, but let’s focus on Social v. Search v. Content v. Website v. Design, or what I like to call the ‘Interaction Level’ (working title, folks).
It’s imperative that you understand how the social presence you create is affected by or affects your website, what role content has to play in all of it, and what analytical data you can gather along the way. I recall a local business owner telling me, “I’ve allocated a certain budget that I would like you to use on a monthly basis to promote my business. What are the next steps?”
The immediate answer was to see what he was working with: his website, his content, etc. It didn’t take long before I realized that he didn’t have a landing page that was optimized by many standards, thus my advice to him was that the landing page should be improved before money was spent driving traffic to a page that would be unlikely to convert.
His response? “I didn’t even think about the fact that the website would play that large of a role in the success of the campaign, and I certainly didn’t think about the order of operations here.”
Order of Operations
In a world of multitasking — drinking coffee while riding a bike and selling the biggest contract of your life all while dodging through traffic like you’re in Fate of the Furious (or whatever sequel we’re currently on) — I’m not about to tell you to take things one at a time. What I WILL say is don’t get ahead of yourself. There may be 71 different action items and deliverables on your carefully written marketing plan, and 70 of those may have to wait until the first is completed. Again, this is not always the case, but let me give a prime example:
You can’t drive traffic to a website… unless a website exists to drive traffic to. Simple, right? But so many people get ahead of themselves and forget to ensure that the infrastructure is there. There is more to be learned than the fact that you can’t drive traffic to a non-existent website, or if you do you won’t get sales, sign-ups, kudos [fill-in-the-blank]. Some deeper questions you should be asking yourself are “What about the call-to-action?”, “What about the content?”, “What about the design?”
We want the experience to be cohesive and seamless, right? If so, how can we design an ad or piece of content that will drive a consumer to a landing page where they can buy our widgets when we don’t know what the messaging on that page will sound like or what it will look like aesthetically? Maybe you have a style guide already created. Great! Maybe you nailed the messaging down in a brainstorm. Awesome! But unless you do things in the right order, or at least something close, time can be wasted and success can be lost.
Get the order of operations right, then you can focus on the fun task of diving into the myriad of options available to execute your strategy
Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe (Let Your Customer Inform Your Strategy, Not the Other Way Around)
Back to the original premise of proofreading a university textbook. I thought that perhaps the most difficult part was editing the vast amount of information on each and every social platform and content dispersion channel that exists in order to give a strong fundamental understanding of what options are available. What I realized was that the quantity of information was not the burden, but rather finding a way for these young people to understand what tools were appropriate at what times, and which ones should stay tucked away in their Social Media Superhero utility belt for another day.
I found myself advising the same way that I have advised numerous clients over the years: “Don’t choose how you are going to market your brand until you understand your customer and how they want to be marketed to.”
It does little good to spend 90% (or even 1%) of your media budget on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or other platforms, if you know your audience isn’t active on those platforms. Similarly, if nobody has heard of your product, and would have no idea of what to search for online to find it, perhaps you should rethink your strategy of running search ads.
However you come to understand your audience, whether through the development of a persona or three, or through market research and surveys, if you choose to sell something to those you are convinced needs/wants/can’t live without it and you are wrong, success is unlikely to be just over the horizon.
There are countless ways you can build, market, present, sell, and promote your product/service/business. So how do you know what to do? The better your understanding of the options available to you and how those options affect everything else you are doing, the more effective your strategy. Know your business, know your customer, and know the marketing (or hire someone who does).