7 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Your Marketing Plan
When was the last time you reviewed your company’s marketing strategy? Perhaps your sales leads aren’t closing, despite the fact that you have great products to offer. If these scenarios sound familiar, it’s time to dust off your marketing strategy and re-evaluate your tactics.
“Marketing is so much more than just pushing a marketing message out there. It’s about actively engaging your audience and listening to their conversations,” says Stephan Merkens, Managing Director and Head of Content and Engagement at Teneo Holdings, a global strategic advisory firm.
Merkens reports that marketing strategies have evolved a great deal over the past several years, largely due to the impact of social media and the conversations that transpire on these platforms. Here are the essential questions you should consider when reviewing your marketing strategy:
1) Have You Done Market Research?
Market research has undergone a lot of changes, according to Merkens. “In the past, brands relied heavily on focus groups and direct interaction with audience segments. But, as is often the case with these types of engagement, customer responses are often colored by their own insights and biases,” adds Merkens.
He notes that market research now includes social listening. That is, listening to online discussions on social media, blogs, and forums, and analyzing these conversations and the platforms on which they occur. “Now, marketers can look at how people communicate online. We look at long-term trends in conversations and can determine how people feel about specific subjects in a very unfiltered way.”
2) Who Is Your Target Market?
When we look at target markets digitally, we can determine who is actually responding. Merkens adds that clients may have a particular audience in mind, but the client’s perception of their target market may not match their actual audience.
Let’s say that an investment firm believes baby boomers are their primary audience for strategic investment content. However, market research and other data suggests that millennials are a much more viable, untapped segment of the investment market.
“Millennials get their first full-time job and begin the process of investment and can easily be engaged to start thinking about investment strategy,” explains Merkens. It’s important to realize that your target audience is often larger—or different—than your initial assumption.
3) How Is Your Company Positioned?
It’s important to understand how your company views itself, because most stakeholders have a preconceived notion of who they are and how they are perceived, according to Merkens. However, it’s also critical to understand how customers perceive your company and your products within the business sector. “It’s important to address these differences and opportunities and incorporate them into your marketing strategy. The company’s perception of themselves and how their audience perceives them is key information that helps shape your strategy.”
4) Have You Performed a Competitive Analysis?
What is the differentiator in your business and what makes your company and products unique? Performing a competitive analysis can help you build a marketing plan in three different ways. A competitive analysis can:
a) Help you understand how your customers view your competitors
b) Teach you about your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses
c) Provide an initial reference point for developing your marketing strategy
“Being the new brand on the block can be tough, but performing a competitive analysis can help you understand your value proposition and differentiate your brand from the other players,” says Merkens.
5) Is Your Marketing Strategy Inclusive?
Merkens cautions that a company shouldn’t go to market without having a clear, inclusive marketing strategy. Specifically, you should have an accurate understanding of how people perceive your business. “Crafting an effective marketing plan also means breaking down the barriers between traditional brand marketing and communications—once very separated disciplines,” adds Merkens.
Consumers only see one brand, and as such, there has to be a strong connection between both disciplines. Also, brands have far less control over how they are perceived by their audiences. Individuals who perceive a brand one way will influence it—either favorably or unfavorably, says Merkens. Companies must create an inclusive market strategy, which takes this information into account.
6) How Will You Allocate Your Budget?
In the past, marketing teams owned the budget. But now, communication departments have a say in the budget, too. Digital media requires an investment of dollars to push content to relevant audiences. “Traditionally, companies have been less than willing to spend dollars on how their brand and reputation is perceived. But today, content can’t reach an audience unless it becomes relevant content,” he explains. Whether your company uses Facebook, Twitter, or other social platforms, it’s important to spend some money on a paid media campaign to reach the audiences who don’t already follow you. Merkens says that businesses use media buys, paid search strategies, and other avenues to get the most bang for their advertising buck. “It’s one of the few ways for brands to exert some form of control over how messages are received and perceived.
7) Are You Using Metrics Effectively?
Metrics are key in today’s online and tech-savvy world. Traditional media platforms are limited in terms of evaluating advertising effectiveness and attribution. After all, it’s difficult to determine if people saw a television or newspaper advertisement.
Digital media is far more effective at providing data on engagement, but it really boils down to these two key metrics, according to Merkens:
a) Message Pull-Through
In a nutshell, message pull-through tells you how much resonance, and relevance the message has to consumers.
Did consumers translate it as a positive or negative message? What actions did consumers take as a result of your messaging?
The Bottom Line
Before you overhaul your company’s marketing plan, be sure to consider each of the components discussed above. The best practice when developing a marketing plan? Never underestimate the power of social media and social listening. Social media plays a huge role in creating your marketing plan, although it’s not the only factor.
“When creating your marketing plan, you have to consider both traditional media and social media to be effective. That said, social listening gives your content the relevance and resonance needed to meet your marketing goals,” advises Merkens. If you don’t factor in the importance of both traditional and social media when devising your marketing plan, you’re making a rookie mistake.