Every single one of our clients has an extremely unique set of needs based on their specific challenges, objectives and budgets. As a result the mix of solutions we recommend are also extremely unique to each client. However, there are some things we almost always universally recommend to everyone because we know their marketing won’t be as effective without them. So without further ado, here are 18 tactics that tend to show up on all our new clients’ recommended marketing to-do lists.
1. Conduct A Stakeholder Survey. Stakeholder surveys should be conducted at least once a year and go to all key decision-makers in your organization. The purpose is to determine if and where there’s any friction regarding your marketing goals, target and competition. Once identified, these friction points can be addressed and resolved before they turn into bigger problems down the road. Questions should be customized for your specific company and industry and are divided into the following sections:
• Product/Services - benefits/weaknesses
• Defining Success - what success looks like and how much should it cost
• Communications - what's working/what's not/what’s missing
• Elevator Pitch – what you tell people your company does
• Identification – who they are
• Perceived Strengths + Weaknesses
• Who They Are - demographics + psychographics
• Perceived Wants & Needs
• Media - how do customers find out about you
2. Audit All Your Communications. Gather all past and current marketing and advertising elements. These materials may include but are not limited to:
• Mission, Vision & Positioning Statements
• Any Existing Customer Research
• Print ads
• Banner ads
• Direct Mail
• Website Copy
• Sales Sheets
• White Papers
• Business Cards
• Tradeshow/Event Marketing Materials
Go through each piece and evaluate what is and isn’t working. What is and isn't consistent in form of tone, design and messaging. When developing new work, having this knowledge will allow your agency to capitalize on effective tactics while avoiding those that are not. In other words, a communications audit will ensure you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater in the new campaign. This exercise also helps identify missing customer touch point opportunities and the prioritization of specific tactics that need to be developed.
3. Analyze Your Competitors. Identifying and understanding who your real competitors are is critical to successfully differentiate and position your company against them. Doing so will allow you to capitalize on their weaknesses and failures while protecting you against any threats they may pose. A basic competitive analysis should detail your competitors’:
• Strategic positioning
• Brand personality
• Target audience
• Achilles Heel identification (biggest weakness)
• Threats to your business
• Products + services
• Geographic influence
• Messaging + communications tactics
4. Survey Your Vendors. Want to know how you’re really perceived by the market? How about what’s working and not working for your competitors? Ask your vendors. It’s their business to know your business as well as your competitors’. Chances are, you'll be surprised by what they tell you.
5. Research Your Customers. Understanding your customers’ real wants and needs are absolutely critical to developing an effective marketing strategy. You can utilize data analysis and quantitative, qualitative and ethnographic research to identify the ones that can impact your business most.
Quantitative research such as online surveys and controlled testing and field trials (A/B testing, test markets, creative pre-testing and analysis of primary and secondary data) provide measurable, statistically relevant data from the marketplace. Generally speaking, quantitative research allows us to speak to a large number of people, in a relatively short timeframe cost effectively.
Qualitative research provides insight into the emotional reasons people engage with a brand. Focus groups, one-on-one interviews, phone surveys, triads and ethnography are qualitative tactics we utilize to get at the why’s and what’s and emotional hot buttons that drive behavior.
To get the best understanding possible we like to use both on three types of customers:
• Current customers
• Customers/Consumers who have left you for a competitor
• Potential customers
If needed, we also like to employ our data analysts to identify your best long-term customers, define their personas and report on their behavior. This analysis allows us to maximize reach while minimizing wastage by locating people just like them in any market. Once we know who they are, where they live and what they like to do, we can connect with them through hyper-targeted online channels like social platforms, blogs and banners and offline tactics like direct mail, billboards, guerrilla and even targeted TV.
6. Define Your Company’s Higher Purpose. A company’s higher purpose is a mission statement, positioning statement and brand promise jacked up on steroids and rolled into one potent line. Our clients use it to filter, integrate and improve every communication tactic and customer experience possible. We define higher purpose as the one profitable thing your company does extremely well that your customers truly want and need which your competitors are unwilling or unable to do.
7. Write An Overarching Strategic Brief. Every company that markets needs an Overarching Strategic Brief (OSB). In short, it serves as a condensed brand platform that strategically defines your business objectives while guiding and inspiring the development of tactics and executions to fulfill them. From Media Planning to Creative Brand Experiences to Internal Messaging, every tactic must also have its own tactical brief that defines how it will integrate with the rest of the campaign and support the OSB. A solid Overarching Strategic Brief will contain the following:
Your Unique Business Challenge
Your Key Benefits - functional + emotional
Your Key Weaknesses
Your Top Competitors - products + services + key benefits + key weaknesses
Your Customer - demographics + psychographics
The #1 Thing Your Customers Want From You
Top Barriers To Purchase + Possible Way To Overcome Them
Your Key Personality Descriptors
Your Higher Purpose Statement (Key Message)
Why Should Your Customers Believe It?
What Do We Want Your Customers To Feel & Do?
Tonality Of Messaging
Media - paid + earned + owned
Call To Action
Contact Info To Be Included
Media Insertion Deadlines
8. Construct A Media Plan That Delivers Continuously – Not Just In Short Bursts. Research shows the most effective media buys are ones that deliver messaging continuously throughout the year to everyone in your market – from potential buyers all the way to loyalist heavy buyers. Instead of marketing to niche personas – market deep and wide to everyone who needs your product or service.
9. Develop An Integrated Marketing Communications Plan (IMC Plan). Once you’ve developed your media plan, and agreed on a production budget and measurement plan, you need to put it all together in an IMC Plan. The IMC Plan is a 12-month calendar detailing deadlines, production schedules, delivery dates, run times and success metrics for every single paid, owned and earned media tactic in your annual campaign.
10. Create An Evergreen Creative Campaign For The Long-Term. Short-term campaigns are not only shortsighted; they’ll leave you short-changed. To maximize revenue, studies have proven the most effective marketing campaigns are both big and long. Big in that they contain powerful executions fully integrated across multiple channels. Long in that they perpetually inspire hundreds of interesting and memorable brand experiences that consistently and surprisingly reinforces the same brand message over decades. (Think Nike’s Just Do It, Dos Equis' The Most Interesting Man In The World, MasterCard’s Priceless and BMW’s The Ultimate Driving Machine campaigns.)
11. Rally The Troops. Every quarter bring your ad agency in and host a lunch for as many people in your organization as you can afford. Have your agency put together a presentation that shows off all the new marketing work you’ve done. Include your very best executions, publicity and results. If you have a sales team make them part of the show. Give them a platform to report on all the sales they're making and the great feedback they're getting from customers.
12. Create An Employee Pledge. An employee pledge is an internal rallying cry, brand manifesto and oath all powerfully combined in a beautifully written document. Once finished, it should be a work of art worthy of prominent display inside your company. Everyone – from the CEO on down plus all new employees – should sign it. Nothing makes a clearer or stronger statement about who your company is, what it stands for and what customers can expect from you.
13. Produce A Fully Integrated Testimonial Campaign. Without a doubt, one of the most effective content tactics is to produce an integrated campaign of real customer testimonials. The ideal testimonial campaign includes professionally shot videos that are multi-purposed into pre-rolls, broadcast spots, social media banners, website rotators, collateral, print and direct mail. (In full disclosure, we just launched Kudo Judo, a turnkey testimonial campaign production company to better service our clients.)
14. Send Every Customer Starring In Your Testimonial Campaign Copies Of The Executions They’re In. Thank them for their time and ask them to share it with their friends. Over 95% do.
15. Cut Out At Least One Promotional Event. It’s been proven that short-term price promotions have little if any effect on long-term sales and brand growth. Evidence suggests most people who buy during promotions are brand loyalists who more than likely would have paid full-price anyway. The best thing price promotions do is solidify your relationship with retailers. Remember, the best brands are rarely the cheapest.
16. Make Social Media Participation Mandatory. Everyone from the CEO on down should be participating in commenting on and sharing your marketing content via social media. The best way to get everyone in your company involved is to let them know when something has been posted and simply ask them to comment on it and share it.
17. Do Something Surprisingly Generous For Your Customers. Think of four doable ways to thank your customers. It doesn’t have to be something big – just surprising and of some emotional value. Ideally, do something that reinforces your company’s higher purpose. You do have a higher purpose, right? One of our clients, Burkely Student Communities, offers rental discounts to residents who make the Dean’s List. This fits in perfectly with their positioning as the only off-campus student housing option 100% dedicated to helping students succeed academically.
18. Enter Award Shows. This one sounds pretty cliché, coming from a creatively driven ad agency, right? Well, the truth is award-winning work has been proven to be more effective at generating revenue and growing companies than non-award winning advertising. Winning awards is also one of the most effective ways for agencies to attract top talent to work on your account. So instead of only looking at award shows as vainglorious, self-serving events for your agency (which they no doubt are) consider the fact they’re also a great way to measure whether your agency is delivering the best work possible and recruiting top talent.
This list is by no means exhaustive but writing it has been exhausting. So we’ll stop now at 18. If you need help with any of the above items listed, please contact us. We’d love to help.