There are many paths to the C Suite, fewer to the top spot and even fewer who reach that top spot with a even a fundamental understanding of how to “do” marketing.
This can be infinitely frustrating to those who were hired to be the experts at maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of a company’s message yet continually are left on the outside as C Suite folks, frankly, get it wrong.
So here’s some unsolicited advice to leaders: What makes a leader a true asset to the team is humility, the ability to acknowledge that he or she doesn’t know marketing at that “expert” level and the willingness to involve the marketing team early and often.
Marketing folks allowed themselves to get the reputation of their department being a cost center. Money flows out for all those mailers and social media boosted posts and commercials and giveaways at conferences, but for a long time no one in marketing took the time to connect their efforts to the money that comes back in because of their efforts. Thus, when businesses hit tough times, the marketing department was often the first to get hacked, a completely illogical and counterproductive move but one that was justified by the numbers available at the time.
So how do you measure your value as a marketer? It isn’t the clever copy you came up with for that ad campaign. It isn’t the really pretty flyer you designed or the great commercial script you wrote. Rather, it’s how effective that clever copy, pretty flyer and great commercial script were at helping the department and the business reach its goals. I have seen too many marketers rest on the supposed attractiveness of their ad campaign and seen their work promoted internally as innovative or amazing when the data that flows back show it didn’t move the needle on anything that matters.
If an “innovative” ad campaign doesn’t make anything good happen, is it really innovative?
What marketers need to do is impress upon C Suite folks that marketing is a logical process. This is really hard for the creative types in marketing to even want to bother with. Ideas flow, right? Double rainbow, all the way. They don’t come from a process, right?
There is a definite process to marketing. Bad marketing managers make that process arduous for internal stakeholders and make them not want to work with you to turn an idea into reality. Good marketing managers are able to streamline the process into easily understandable steps.
My basic process has five steps, with No. 1 being “An idea!” and No.. 5 being “Completion!” There are no forms to fill out, no group meetings that suck up the “do-ers” time. I worked at a company where the marketing “leader” developed a 16-step process that involved three forms and at least three meetings that brought in a minimum of eight people for at least an hour each time.
Yeahno. Don’t do that.
- Goal review
- Priority assigned
- Work and review
So here’s the deal: Someone comes to you with an idea. Great! “I want to put out a mailer.”
Woah woah woah. That’s not a marketing idea. That’s a channel. And that’s way down the line. So let’s pause and talk. What do you want this mailer to accomplish? Who is the target audience? What is the message in this mailer? What do you want people to feel and do? Then we can talk about the channel, about the vehicle you’re going to use to deliver the message that speaks to your target audience that helps you accomplish your goal.
Let’s look at how this works in real life. Someone brings you an idea that’s not really an idea, that is a channel. Conversations — not meetings — happen. In the span of about two hours max, you can turn that not-idea into a fully fleshed-out plan. An actual plan!
Step 1: What’s your goal? What do you want to accomplish? “I want to attract 500 donors to an event to raise $50,000.” Immediately, you’ve gone from “I want to send out a mailer” to “Here’s the big picture things that needs to be accomplished.” Presumably, that $50,000 is part of an overarching revenue goal that the donor development department is responsible for. And really… who cares if 500 people show up to get to that $50,000 or if it’s 50, right? Refine that goal! Do you have to have an event? What if you just raised the $50,000? Would you be OK with that? Events are cool and all, but they’re a lot of work and come with a lot of expense. Sometimes that’s worth it, if you’re promoting connection and goodwill. But maybe the goal really is: “I want to raise $50,000 in some new way.” Now you’ve got an idea! You’ve got something that’s attached to the betterment of your business. And you have an open field in front of you on which to play.
Step 2: Who can help you accomplish this goal? I like to use customer personas. I want to demographically describe an actual person and put an actual (stock photo) face to that person so everyone can see who the main focus is in this effort to raise $50,000. You can have two customer personas. You can have seven. Just don’t get too crazy. The key is to have real people based on research who you know are in a position to help you meet your goal. This helps you to stop wasting money on channels where your customer persona folks don’t hang out. Are you going to do a paid Instgram or TikTok campaign as part of this donor effort? Likely not.
Step 3: How can you motivate your customer personas to act to help you accomplish your goal? This is strategy. Know this: Even the most data-driven person makes decisions based on emotions. Feelings. The stuff marketing department are (or should be) good at. This holds true for business-to-business marketing. Why? Because businesses are run by people, and all people, when it comes down to decision time, make those decisions based on feelings and emotions. This isn’t to say data doesn’t come into play. Data can help shape how people feel. But in the end, it’s not the data that is going to lead your customer persona to decide whether to donate or not. It’s how you can make them feel about the need for them to part with their money to help you.
Step 4: What’s the best way to share your strategy? This is not the channel. This is the type of content you’re going to produce to be delivered on the channel. It’s your tactics. Is it telling the story of someone a donation would benefit? Is it talking about how your business is responsible with donations and can be trusted? How can your marketing piece make people feel what you want them to feel so that they act how you want them to act to help you to accomplish the goal you need to accomplish?
Step 5: Now we can talk about the channel, the best delivery vehicle or vehicles to help motivate people to act to help you achieve your goal. Is it an event? Yes? No? If yes, does it need a mailer? Is it an email campaign? Is it a billboard? What mix of channels gives you the best chance of taking the tactics, using your strategy, to reach your customer personas to help you accomplish your goal? Once you’ve figured that out, then and only then do you produce your marketing collateral. To start doing this any sooner is a waste of everyone’s time, which is a very valuable resource to be squandering. Trying to skip right to the channel is like trying to put a roof on a house for which you haven’t poured the foundation or built the walls.
Step 6: How “right” were you? In other words, measurement! How are you going to decide how effective your marketing campaign has been? Well, one easy way is to assign a percentage of the goal to the marketing department. Maybe even 100 percent! “Hey, the event raised $55,000! We did it! Thanks, Marketing Folks!” Do you see how you’ve then just attached a dollar amount coming in to the amount that went out (in both your time and in materials) to make the campaign happen? All of a sudden, marketing isn’t a cost center. It’s a revenue generator! If you spent $5,000 (including the hours spent based on your hourly salary) to generate $55,000, that’s a pretty dang good return on the investment. It’s quantifiable. Your work led to X.
C Suite folks will often unintentionally think that marketing types don’t go through this process, don’t think about these things, don’t want to measure. And hey, in a lot of situations, they’re right. But marketing folks need to think like this, need to adhere to the process, need to hold themselves up for quantifiable measurement. Yes, it’s painful when a really pretty flyer we designed does nothing to move the needle on a business goal. But that’s reality.
So what then?
Try something different! Look at the research. Try to gain some more insight by talking with your customers, honing your personas. These things are ever-moving marks that need constant upkeep. So keep up!
And C Suite leaders, please: Rely on your marketing folks. If you’ve got something you need to accomplish, bring them into the process. They can help. There’s a method to the madness, and if you end up going through the process with them, it’s you who is going to end up looking good in the end.