Strategic Planning: Don’t Eyeball Your Business

I was talking with a friend about their business recently and was pretty alarmed about how little they knew about their digital marketing process. We were discussing digital strategy and strategic planning, and after listening to their business problem (“I would like more qualified prospects” – if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that…), I responded with a few essential questions:

  • Question: “What social media platforms resonate with your customers?”
  • Answer: “I don’t know.”
  • Question: “Okay, think of your highest value customers…what age group do they fall in? What income range do they fall in?”
  • Answer: “Hmmmm. I’m not sure.”
  • Question: “How did you choose your current marketing tactics? The print publications, the billboards, radio, and direct mail pieces…all those traditional tactics that you’re using today?”
  • Answer: “Well, we just eyeball them. If it seems as if someone is interested in (insert product here) then we use it.”

Stunned silence. I didn’t know what to do with that. Without saying anything, my brain began to kaleidoscope through my digital marketing pitch.

Strategic Planning is Key

I’ve always worked in an environment where data is my first go-to when answering a marketing question. Data to understand my customers (age, income, interests, attitudes, buying habits) – where can I find more of my best customers? Data to understand my competitors (the loyalty and satisfaction of their customers) – how can I convert them to my brand? Data to understand which marketing tactics are working AFTER I design a marketing plan around my most coveted segments. (What’s my return on investment for print, digital advertising, and social media? Which tactics should I keep, which should I cut?)

In a marketing age where research tools are readily available (think SPSS or SASS statistical programs) and data is literally lying about for us to grab and categorize, why would we “guess” at something as important as our customer base? There’s no need to eyeball anything when there are so many qualified marketing researchers available who can help you understand exactly what you need to know to become more effective with your marketing dollars.

Now that we have these wonderful research techniques and tools, the effectiveness of strategic planning around marketing initiatives has become highly measurable. In the old days (you remember the 80’s and 90’s) there was a certain amount of “guessing” at the success of a tactic. But now there are quantifiable ways to measure success.

A highly measurable marketing initiative is digital advertising; it’s all about precise targeting and driving clearly defined results. You can pick segments based on demographics, interests, buying habits…you name it, digital advertising can target it.

That ended the kaleidoscoping pitch inside my head, and after (what seemed like) an eternity of silence my friend said, “Hello – are you still there?”

“Yes,” I said tentatively, feeling relieved he could not see my pained expression. No need to rain on his parade. “…and I have good news for you. Although we need to step back and answer some basic questions, I think that you have lots of opportunity to understand your customer base, build a precise strategic marketing campaign with tactics that target your best prospects, and ultimately save you dollars WHILE increasing the effectiveness of your brand. I think we can help make (insert product here) more successful. But, we need to start with some basic research to support the strategic planning of marketing tactics. No more eyeballing.”

Well, there was a little more eyeballing as he looked at me with a pained expression of his own. Thankfully, that expression quickly turned to a smile as he realized his business could make the jump to the 21st century!

 


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