Why should you care? Don’t we know all about running marketing campaigns by now? While there are tons of resources written on marketing and marketing campaigns, many/most are not comprehensive and others are missing essential strategic steps in the process. And more importantly — there are still plenty of poorly designed marketing campaigns.
Tech companies often fail at marketing because they take a fundamentally flawed approach to designing marketing strategy and campaigns. Subpar marketing leads to “me-too” uninspiring content on corporate blogs with insignificant social shares and superficiality from the target audience’s viewpoint. Tech companies struggle to create strategic messaging to describe their products and use undifferentiated messages, jargon and superlatives. The end result is that marketing drains significant resources on paid acquisition campaigns that have no market segmentation or designated landing pages.
These are just a few examples; but what’s behind such failure? Part of the problem is not understanding what marketing is and what its goals are. Also, many techies (especially engineers) believe that a good product sells itself (wrong!). And many founders and executives have a negative bias against marketing and marketers (sad!).
How do you define marketing and what is its goal? I have argued in previous articles that the goal of marketing is to manage perception and change the behavior of your target audience. Period. All marketing activities and every aspect of marketing falls under the goals of managing perception, changing behavior, or both.
What is a marketing campaign? A marketing campaign is a process that includes a series of activities or steps designed to alter the perception and behavior of customers or prospects.
Part 1: What is the biggest mistake made when designing marketing campaigns?
In the last few years, I’ve spoken with over a hundred founders and marketing executives. When asked about marketing strategy, most of the time companies present some sort of excel file (or other doc) with a list of activities such as SEO, SEM, social media, content marketing, paid acquisition campaigns, PR, email marketing or the likes. Each channel might include a few generic marketing campaigns or just a laundry list of activities.
There are tons of resources and content materials that share tactics on how to optimize your landing page, your conversion rate, how to pick and test the right title, what wording to use on your call-to-action, as well as how to use color and images to improve click-through-rates and so on. Yet, many fail to mention the most important part of this process. Before building any marketing campaign, companies need to have a solid marketing foundation. This foundation should include strategic messaging, ideal customer profiles, and competitive positioning. It is only on this solid foundation that effective marketing campaigns can be built.
Lack of marketing playbook or outline
Many organizations have no marketing strategy, methodology or playbook outlining how to structure marketing activities. Unquestionably, if you are a young startup there are more pressing survival issues than thinking about marketing strategy. But even mature organizations with detailed sales playbooks often lack any outlined strategy when it comes to marketing. (If you have marketing playbook in your organization I want to hear from you — seriously!).
I’m not advocating writing a 20-page marketing strategy playbook when you have just a dozen customers. Nevertheless, an outline of just a few pages that includes your target customer profile, strategic messaging with outlined value proposition, market segments, content topics, and marketing channels can increase the clarity and effectiveness of your marketing significantly.
A simple marketing playbook will enable a company to stay focused. It will help recruit and train the right marketing hires. In the same way that a sales playbook is the first document that new sales hires should digest during the on-boarding process, a marketing playbook will help new marketing hires getting up to speed by learning from how the organization has approached marketing so far.
Focusing on channels rather than customers
The absence of a marketing playbook leads to the biggest mistakes that companies make in designing marketing campaigns — they focus on marketing channels rather than the target customer.
In some companies, even teams are structured around channels — paid acquisition, SEO, social media. Having specialized teams definitely has its advantages. However, organizing teams around channels creates a culture where no one looks at customer experiences and customer lifecycle as a whole, instead focusing on their own initiatives, which leads to fighting over budgets, messaging and inconsistent marketing strategy.
Most companies start their marketing campaigns backwards — where should we spend our money?:
Their narrative starts with “where should we spend our money, what messages should we use and only then, who should we target”.
This is how successful marketing campaigns are structured:
This better way starts with the target customer, market segmentation, and only then moves to messaging and channels.
Before designing your next marketing campaign, make sure you answer the following questions:
- Who is your target customer?
- What is the goal of your current marketing campaign?
- Can you split your market into meaningful segments?
- What messages do you want to use or test to influence your target customer?
- What are the best channels for your marketing campaign to reach your target audience?
- How do you align marketing and sales?
- How do you track and test the success of your marketing campaigns?
Going wide instead of deep
Companies rarely look into segmentation to achieve greater ROI on their marketing spend. Even when a company understands its target customer they still get it wrong. Take a VP of Sales in an organization with over 20 sales reps; it overlooks the fact that the needs and challenges their target customers are facing might be very different depending on the vertical. For example, a sales manager in the pharmaceutical industry might have very different needs, organizational structure, or even goals, compared to a sales manager in the hardware or media industry. We will come back to the idea of market segmentation later.
Certainly, there are other reasons why marketing campaigns fail. For example, weak or nonexistent calls-to-action, lack of valuable content or failing to manage customer acquisition cost and campaign budget can all impact on the success of your marketing campaigns. However, if you aren’t clear on your target customer and you aren’t segmenting your addressable market, nothing else will bring real performance improvements.