Define your goals before skipping ahead to the tactics.

For many of our clients we essentially serve as the outsourced marketing manager. In that role, we get to see some pretty interesting marketing and advertising sales pitches. These “marketing partners” try to convince us that the only solution for a successful marketing program is to use their product or service. I recommend that you never take marketing advice from a commissioned sales rep, but some of these folks are very persuasive.

Leverage the Value-Added Paradigm Shift

Before you write a check to harness the power of SEO, leverage the potential of Social Media, or succumb to some other industry buzzword, try a little different approach. Develop your marketing plan by first clarifying what you are trying to accomplish, rather than just jumping on the trend of the day. Define your target audience, differentiating message, and ways to reach that audience. Then decide on the tactics.

Here are some fundamental marketing questions I ask in order to build a strong foundation for a quality marketing program:

What is our ultimate marketing goal? Mine is to generate quality leads that convert into clients. Impressions and traffic are good interim metrics, but you can’t buy a cup of coffee with either. Brand identity is great – but as a byproduct of lead generating activities.

Who is our target audience? This is not just about demographic information. It’s about their purchasing behavior and where they go for research, knowledge and advice. This includes peer groups as well as online and offline (real world) activities.

What are my marketing assets? These could be a big list of names and email addresses, a content-rich website, ideas for educational articles, great networking contacts, business alliances, referral sources, etc.

Why would someone want to use my services? I wrote a separate article about differentiation, so I won’t get into it here. Let’s just say that “we work hard for you” won’t set you apart from other firms.

What’s the quickest way to get my message in front of a prospective buyer? Think specific, measurable tactics, like submitting an article to a trade publication, sending a newsletter to your email list, asking to speak at a relevant conference, etc.

Now you’re building a tactical, lead-focused marketing plan, choosing the right activities based on your goals, audience, assets, and unique value. This time you’re in control, rather than allowing the tactics to drive your behavior. As an added bonus, you can also brag about your new integrated, ROI-enhancing marketing campaign with low carbon footprint.

In Part 2, we’ll learn from some really good and really bad vendor pitches.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.SM

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