"Well, that didn't work."
How many times have you heard or said those four words about an ad, a marketing effort or a sales pitch? And how many times, when your marketing efforts failed to deliver results, did blame go to a media outlet, to those who produced the effort, or even to staff members who handled the responses?
Guess what? When marketing doesn't net results, the problem usually stems from poor planning, not poor implementation.
So before you prepare another ad, speech, display, newsletter, blog entry, sales presentation or even a letter or e-mail, answer the following seven questions to define the person you want to influence, your marketing objective, and what it'll take to achieve the outcome you're aiming for.
1. Who are you trying to reach? Describe your target market, including geographic location, age, gender, lifestyle information and purchase or decision motivators.
Example: The market for this communication is composed of professionals, 40-plus, primarily male, married with children, upper-middle income, living in the Northeast. And they're interested in sports, outdoor recreation, recognized brands and destinations, and high levels of comfort and service.
2. What does your audience currently know or think about your offering? If your market knows nothing about you, you'll want to develop awareness. If your market thinks favorably of you, you'll want to enhance positive impressions and spur buying decisions. If current impressions are inaccurate or negative, you'll want to change minds.
Remember, customers need to know and respect who you are before they'll consider buying from you, and when they are ready to buy they need a reason to buy now. Only by defining the market's existing mindset can you know what to say to effect the change you're seeking.
3. What are you trying to achieve? Be clear about your objective. Example: "We want golfers within a 100-mile radius to gain a favorable impression of our new course by calling to book a complimentary round any weekday this June."
4. Why should people take the action you're urging? Before you create your marketing message, state the facts, benefits and customer advantages you want to convey. It's one thing to say, "Call us." It's another to say, "Call within 24 hours and we'll deliver a free estimate prepared by our nationally certified installers."
5. What information do you need to include? Too often, marketers omit essential information (phone numbers, Web site addresses, trademark symbols, to name a few) while they bog down their communications with an avalanche of information that matters more to the marketer than to the market.
Before launching your next communication, list the information you have to include. Beyond that, convey only information that will move the market to take the action you desire.
6. How will you measure success? Do you want phone calls, Web site traffic, contest entries, sales of a certain product, or simply a change in awareness or customer attitude? By knowing what you want to achieve, you'll know what message to convey, what action to urge and what outcome to measure.
7. What's your timeline and budget? If you don't set a budget, you'll almost surely spend more than you intend. And if you aren't clear about deadlines and project details, they won't be met. From the get-go - and especially if you're assigning the project to staff, freelancers or a marketing company state your budget, deadlines, material requirements and all other project details so the project gets done correctly, on time, and on budget.
You can put an end to guesswork by using these questions to plan your next marketing effort and every communication thereafter. By defining your audience, marketing objective and desired consumer action, your answers will guide the creation of marketing communications that are bold enough to be heard, unique enough to be noted, and targeted enough to hit the mark.
Barbara Findlay Schenck is a small-business strategist, the author of “Small Business Marketing for Dummies” and the co-author of “Branding for Dummies,” “Selling Your Business for Dummies” and “Business Plans Kit for Dummies.”