Marketers have so many tools and resources at their disposal these days, it's easy to understand why they would choose to throw all of them at every marketing challenge in hopes of making something stick. Rarely does this approach ever solve problems. And in most cases, it ends up making things worse.
I learned a similar lesson the hard way back in grade school. I can't recall how the tradition started, but when my cousin would stay over, we always found our way to the egg crate in the fridge. I'd tell her the eggs were hard boiled and somehow convince her to crack every single egg over her head. One night, we snuck the eggs past my parents and into my carpeted bedroom - raw egg ended up all over my floor.
Once the reality of the mess set in, we picked up the shells and whatever goo hadn't been smashed into the carpet. Our next move involved pouring every liquid we could find under the kitchen sink onto the carpet, and then topping it off with a mixture of my Mom's perfumes. By morning, the smell was horrible! The carpet had to be replaced and, needless to say, our weekend sleepovers were put on hold for a while.
I'm always reminded of this event whenever I consult with clients and marketers taking the same "everything but the kitchen sink" approach. Like my egg fiasco, the end results usually stink. My number one recommendation to them is to consider the big picture objectives before diving into a bunch of disparate marketing tactics. The highest performing programs always include a marketing strategy that supports strategic business objectives.
Aligning Marketing Strategy with the Big Picture
Unfortunately, many businesses and marketers make the mistake of diving straight into tactics without considering if or how they will impact the overall business objectives. Without clearly defined goals and aligned strategies, the effectiveness and value of marketing will consistently come under fire.
For example, let's say the marketing tactics produce remarkable growth in terms of website visits, leads, social media followers, and clicks. Although the growth may seem like a win, it would do very little to support the business objective of increasing profitability by 10%. To executive leadership, success is directly tied to a select group of high level objectives, such as new revenue, profitability, and market share. If marketing can't prove its impact at that level, it will be one of the first expenses to be cut.
I recently received an update from a former consulting client who had previously approached me with a similar challenge. They were a relatively new software startup, revenue was growing year over year, marketing had a consistent flow of leads coming in, and demand was growing. However, the company was spending more on new reps to manage the influx of leads. One of their strategic business objectives for the year was to increase profitability. When I spoke with the CEO, his initial thought was to raise prices and cut marketing spend. Once I discovered that the sales reps were spending the majority of their time nurturing prospects and following up on bad leads, I recommended they reallocate a large portion of their marketing budget to improving lead quality and sales efficiency. By aligning the marketing strategy with profit goals, the company was able to meet their goals without raising prices or cutting marketing budgets. In this case, marketing was able to produce real value for the business.
Focus on Real Value
In order for marketing to produce real value for a business, the strategy needs to support big picture objectives. Whenever you are evaluating new agency partners or marketing candidates, be wary if they talk tactics without asking about your strategic business objectives.
I learned the hard way that pouring everything but the kitchen sink onto a raw egg mess doesn't stop it from stinking. Don’t make the same mistake with your marketing! If you’d like to talk strategy one-on-one, connect with me here.
Do you have your own experiences that might make us all a little wiser by sharing your positive/negative experiences with marketing strategy?