It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? Everyone is trying to finish up their last bits of marketing activity and decide what to do next year. We’ll all be busy presenting plans to the board, the sales operation or our boss – putting forward our case for budget and as usual trying to justify our existence!
It saddens me that still in so many companies marketing is seen as a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘must do’ rather than an essential part of driving the business forward – which is in fact what it really is! Ask most people which organisations they admire and two of the most often quoted are Apple and Virgin. These businesses are ALL about marketing. It’s perhaps the single biggest thing they do right. So why do we as marketers still struggle for airtime, or budget? Why do some people still insist on calling us the ‘coloring-in department?’. And why do companies that have a single person in marketing think that one person can do everything themselves?! Does the Sales Director have to deliver the whole number on their own? Does the HR Director do ALL the recruiting, interviewing and appraisals? Does the FD chase every invoice and make every payment personally? Do I need to answer those questions? And yet the Channel Marketing Manager, Marketing Director, EMEA Marketing Director, Partner Marketing Manager…or whoever, is often expected to do everything – organise collateral, run campaigns, create content, manage the social media, do PR, run events. It’s just not possible. A great marketing manager sets the strategy, in line with the business objectives. They consider the best ways to deliver that strategy and pick a mix of marketing channels, campaigns and tools to best deliver that strategy. Then, inevitably they have to outsource some of the ‘doing’: there just aren’t enough hours in the day!
So as you write your strategy for 2016, what are the things you can put in which will help you get the board level buy in you need?. I’d suggest the following:
- Canvas opinion from the people that matter.
Who influences the success of marketing in your business? I expect in many cases it’s (at least in part) the sales team. If they’re not bought into your strategy, you can expect them to complain loudly and long about it, to anyone who will listen! So get them on board next year. Ask their opinion about what went well this year and what would help them even more next year. You don’t have to promise to deliver it all, but you can promise to take their opinions on board. Once you’ve developed your strategy you can also test it with them. They may come up with some tweaks that improve it or make it more impactful.
- Decide what success looks like and measure something meaningful.
No-one really cares about open rates and click-throughs. What are you looking to achieve next year? Measure that. It might be that new partner acquisition is a focus? OK, so how many partners do you have now? What does success look like? 10 more? 50 more? Or perhaps it’s a revenue number. So in that case maybe you don’t need more partners, but better activation of the ones you are working with? So what are they spending with you now? What kind of uplift are you looking for? What’s the best way to achieve that?
- Plan a strategy that delivers and don’t just get hung up on what the new ‘cool’ is.
Big data, cloud, now the Internet of Things. Sometimes there’s a real pressure to jump on a bandwagon. It’s the same with marketing – content marketing, social selling, marketing automation. These are all just new terms for marketing! A content marketing strategy is only useful in the context of the customer journey. What do customers need or expect at each stage of the buying cycle with you? What draws their awareness and interest and changes it into desire and action? Without this reference, content just becomes ‘stuff’ that you put out there.
Likewise, you can post everything on social but what’s the point? How does it link to your business goals and strategy and how can you usefully leverage and measure social activity?
Marketing automation is the hottest new thing in town. But it’s just the milk cart…without the milk. A marketing automation platform can be a great thing, IF it’s used properly. And to use it properly again it goes back to strategy and the customer journey – what content (milk, to stretch the analogy) are you putting on the milk cart? How is it going to do a job for you? How do you measure the success of your investment in marketing automation and perhaps even more fundamentally, how are you going to use it? I’ve come across so many organisations that have invested in a fantastic platform (we’re a Hubspot partner…other platforms are available), but then have no one in house who can use it, or a team in the States or elsewhere that don’t care, or aren’t allowed to outsource to an agency who can help them leverage the tool they’ve invested in.
So really this has turned into a bit of a ‘rant’ but what I’m suggesting is – take yourself off somewhere, have a good think and decide what you’re actually looking to achieve next year. What is going to make YOU happy and successful? What will make your job easier and get you the support you need? Then do that. Don’t get pulled in 10 directions at once. Don’t let your strategy and plan be at the beck and call of everyone else in the organisation that has a view. Stick to your guns. Know what you’re aiming for and then fire!
If you’d like any help with any of the above, then please do get in touch! Likewise, if you’ve got a view or share some of the above pain, then please do leave me a comment. Happy planning!