Watch Out for Silver Bullets!
Jim Everhart explains why every marketing program needs strategic messaging.
Today’s post is by Jim Everhart, author of BRAND VISION: The Clear Line Of Sight Aligning Business Strategy and Marketing Tactics (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
If you and your company are involved at all in marketing (and who isn’t?), you’re constantly being bombarded by sales reps, each claiming their marketing tactics or services are the silver bullets that will put you over the edge, into viral heaven.
Everything from search ads to email to analytics programs to social media influencers are being promoted as the next big thing.
In all fairness, many of these tactics play important roles in effective marketing campaigns. They wouldn’t exist if they didn’t.
The problem is with the tactics-first approach they seem to be advocating. Let me explain.
Too many companies begin marketing campaigns these days by diving right into tactical execution. Like choosing between Facebook and Twitter. Search marketing or email. They’re casting the TV spot, worried about the media buy. Arguing over product placement. Unleashing PR people, web developers, search marketing experts, email specialists and front-end designers on the world to do their own thing.
They churn out tons of material. Take up gigabits of storage space. Burn through a lot of cash.
But those tactics-first approaches almost always fail.
Oh sure, maybe they get some likes. Or some heart emojis. But sales and leads? Not so much.
So while Marshall McLuhan proclaimed decades ago that the medium is the message, I’m guessing he didn’t mean that the medium should create the message.
And maybe what he meant was that you should choose the medium based on the message you want to deliver.
Not the other way around. The way all too many marketers do – picking a medium and letting that choice dictate your message. Or worse yet, hoping your media choices ferret out the message lurking somewhere in all that stuff you’re generating.
I’m a writer. A content guy. Always have been, always will be. And I think that before you select a social media platform or hire a celebrity influencer to make your pitch, you need to know what you’re going to say.
I have a writer’s solution to the problems marketing faces today – the creation of strategic messaging. A single-source, definitive document that defines the messaging around your offer (whether it’s a product introduction, a market initiative or a brand awareness effort) and presents all the relevant information your creative teams need to understand, present and deliver that message.
Here are the elements of that document:
The strategic landscape – how this project came about and the technology issues, the competitive landscape and the market dynamics.
A list of goals, as specific as possible, laying out what you’d like to accomplish.
A clear definition of the product, initiative or offer and the customer value proposition that differentiates it from the competition.
An integration statement showing how the project fulfills or validates the corporate strategy.
A customer profile (or preferably, a full persona) identifying the prospect and their motivations or hot buttons.
The strategic vision for the campaign: the one-sentence summary that aligns the product with the corporate strategy, connects it to the audience hot buttons and differentiates it from the competition.
The reasons to believe the Strategic Vision and the proof points that support them.
A map of the marketing campaign listing the proposed tactics (like emails, ads, posts and web pages) and showing how they work together to advance the sale.
An accountability plan, not only making it easy to optimize the program, but also measuring your success in achieving the objectives.
That’s not your typical product manager’s brief. Or even a creative director’s instructions to the creative team. But rather a hard-as-nails, comprehensive account that gives the creative team their marching orders.
Above all, it elevates clarity. A clear statement of the product’s advantages, shorn of corporate vanity, marketing voodoo and campy creativity. And lays out the proposed path to success.
It connects corporate strategy to the marketing process by making the brand, service or product the incarnation of the corporate positioning and keeping it top-of-mind as marketing tactics are developed and implemented.
It connects to the audience by highlighting the prospect’s pain points and making them the focus of the key messaging elements, specifically requiring strategists to call them out when they’re defining messaging reasons-to-believe and proof points.
It makes campaign integration possible, issuing a single set of instructions to the array of PR, advertising, social media, email and web teams you have generating the content in different silos. By different people. Working in different buildings. Perhaps for different companies. Maybe on different continents. Soon, on different planets.
It makes the best use of your subject matter expert’s time. You’re capturing all the information at once and working with them to make sure it’s accurate. Before it’s given to the different content teams to disseminate. So they only have to give the final materials a cursory look-through as the campaign is finalized and the paid ads, Tweets, e-mails and videos roll out.
It facilitates accountability and ROI measurement, both of which are not possible without the discipline of campaigns. Sure, you can measure impressions, likes, emojis, clicks and click-through rates. But to what end? Want to show any of that data to your CEO? Not hardly.
By organizing marketing efforts around strategic messaging. we marry strategy and concepts, messaging and campaigns. And we set the stage for program measurement, optimization, accountability, ROI reporting and even predictive analytics.
That’s the goal of strategic messaging. Nothing short of rescuing marketing from the snake-oil salespeople and the tacticians. And giving today’s businesses the marketing they need and deserve.
Jim Everhart, author of BRAND VISION: The Clear Line Of Sight Aligning Business Strategy and Marketing Tactics is a freelance strategist and writer, working with corporations and agencies to develop marketing communications tactics and campaigns. He spent more than four decades in the marketing industry, most of it at Godfrey Advertising, one of the largest business-to-business marketing agencies in the United States.
For more information, please visit www.brandvisionbook.com
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