Sunday, December 16, 2012

The worst ad ever?

It was a quiet Saturday morning.  I made some fresh coffee and settled down to read the morning paper.  Since I live in Boulder, my morning paper is the Denver Post.  We, as professional marketers, typically look at advertisements with a critical idea and with an eye to borrowing any good ideas or concepts.  Many of the ads you may see are pretty bad and appear to have been created and designed by someones teenager who just figured out how to use Photoshop.

Yesterday morning, I think I stumbled across the worst ad ever.

What do you think?  Would this ad compel you to run out and purchase a new mattress?  The connection between major accidents Exxon Valdez, Challenger and Chernobyl and promoting a new mattress is laughable.  Study after study has proven that fear-based messaging and advertising does not work to grow a business.   I can't imagine what is going through the head or heads of the group or person designing this ad.

What do you suppose their positioning statement might sound like?  Even a statement like "Our mattresses save lives" would be better than this headline.  Albeit still a laughable message.

HA!  Come on Urban Mattress, take a Marketing 101 course so you don't embarrass yourself further.

Marketing Plan - Step 8 'Executive Summary'

These are the steps for creating a proper marketing plan:
Step 8 - Executive Summary.  So that's it, you're done with the heavy lifting.  There are two reasons you write a marketing plan:
  1. To define, clarify and agree on your marketing strategy and tactics
  2. To convey information to stakeholders
Number 2, to convey information to stakeholders, requires a concise, less than one page summary.  Unfortunately, if you are presenting your hard work to an investor or senior executive to whom you desire buy-in, they will likely only read the Executive Summary and a few pages of the document.  You may be thinking to yourself, "why, Bruce, did you tell me to do all this work if all I needed to do was write a one page summary?"  See number 1 above.

Do not try to write the Executive Summary first before you put the work in on the entire document.  It always amazes me when senior executives make a statement like, "I don't need a written business plan (marketing plan).  I have it all in my head."  I'm sure they believe it, but if you were to start digging into details like positioning statements, value propositions, messages, segmentation, etc., the answers would be broad and poorly defined.

The Executive Summary should outline a compelling argument that is supported by the data in your marketing plan.  Tell the reader why your plan will support achievement of the business goals.  Tell it straight, no spin.  If you did your job with each of the 7 steps, it should be easy.

If you consider yourself a professional marketer, you must write your marketing plan.  If you think you are a professional marketer and you don't have a written marketing plan, then, Sir or Madame, you are no professional marketer.  It's well worth the time to invest.  It's good for your business, your career and your reputation.

Good luck!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Marketing Plan - Step 7 'Measurement and Controls'

These are the steps for creating a proper marketing plan:
Step 6 - Measurement & Controls. What good is all this thought and effort if you don't know how well it's working?  Thus the need for measurement.  The old, old saying that says "what gets measured gets done" is true for marketing.  The marketing plan is typically constructed during a short period of time.  The macro as well as the micro environments are going to change.  In this modern era of lightning speed of information and globalization, I guarantee you that things change on a regular basis.  So, my fellow Modern Marketer, we must be continuously assessing the environment and comparing our results with some type of measurement process.

The first step is to gain agreement on the metrics, sometimes call key performance indicators (KPIs).  There are hundreds of metrics you can choose from with the dawn of the myriad marketing automation and web analytic tools currently available.  Some of the more common metrics include; page views, conversions, leads, pipeline contribution, clicks, click-through-rate, open rate, form completion rate, ad nauseum.  Financial related metrics may include profit, revenue, net contribution or pipeline contribution.

The point I would like to make above all else when it comes to metrics is the KPIs you choose will send a strong message to the C-suite executives.  The message may even be subliminal making it even more important (or more dangerous).  If you choose your KPIs around marketing-speak; CTRs, page views, open rates or if you choose KPIs around cost or expense; cost per lead, cost per attendee, cost per form you are positioning yourself and your entire marketing team as those folks down the hall who do our ads, maintain the website and make our brochures.  This is not to say this is a bad thing, until the company decides to cut costs.  Surely the company can do with less marketing since they are always talking about obscure metrics and cost of this or that.  They suppose that marketing is a necessary expense (evil) but don't appreciate the value of marketing to the business.  If your company executives feel this way and you don't like it, it's your own fault.

Start as I mentioned in the Financial Plans section.  If you want Marketing to be perceived as a strategic asset and a partner at the business table, make your metrics about revenue!

The last thing to mention about measurement and controls is about the tools.  You must have the proper tools in place to capture the critical data you have agreed to measure.  It doesn't do any good to agree on measuring sales pipeline contribution if you are not able to easily capture that data.  You want to be able to capture and document closed loop reporting in order to report meaningful metrics.  There are hundreds of tools available.  Some of the more popular and proven tools are Eloqua, and Google Analytics, to name a few.

Don't be one of those marketers who agrees with John Wanamaker's famous saying, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."   With a proper measurement and control system, you will know what is working and what is wasted.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Marketing Plan - Step 6 'Financial Plans'

These are the steps for creating a proper marketing plan:
Step 6 - Financial Plans.  This is the section where the Modern Marketer tends to demur.  After all, isn't this the sandbox where the big boys (girls if you prefer) play and talk about things like net this and gross that?  Why should the Marketer get involved or even begin to try to understand this stuff?  The answer is; because for marketing to make a difference and a contribution to the business strategy as all Modern Marketers should be striving to accomplish, you have to understand the financial language and you have to be able to show how Marketing can and will drive the business growth and/or profit.

Mission Possible
Your mission, Modern Marketer, should you choose to accept it, is to change the culture at your company from seeing the Marketing department as a cost center to seeing Marketing as a business builder or revenue engine.  In order to accomplish this mission, you MUST understand the financial metrics and how Marketing will affect those metrics.  Until you are able to have this conversation with the C-suite, you are relegated to simply another lowly cost center that the executives see as a necessary evil, but aren't even sure why.

Hopping off the soap box, let's talk about how Financial Plans fit with the Marketing Plan.   There are 3 parts to the FP section; financial metrics, forecasting, and budget for expenditure.

Financial metrics come from your CFO.  It is beneficial to include some company financial data to help justify and compare the forecast and the marketing budget/contribution.  The financial metrics section should include a reference to the latest income statement, cash flow statement and balance sheet.  Targets or KPIs such as sales revenue growth, EBITDA, gross margin for example should be specified.

Forecasting is usually a joint exercise with other key stakeholders.  The forecast should be based on data and not just on someones best guess.  The sales forecast may also drive the marketing expenditure as a percent of gross revenue.  The forecast can be broken up into myriad types; market or segment sales, product sales, cost of sales, and/or by channel.

The most commonly known financial metric for most marketers is the budget for expenditure.  I would guess most Modern Marketers usually get handed or negotiate the amount of money they are allowed to spend on marketing activities.  Beware of this all-to-common culture.  It only cements your position as a cost center.  Include in your forecast amounts that Marketing will contribute to the business objectives and tie the expenditure to these numbers.  For example, include the % contribution to revenue as a forecast amount.  Use 'net contribution' as a foundational measure of the effectiveness of marketing.  Show 'revenue per lead' in place of 'cost per lead'.  You'll still need to plan your marketing spend, but we all know how to break that number up, so I won't delve into that concept here.

Once we have our forecast and marketing spend outlined,  it's time to talk about how we will measure our herculean efforts to make it all happen.