How to Simplify Marketing Decisions

Decisions are the building blocks of business and the maker (or breaker) of fortunes. Successful brands have strong decision-making track records, including corrections as needed. For start-ups, marketing plays an especially critical role in business decisions. Many decisions are influenced by marketing strategies, such as those related to branding, web presence, product development, and advertising.

This post explores a decision-making methodology for marketers that cuts through seemingly endless options, revealing the natural fit for a marketing need.

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
― Peter F. Drucker

Marketing Has Become Complicated

Marketing entered the digital age decades ago. Simple strategies used to yield significant visibility online… that time has passed.  The marketing industry has not only embraced digital media, it has become infatuated with influencers, automation, behavioral retargeting, and artificial intelligence. Accordingly, marketing professionals are inundated with over 7,000 marketing software options to make complex digital plans a reality.

Not only are automation tools plentiful, so are advertising and publishing options. There is a dizzying array of opportunities to spend marketing budgets. The drive toward automation along with the rise of digital advertising and influencer marketing can quickly create ROI black holes in a business.

“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” David Ogilvy

Campaign-Thinking Provides Clarity

The secret to controlling cost while achieving marketing results is to think in terms of campaigns. Marketing campaigns are tactics executed over time with a defined goal and budget. Effective campaigns usually start with the goal in mind, then have budget as the limiting factor. Campaign-thinking is time-based, so the conclusion of each campaign offers an opportunity to review results and assess any needed adjustments going forward.

Campaign-thinking also allows the marketing manager to apply tactics to a specific business goal without getting caught up in broad marketing mix discussions. The business must have a defined marketing mix in order for campaign-thinking to be efficient. The product/service offering, target audience, pricing, and delivery method are part of the broader marketing strategy and should guide campaign development.

Campaign-thinking addresses a variety of marketing needs such as increases in web traffic, blog views, app downloads, product sales, form submissions, and social media followers. Once a marketing need is identified (e.g., we need more web traffic), campaign development can begin with three essential questions:

  • What is the specific marketing need? (e.g., we need traffic to this landing page)
  • What is the budget allocated to this need? (e.g., we have $___ to spend on this)
  • What is the timeframe for results? (e.g., we need to see results in 3 months)

Maintain a singular focus. Marketing strategies become unwieldy at times, causing costly delays in decision making and dilution of purpose. Define the marketing need as precisely as possible at the outset of the campaign development.

Let the budget guide you. Define the budget before considering tactics. If the budget is large, specialized staff may be brought in or mass advertising may be considered. If the budget is modest or small, existing resources will narrow down tactical selections.

All things in their time. Marketing tactics have different “gestation” periods, with some producing results immediately while others require more time to make an impact. Clarify the expected timeframe for results.

The Five Ws

After the marketing need, budget, and timeframe for results have been defined, the campaign can take shape. For most marketers, this is the fun, creative part of marketing. The challenge is to maintain a singular focus on the campaign goal, while applying the business’s existing marketing mix and branding fundamentals. Not surprisingly, “don’t boil the ocean” is a common marketing saying.

Ask these five Ws, and the H – the “how” – will present itself.

  1. WHO are we trying to reach?
  2. WHAT is our message?
  3. WHEN should we share our message?
  4. WHERE should we post our message?
  5. WHY are we sharing the message?

WHO: Define the target audience using as few filters as possible. Focus on geographic groups first, then on behavioral traits. For example, a campaign may target individuals who live in the United States and have an interest in investing. These two filters offer targeting without unnecessarily reducing audience size by limiting age or gender, for example.

WHAT: The campaign message is the brand’s value proposition applied to the target audience. Use the brand’s existing talking points as a base, then adapt the message to fit the audience and channel.

WHEN: Consider the best time to employ your campaign tactics. Many businesses have product development milestones that can provide compelling messaging tied to the campaign. Industry trends and events can also provide valuable backdrops for campaigns.

WHERE: Put your message in front of as many people in your target audience as possible by choosing the channels they frequent most often. If a target audience is known to use Facebook, then focus on that platform as a priority over other channels. Spreading the campaign budget across too many channels can reduce the ability to make an impact.

WHY: You have the attention, now what? The call to action (CTA) is the action you want the consumer to take as a result of your campaign. If a campaign’s goal is to increase app downloads, the CTA is “download our app.” If the campaign’s goal is to increase awareness, the CTA is “visit our website” or “download this free report.”

The five Ws help to refine the multitude of tactical options to a specific set based on the micro-goal in question.  As campaign tactics begin to form, revisit the five Ws to maintain a steady trajectory toward desired results.

“Master the topic, the message, and the delivery.” — Steve Jobs

Next Steps

Ready to apply campaign-thinking to your marketing needs, but need some direction? Join me on Twitter @Kristen_Colwell or send me a message using the contact form at the bottom of this page. Thanks for reading and best of luck with your marketing campaigns!