How often have you been asked to prove the value of your marketing initiatives? In today’s scrappy, innovative environment, there are a lot of questions among businesses about if marketing is worth the money they invest in it. And that’s a valid concern. Any business that’s trying to be profitable should evaluate their dollars spent against the return they create.
Too often, marketers are asked to prove the value of their initiatives and can’t. The problem is often two-fold. One, the people asking want all initiatives to have a sales number directly related to the marketing dollars spent. But we know that most customers have been exposed to upwards of seven interactions with a brand before they reach out, so breaking down the contribution of each touchpoint is often impossible. Two, marketers don’t associate metrics that are directly tied to the company’s long-term plan and revenue goals with the marketing strategies and tactics they’re implementing.
That’s the part I want to talk about most here — aligning your marketing planning with your brand’s vision and goals and how that will translate to tangible, provable value in your marketing.
Start With Your Messaging
If you follow any of our content, you’ve heard us say this a lot — before you do anything, get your messaging right. So here I am, saying it again because it bears repeating over and over. If your messaging isn’t clear or there isn’t alignment within your team on what your message should be, your marketing will not only be crippled, it’ll also take forever to develop every piece of collateral.
Plus, when your messaging isn’t clear or consistent, it’s easy for potential customers to get confused. On social media, you showed them one thing, on your website another, and it’s like your emails were written by another brand entirely. They won’t know who you are, how you relate to them or why they should care about your brand.
Aligning your messaging and creating a filter through which all your campaigns, sales activities and other collateral passes creates unity in your marketing. It tells people the same thing on every platform: This is why we’re here and this is why you should care. That constant message is what will spark people’s curiosity or speak to their problem and cause them to take action.
Review Your Brand’s Strategy And Revenue Goals
Everyone in your company is a part of progressing your brand’s strategy and hitting annual revenue goals, but marketing is the tip of the spear. It makes sure you have a steady flow of the right leads and guards your brand’s image.
The key to successful marketing planning is to look at all your tactics and strategies through the lens of your brand strategy, which defines your positioning, differentiation, overall vision and goals.
*Side note: Learn more about how RevOps is sweeping the marketing world because it coordinates sales, marketing and service departments to maximize profit and efficiency for companies.
As you begin planning, there are two important customer metrics to evaluate each year:
- The type of customers bringing in the most revenue for your business.
- The amount of education and length of time needed to convince prospects to make a buy decision.
Identifying Your Best Customers
Identifying the types of customers that bring the most revenue to your brand — and the services they were seeking as leads — allows you to focus your marketing efforts on very specific needs. For example, if you find most of your customers are coming to you for a single product, that’s where your marketing dollars will have the biggest impact.
You might also identify some areas where you traditionally bring in high-value customers but didn’t convert as many this year as in the past. That’s an area to focus more on growth in an effort to boost your KPI back into normal range.
Every year, you should create a report that answers the following types of questions:
- Which customers were you able to work most effectively with?
- Which customers generated the most revenue?
- Where did those customers come from? (i.e. networking, referral partner, website, etc.)
- What content did that customer consume before making a purchase decision?
Answering these questions will help you show how marketing initiatives resulted in revenue and reveal where your priorities should be in the coming year.
Education Throughout the Customer Journey
Understanding the content your customer consumed throughout their journey is super important because it links the value of your marketing and content creation to a real customer that created real revenue. You might discover that all your customers viewed a specific product page before purchasing or that only 20% of them viewed that fancy video you created. Knowing what collateral to invest in on the front end allows you to deliver higher quality leads to your sales team.
Now that you have a grasp on your company’s past performance and how your marketing strategy influenced that performance, you can start to plan your next tactics.
Plan Your Tactics
The difference between an achievable marketing goal and a campaign that goes nowhere is a plan. My action plans always consist of two parts: implementing proven tactics and brainstorming new tactics.
Use Proven Tactics That Work
When I plan our marketing initiatives for the year, I always look back at what has consistently worked for us in the past. Which campaigns reliably hit the benchmarks I established? Which ones brought in the most new business? Which ones helped us progress our overall brand strategy? Was content marketing worth the effort?
Next I ask myself, “Will this tactic still work for us given our brand strategy and annual revenue goals?” If the answer is yes, then I’ll include it in my plan. If the answer is no, then I’ll likely remove it from my plan for now. You want to focus on marketing activities that support revenue goals and create the most awareness for your brand.
It’s good to have a few reliable tactics that you’ve tested and know have worked as cornerstones of your marketing plan in the past. Not only can you be confident they’ll impact your target audience but there’s also already a process in place for executing them, which saves you lots of time and energy.
Brainstorm New Tactics
Each year, make some room to test out new marketing tactics. Consider your current marketing objectives, marketing mix and the demographics you’re trying to reach. As you brainstorm new tactics, it’s critical to remember that they must align with your ideal audience and the highest impact areas we identified at the beginning of this post.
I know what you’re thinking. "This is going to take a lot of time and work and analysis, so why not just stick with the few things that worked last year and call it a day?"
Because at some point, your tried and true tactics will stop working. And if you aren’t testing new ideas each year to find out what works and what doesn’t, then you’ll have no new tactics to replace the old ones when they become ineffective.
As you build up the tactics that work, your marketing program will gain more and more momentum and you’ll start noticing measurable results. This also creates diversity within your marketing plan which results in a more reliable marketing machine overall.
**Pro tip for marketing managers like me: This is the spot in the process where I usually put all the ideas my team comes up with throughout the year that need a little more development. This allows us to make a solid plan for each of them and make sure they’re aligned with our current goals.
Make Time to Test
It’s incredibly important to allow for testing both in your marketing budget and your timeline. After you’ve brainstormed a handful of new tactics to try, you’ll inevitably be confronted by the price tag attached to each one. If you don’t have room for experimental campaigns in your budget, then you might not be able to give these new tactics a fair shot.
Without data from test runs, you’ll be forced to go all-in on unproven strategies when your “sure thing” tactics stop working. That’s a pretty high risk for any brand to take with their marketing dollars. So don’t. Reevaluate how you plan your budget and create a little nest egg for testing new tactics each year so you can make data-backed decisions when it’s time to switch out or add to your heavy-hitting campaigns.
Do Not Fall Into “The Trap”
Now we must talk about the things that will get you into trouble as you create this fancy new plan. And I have affectionately dubbed those “The Trap.”
In my experience, every effective marketing team consists of two kinds of people. The first kind is like me. I’m really good at organizing chaos, but less good at thinking outside of the box. I thrive on optimizing things and creating efficiencies for our team. I have comfy little ruts that I’ve created for my work and enjoy a safe, peaceful life within them.
Then there are those marketers who I affectionately refer to as “idea people.” They always have thoughts about new things we could be doing or how we could improve our strategy. Seriously, their ideas are endless and it’s amazing.
I need these people in my life because without creative problem solving and out-of-the-box thinking, our marketing would never progress. Instead, it would grow stagnant.
Every organization has this dichotomy, but some come with more tension than others. There’s always the funsucker (like myself) seemingly up against the slew of idea people constantly trying to push the business forward and gain a competitive advantage. What some organizations don’t realize is that you really do need both to stay out of “the trap.”
“The trap,” as I so ominously call it, is getting off track from tactics you’ve already put into motion to chase another “shiny” idea that doesn’t fit your revenue goals or your audience. It’s the marketing equivalent of abandoning your phone mid-call because you saw an ad for the newest version and decided to go buy it right now.
To avoid this all-too-common mistake, there are a few things you can do:
- Pick a few ideas to chase within your planning. Again, they must align with your audience and be evaluated regularly to see what is working and what isn’t.
- Stick to a schedule for when you implement each new idea. This allows you to let things in motion play out fully before moving on to the next tactic. It also guards your team’s bandwidth and ensures you continue putting the most effort where it will have the most impact.
- Identify the ideas that really are worth dropping everything to pursue. These will align with your audience, are very likely to have a high impact on your goals and can be supported by your current staff. Those are worth changing course to make happen. (But, you know, still be choosy.)
If you’re dedicated to gathering enough data to properly evaluate a marketing tactic come year-end, then you’re far less likely to fall into “the trap.” The key is to build options into your marketing plan that can be reasonably tested without completely abandoning a new tactic.
Don’t Keep Driving Without a Roadmap
Especially in digital marketing, pushing forward without a plan for how to reach your goals seldom ends in success. It’s like saying you’ll drive to Times Square without bothering to figure out how to get there. So instead of relying on the latest marketing trend to support your business, start using a strategic marketing planning process to choose your next efforts.
Want to keep reading? Check out Change The Channel: Choosing The Right Marketing Channels For Your Brand for ideas on evaluating new marketing channels for your brand.