The key to creating marketing campaigns that work is effective communications.
As difficult as it may be to believe, communications is a science. What's more, as in any scientific field, thereÂ’s both a methodology and a sequence that need to be followed in order to achieve a stated goal.
The methodology for marketing is a series (sequence) of steps that lead to critical questions Â… which requires that the people handling the communications know which questions to ask in each step.
The answers to those questions are essential for the people who write, design and execute a finely-tuned marketing program.
Typically, the steps go something like this:
Define your message.
What is it about your product or service that needs communicating? What sets your product or service apart? What specific need does your product or service fill in the marketplace?
This canÂ’t be a haphazard attempt. The message needs to be clear, concise and compelling.
Define your target audience.
Once you've defined your key message, you need to know to which audience it will be directed.
This is not based on whimsy. The only way a product or service can succeed is if:
a) it fulfills a specific need in the marketplace;
b) you make the marketplace fully aware of the existence of that product or service (which, by the way, is the key role of any communications effort).
A "drill-down" that would be fit between Steps 1 & 2:
* Who's the key audience for your product or service?
* What's the key benefit to that audience?
* Who's the competition? What's their track record?
* What's different about your product or service?
* What will it take to win?
Determine an adequate budget.
A rule of thumb is to assign at least 5% of gross sales to marketing communications. But, remember, the most successful companies are spending as much as 15%.
The key here is to realize that it's not enough to create great advertising Â–it needs enough exposure and time to be seen and assimilated.
Establish an effective tracking system.
Most sales people in most companies typically ask the marketing people, "How will I know the advertising is working?"
One way is to have a "response mechanism." For example a business reply card (BRC) in a magazine, or an 800 number in broadcast and web site advertising. In all cases, however, it's essential that leads be tracked from their origins.
For example, the BRC would have a code so you'd know which publications are pulling the most; the 800 number would either be a dedicated number that makes it easy to track calls, or have an "extension" assigned for each specific ad placement. The web site could have a response field for "How did you hear about this site?"
It's also obviously possible to track sales based on a measurable increase.
But it must be remembered that advertising is a slow-building process, and that once the momentum is established the speed can be maintained.
So it may take several exposures of an ad before results are seen. But then, the new niche you have carved out can be easily maintained and grown with an on-going campaign.
Plan an on-going campaign to maintain ongoing sales.
Advertising is not just a kick-start for sales. It can actually be the engine that drives sales cycles. The way to convince those who doubt its effectiveness is to ask, "How many additional sales people would it take for us to match the kind of exposure our marketing communications are giving us?"
Once you've seen that what you're doing works, you need to understand how to keep up the pace, and, if you're ready, how to increase it.
There's an important caveat here: don't increase demand when you can't match it with supply. Because advertising works, you need to know that you're ready to meet the demand it can create.
This is the bare bones version - it can get much more involved as the process gets going.
Can you do this in a different order?Â Of course.Â For example, some people prefer reversing Steps 1 & 2, but that means they already what their message will be.
Many business owners have the "if you build it, they will come" philosophy about their product or service.Â But they learn the hard way that the true rule is "if you create awareness, they will come."
Good luck.Â Don't hesitate to ask questions.