It’s the start of a new year, so its time to consider marketing resolutions. What are you doing to keep up with the challenge of staying ahead of your customers?
In my personal experience there are two ends of the marketing planning spectrum and neither works all the time.
On one end we have “the reactor,” someone who totally abandons his or her plan in favor of whatever the flavor of the day happens to be. They are marketing by the seat of their pants. The problem with this is that they will never really have a base to judge anything on. Their entire activity level is one giant test. Don’t get me wrong—tests are great. But, they need to be done in an organized fashion against your baseline marketing to see if your results were a fluke or a real home run.
When you are in this mode, you will never move forward because your idea of the perfect prospect or customer changes day by day based on the most recent campaign. You’ll truly never get to know who your best audience actually is and it will be trial and error over and over again. If you hit a lucky streak it might work, but you are gambling your marketing budget.
The other end of the spectrum is “the analyzer,” someone who spends the bulk of his or her time thinking re-thinking and then analyzing what they just thought about.
They are marketing from a position of fear. The problem here is that they will never move forward or know if a new idea will work because they are stuck in the “we always do this and this has worked” or “I don’t want to make the CEO mad” mentality.
They only use their set prospect and customer universes over and over. Their entire activity level is one of sameness because they are afraid to rock the marketing boat. This individual will pretty much bring up the last marketing plan and do a save as and be done with things. If they do try something new they will agonize over the brainstorming process taking more time to decide what and how ideas should be organized and proclaim they just don’t have time for process.
They intentionally or subconsciously make the process so burdensome that new ideas simply don’t get off the ground. The biggest issue with sameness is that your customer or best prospect of years ago is most likely different now in a different economic situation. If you never test, you’ll never know what segments or new lists might pay off better, and what opportunity you are missing.
Finding a happy middle ground between what has worked and what might work is the key to a successful marketing plan. Just making a plan without thought to what percentage you are allocating to tried and true and “testing” is just not a good idea.
Before you take on your Excel spreadsheet, take on your budget. Know what percentage will go to marketing to your in-house customer database, what percentage to lists that have performed well in the past and what percentage will go to new tests.
When you look at your customer database and rental lists that performed well in the past—your baseline group—take a portion of your budget to test new segments against the proven list. In a nutshell, can you slice and dice this winning list to get even more out of it? Before you do “same as” think about what a micro-targeting test on this proven baseline might yield.
In terms of total prospect list tests for the coming year you have two ways to go about things. One is to keep a pool of funds available for the times when you just need to throw caution to the wind and take a chance on a brand new idea. The other would be to take an objective look at your overall results from 2009. Of every single campaign you ran in a specific medium what worked best?
Can you replicate that and test a brand new prospect list that matches up with the need filled on your successful campaign? In essence this is an educated guess rather than a total jump off the cliff.
As for me, I’m busily making my new 2010 plan with a budget and higher ups to appease, Some of my ideas I’ll win and some I’ll have to give in on. I am taking what’s been done by my company over the years, as well as new ideas that have been tossed around, and looking at it with a fresh eye. I am standing my marketing ground and weeding through what makes sense and what needs (as I call it ) “tweakage.” And when signed off on, this is a resolution list I promise I won’t lose!
Carol Lustig is marketing director for Sonny’s Enterprises, a direct marketer of automotive aftermarket products.