Trailblaze & Grow Category: Marketing Plans

Pivot Hard: Why Decisiveness Leads to Better Partnerships

As a CEO or founder, you have spent years working long hours to make your company a reality. Subsequently, you know the ins and outs better than anyone else, which is why it can be hard to fully rely on your newly hired consultant.

After hiring an outside specialist, it is natural to feel like it will take at least several months to get him or her up to speed before you can trust any input and advice. However, a lengthy waiting period can prove to be a detrimental mistake.

 

Act Now

Do not doubt yourself. If you are confident in your hiring decision, then the consultant will have valuable input and advice on day one. The ideal hire should come with an impressive pedigree and demonstrate the ability to spearhead marketing strategies that drive results. Your job is not to question the value of these strategies; it is to determine whether they are feasible to undertake with your company’s resources.

There are high risks when it comes to waffling and keeping all available strategies on the table. Either a competitor can beat you to the punch, or you can end up losing valuable time. In some cases, you might completely miss the boat on a marketing opportunity.

 

Here are three situations that can be avoided by being more decisive:

1.  Driving in the Slow Lane
It is quite common for clients to spend some time debating the positioning strategies that we recommend. In one instance, however, a client went overboard. In the time it took the client to think over our suggestions, the competition got a ton of media coverage and made waves while our client was left in the dust. Three years later, the competitor enjoyed a phenomenal exit. In the meantime, our client was in the process of pivoting to a new market.

Consultants use their expertise to pick the strategy that best aligns with the goals of your company. There is nothing wrong with thinking things over, and it is critical to fully understand how to implement the strategy. At some point, though, you will have to trust your consultant’s recommendation.

2.  Time Well Wasted
In a particularly memorable instance, a client was not hitting its numbers, so the company decided — against our recommendations — to replace its SEO agency. When the client transitioned, traffic began to plummet, and the downward trend only continued as the remaining individuals spent more time on fire drills and finding ways to look busy and valuable.

Afterward, we were able to use data to illustrate that the failure came from the affiliate program. The client needed to reallocate resources, and it took three months for us to regain the SEO losses. Initially, the company balked at our advice because we had not yet gained an understanding of the intricacies of its organization. What the client failed to realize, though, was that metrics-based business decisions remain consistent regardless of the organization.

3.  Missing the Boat
When opportunities come knocking, be ready. We had a client prepped for an opportunity to appear in The Wall Street Journal. When the business leaders got involved, they decided to change the direction of the story to what they thought would be “something more interesting.” After the change, they stalled and demanded a “better” reporter, and they refused to answer questions they thought were uninteresting. Following a few interviews, we lost the feature article, and the reporter moved on to a different story.

Throwing away an opportunity because it is not perfect is like sabotaging your big break before it even starts. Keep in mind that opportunities are rarely perfect, so take the ones that come along and use them to their full extent.

 

Trust your consultant. After all, you made the decision to hire him or her. However, blind trust can be just as harmful as a lack of trust. To avoid this, ask for data and qualitative backup for recommendations, and stay in the loop. While it is tempting to think you can gain amazing insights on your own by reading 800-word articles online, your consultant has a thorough knowledge of his or her expertise area. And you know your company best. With those powers combined, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can achieve together.

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Photo by Nicholas_T on Foter.com / CC BY

Is your marketing budget working?

Marketing Budgets: A Roadmap to Revenue

Research has shown that a majority of companies have increasing budgets, with only roughly 9% experiencing a decreasing budget. With your budget laid out before you, you’ll have a roadmap of where your growing company is headed and how much luggage you can need for the next year.

Understanding What a Marketing Budget Is

It’s essential that you draw up a written plan to accompany your marketing budget in order to know exactly when and how to execute your specific strategies. When you create a budget, you’ll list your tactics, costs and the results that you’re expecting to yield. You’ll also want to make sure that you account for administrative costs, such as postage and subscriptions. Just like when you drive a car cross-country, when you plan out a marketing budget, you have to think about the long haul. You must determine how many miles you have to drive, so to speak, before you need to switch lanes or take an off-ramp. Otherwise, there’s a chance you might be lulled into a false sense of security while coasting and miss your turn. In the business world, this can have devastating long-term consequences.

Creating a Sound Plan

The first thing you need to know about creating a sound marketing plan is that they take time to prepare, which is why it’s good to get started on them early. Specifically, you’ll want your plan to include:

  • A set of dates to examine the progress you’ve made
  • A list of financial goals
  • A brand strategy
  • A revenue generation strategy
  • A positioning plan
  • A general overview of your products and/or services

Make sure that you include your employees in the budgeting process. They should know which goals they need to set for themselves, so that they can start making plans of their own. Including employees with the planning process is that they can help you generate new ideas and goals. When everyone is on the same page, you and your company stand a better chance of success.

Central Concepts of Your Budget

Creating marketing budgets involves setting annual objectives, which include both strategic and quantitative goals. To simplify the process, I like to split the budget between brand awareness, lead generation, partner marketing and administrative activities.

At the beginning stages of drawing up your budget, it’s good to revisit your brand strategy, product roadmap, pricing strategy and distribution channels. How does your current position in your industry influence your overall budget? What is it that sets you apart from all other companies in the marketplace, and how do you plan on conveying that to your target audience?

Take a long and honest look at your line of products and services and ask yourself if you’ll need to devote space on your budget to make your products or services stronger. Will you need to hire more marketing support, sales representatives or specialists to help you move your products or services?

Your next step should be to map out your top three marketing campaigns. Even if you have several campaigns, it’s best to focus on your top three. Always set aside a testing budget for new tactics, new products and unforeseen competitive situations.   Once you’re done with your marketing budget and your written plan, regularly revisit your plan throughout the year to make sure you’re on track.

Photo credit: pasukaru76 / Foter / CC BY

Plan A or Plan B

Why Marketing Plans Fail and How to Avoid it

Even with a solid strategy and careful planning, marketing plans can sometimes fail. A plan may fail to achieve business goals or it may stall out at one stage or another. Either way a marketing team will face some hard questions. These four tips can help your team avoid (or adapt to) an under-performing program.

1. Avoid Over-Reaching

The development of a truly competitive strategy requires an understanding of your customer and competition. Identifying your target market is be a challenge of every marketing strategy. Specifically identifying this group not just by demographics but also considering behavioral and psychographic segmentation provides a highly defined starting point for effective strategizing.
Learn from your competition to avoid costly and time-consuming missteps. Understand how they are positioned and if they have recently pivoted to a new market. Try their offering and identify how your company can effectively compete for you target market’s affections and loyalty. Use this information to keep your team laser focused on what is important.

2. Prioritize and Document

Use your target market and competitive intelligence to help prioritize tactics based on the resources at your disposal. Only then can a targeted plan with appropriate KPIs and an accurate goal-oriented timeline be developed. You will be pivoting and adjusting the plan as you start measuring your performance. To maintain your focus, don’t forget to document everything outlined. Update your strategy documents as you learn more about your customer, the competition and your company’s distinctive talent capital. These documents will keep you grounded and remind you of why certain strategic decisions, as the team changes or the competition heats up.

3. Don’t Forget to Operationalize

Your team should spend as much time planning for the implementation of your strategy as they have developing it. Experience really makes a difference to ensure that the strategies your company develops are being executed in the most effective way. Ensure that each team addresses the following before implementation:

  • Pairs strategies with appropriate tactics
  • Clarify accountability, responsibilities and communication between marketing, sales and operations
  • Recontextualize metrics into useful, relevant information sets. (Think dashboards and reporting.)

Since it is difficult to identify each and every way that marketing plans may fail, you should also develop ways to respond to setbacks before they occur.

4. Measure and Communicate

Begin by clearly defining accountability and responsibilities as well as the reporting cadence for your team. Create a forum for accountable parties to review performance and share information with leadership and other teams. Sharing wins (and challenges) will help solicit ideas, motivate the company and operationalize accountability and flexibility.
Even though we all aim for success, knowing how to learn from failure can make your company stronger. The way that marketers choose to address setbacks, failures, and other fizzles can make the difference between a learning experience and a wasted opportunity.