5 Questions to Assess Your Marketing Strategy
The marketing landscape of 2013 is a menagerie of media vehicles, digital tools & platforms, Big Data initiatives, sales channels and influencer programs — all requiring coordination, integration and funding. Making sense of this complex world is a challenge; it’s hard to know what’s working and what’s not. Conventional evaluation tools like ROI have their place but they are not strategic and don’t go deep enough in analyzing plan effectiveness. To really evaluate marketing’s worth, it pays to go back to basic principles. We have found that asking five questions can help determine whether the marketing function is "doing the right things, right."
Do we really understand our customer and what influences them?
For many companies, the answer is an unfortunate no. This knowledge gap goes beyond understanding basic needs; it touches on how consumers interact with companies, who or what influences their actions, and what sub-conscious triggers drive purchase behaviour. Even data-intensive companies often know little about how specific tactics — like social media or TV advertising — drive purchase, as well as how various programs interact with each other.
To maximize performance, managers need a new, 360-degree view of today’s consumer. "Connecting with clients is much tougher now than it used to be," says Lynne Coles, a senior B2B and B2C marketer. "They are one click away from becoming as well or even better informed than the firms trying to sell to them. They’re also just one click away from sharing their opinions and experiences with an ever-expanding activist community. Marketers need a holistic approach to understanding the entire customer experience across all channels."
Is our value proposition relevant and differentiated?
Whenever I give a speech on branding, I ask the audience members what their value proposition is, and can it be supported. Typically, 80% or more list the same benefits, like great service or lowest cost. Furthermore, less than 20% of the audience will link a meaningful outcome and explanation to the benefit (e.g., thanks to newer technology, XYZ brand delivers an 80% savings versus the leading brand). These ad hoc surveys usually point to serious flaws in a company’s core positioning, that no amount of spending or technology can fix.
Most firms can differentiate. Many already do, they just don’t realize it. The marketing challenge is around finding meaningful strategic differentiation and then driving the message through all marketing tactics as well as the customer experience.
Do we have enough information and wisdom to make decisions?
Exploiting Big Data — using advanced methodologies and tools to mine data for insights — is all the rage these days. Making it work is another story. Companies may collect a lot of data but it is not always accessible and usable. Furthermore, much of the data may not be germane to marketing goals. Finally, data mining skills does not necessarily translate into wisdom that would help in areas like fostering innovation or creative development.
Modern marketing remains as much an art as a science. Companies require proven analytical and IT capabilities plus common sense to ask better questions and to make better strategic and tactical decisions.
Are we using the right metrics?
Einstein said, "not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." Many firms use metrics that cannot be effectively measured, are unrelated to strategic goals and lack organizational buy-in. The choice of metrics is important. They play a major role in driving management focus & behavior, allocating resources and in framing the evaluation of marketing plans and vehicles.
Leaders should regularly confirm that each tactic is properly measured, evaluated and then linked to the long-term, strategic goals of the company. Managers should also be mindful that a slavish focus on metrics is not a replacement for solid business and creative judgment.
Is the organization enabling marketing?
Many leaders believe their firms are market(ing) driven, with a mission to fully satisfy in a differentiated way the needs of consumers in attractive markets. The organizational reality, however, is often different. Other internal groups frequently have different agendas, a disproportionate share of internal resources and dissimilar perspectives on what drives long-term performance. These dynamics are natural but could result in strife, lack of focus and poor resourcing.
Marketing performance — and ultimately competitiveness — will suffer without adequate alignment, investment and capability-building. Making the marketing mission real will be part cultural change, part priority-setting and part talent management.
Mitchell Osak is managing director of Quanta Consulting Inc. Quanta has delivered a variety of winning strategy and organizational transformation consulting and educational solutions to global Fortune 1000 organizations. Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org