Take a look at any operational business environment and you’ll find countless tools designed to send up red flags the minute something goes off-track. From inventory levels to customer wait times to sales quotas, it’s all planned, measured and optimized to ensure a smooth operation. Most times, if a metric isn’t meeting expectations, the consequences are visible immediately. Not always the case with marketing.
The results of a successful marketing strategy, or lack of one, are much more gradual, but this doesn’t mean we can’t apply a similar calculated approach and put metrics in place to measure success. Every marketing “operation” is different, but stick to some form of these five simple principles and you’ll be on your way to measured success.
1. PLAN YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY TO SUPPORT COMPANY GOALS
No annual marketing strategy should be established independent of the rest of the company’s goals. This may seem like a no-brainer for small organizations, but it takes a concerted effort for marketers in large companies to ensure they’re aligned with the objectives of their counterparts and company leadership.
Think of marketers as support personnel. Ask lots of questions to find out how you can best support your colleagues. What tactics will other departments employ to meet company goals? How can you as a marketer support them? How and when will success be measured? What are the primary and secondary goals? What new expansions, product launches and initiatives are planned, and when? If you find yourself short on questions, reach out to your ad agency. We always want to get to know your business better, and we’ll help you apply the resulting insight to create a more impactful campaign.
2. ESTABLISH AN ANNUAL PLAN AND BUDGET
After understanding what your goals and objectives are for the year, it’s time to get granular. Plan out when and for how long each goal will be supported and what media tactics you’ll use. Do you have existing assets to support each or do you need to allocate time and money for production? Allocate your budget according to which goals are most important. Hint: Those are usually the ones that have the most revenue potential. Be sure to allocate enough budget for effective creative production and/or media quality.
Your agency should help you forecast media and production expenses. This is also the time to get agency recommendations about what’s new in the industry and if provides opportunity for your brand or service.
3. STICK TO YOUR PLAN
Once you have your foundational strategy and plan established, there are a number of tools that can help you stay on message, on time and on budget. Your agency can provide and manage these documents for you, but every marketer should have some version of these handy at all times:
- Flowchart – This spreadsheet shows forecasted spend per media type per month, usually showing how many units will be purchased per week. Use this to help manage your internal budget and as a go-to resource for knowing what’s happening with your media plan and budget.
- Run List – Once media is purchased, your agency should provide you with a run list. This list contains media run dates, creative due dates and creative specs. You’ll indicate what creative message will be used for each flight or insertion.
- Running Production Budget – You’ve already forecasted your production needs for the year, but do update your forecasted amounts with actual costs. This will help you know exactly how much you have to work with (or request) for remaining projects or opportunities. Additionally, tracking actual costs will help you forecast similar production projects accurately in the future.
- Social Media Editorial Calendar – Implementing a compelling and authentic social media presence requires advance planning. Plan your posts a few weeks in advance, allowing time to source relevant images and ensure working urls. Change it when you need to, but this will save you precious follow-up time during the week.
4. ANALYZE, REFINE AND IMPROVE
No matter the media type, performance reports should be provided to you along with a summary of what is working and what needs improvement. This is true for just about every media type other than print and outdoor. The best performance reporting you can hope for is that your creative actually ran and that if didn’t, your agency has already negotiated an advantageous replacement for you.
For radio and TV, your agency should provide you with a post-buy report that shows you how many points were actually delivered. And, if the stations underdelivered, when they’ll “make good.” Ideally, any underdelivery will be addressed by your agency while still in flight. After all, that’s when you intended it to run and what you were hoping to measure.
For digital and social media campaigns, reporting should be provided to you on a consistent basis. Your agency should review more frequent reports to ensure that key performance indicators (KPIs) are being met and to quickly improve any poorly performing tactics. Keep in mind these campaigns need time to optimize and adjust to provide the best results. Be patient and look for gradual monthly increases in your KPIs.
Media performance reports can only tell you one side of the story. You also need to keep tabs on revenue results while in flight. Are sales up? Has foot traffic increased? What factors besides marketing could be affecting revenue levels? Knowing these answers help you fully evaluate the performance of your campaigns.
5. MAINTAIN CONSTRUCTIVE INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
This sounds like another no-brainer, but it’s all too easy for marketers to conduct business in a silo. One recent study found that 86% of corporate executives blamed lack of collaboration for workplace failures. It’s imperative to keep the lines of communication open with your peers outside of the marketing department. In addition to finding out if your marketing efforts are producing tangible results, it helps you keep tabs on the pulse of the consumer. Where are they coming from geographically? Have their priorities shifted? What are they asking for that you aren’t addressing in your marketing. Share this insight with your agency and together you will keep your creative and media mix on target.
Tactical reasons also necessitate internal communication. If your business operations leaders don’t know you plan to hit the media airwaves, how will they know to staff up and increase inventory levels? The whole company needs to know when marketing efforts will ramp up so they can prepare accordingly. Every effort should be made to ensure those responding to your marketing efforts are pleased with their experience and become return customers. That’s your ultimate goal.
These five concepts are simple, but they will keep you from veering off course and ultimately pave the way to your measured marketing success.