Think Big, Act Small #3. Selecting Tactics for Your Marketing Plan


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With your target customer and ideas defined, it’s time to turn to selecting marketing tactics to drive awareness of your business and (ultimately) sales. There is a blend of “art” and “science” that goes into selecting tactics for your marketing plan. The marketing planning process is a core skill of many consumer packaged goods that start-ups can learn from to shape their plans and make their more limited budgets work hard for them.

  • First, Determine the Marketing Objective. Before you ideate or debate doing print advertising vs. Pinterest, it’s important to think through what the marketing objective is that you’re trying to fulfill. After all, some tactics are better suited for different objectives. For perspective, print might help drive awareness, but might lack the ability to drive measurable sales. Meanwhile, a well-maintained Pinterest sitelet can be used to present your product story and inspiration, and do so just one click away from your website; but will it drive conversion? Ask yourself: is our goal: Awareness? Trial? Repeat? Loyalty? You may say “all of the above,” in which case it’s important to focus your strategy and determine which one or two you are really trying to hit on. Takeaway: With an outlined objective, it can be clearer to filter which tactics will help you meet your goal(s).
  • Assess which tactics fit with the objective, then shape your marketing plans. As you develop a list of potential tactics, first ascertain whether the tactic fits with the marketing objectives. If they do, analyse them through some other lenses; if not, capture them in a “parking lot” for future consideration as the business’s marketing evolves. For those tactics that deliver on the objective, then analyse the reach, cost and quality of each tactic with your target customer in mind. The “RCQ” framework, developed by McKinsey, is a great aid to judgement for start-ups which typically don’t have the wealth of marketing return on investment (ROI) data that big companies do:
  • “Reach” looks at the absolute number of target customers you can contact with the tactic;
  • “Cost” is the cost per unique touch, typically expressed in a CPM, or cost per thousand, for easy cross comparison; and
  • “Quality” is measured based on judgement of how well the tactic fits with the brand equity and is a desirable way to connect with the target customer.

It’s important to think about how these tactics will work in your niche—reaching your specific target and helping make your idea resonate with him/her (i.e., each lever of RCQ should ideally be evaluated against the target, not the general population). Together, the three dimensions of RCQ help “level the playing field” across tactics. (To evaluate the tactics, you can simply assign each a score of 1 to 5 on each dimension (scaling reach and cost for comparison and using an assessment of quality.) Takeaway: The benefit of the RCQ tool is not just the “output,” as any ranking in dependent on the inputs, some of which are subjective, but also in the process of creating consensus in the team on the marketing plan.

  • Apply the same rigor and discipline to digital assets. Too often you see the “buttons” for the same 6 to 8 digital tools scattered across websites (Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, google+, LinkedIn, snapchat, etc.). As Ian Leslie noted in the FT recently, “Every self-respecting brand outfitted itself with a Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter Hashtag.” Indeed, it’s easy to just “get on” Facebook, Pinterest or any of the others, but the downside is that you see too many sites spreading themselves thing and not building a credible presence on any of the platforms. First, determine which best fit with your marketing objectives (e.g., if you need to educate the customer to close the sale, perhaps YouTube videos could be helpful to explain how to use the product; if your goal is to drive awareness of your brand story, especially visually, Pinterest and Instagram might help). Second, avoid spreading yourself “peanut butter thin”: it’s important to dedicate sufficient resourcing to maintaining your digital presence. Third, be cognizant of the role of the different platforms. At the recent “American Made” small business summit Martha Stewart noted that she had very distinct roles for the different platforms: “I use Facebook to Share, Pinterest to Discover, Instagram to Inspire, Twitter to Engage and YouTube to Few brands (big or small) seem to have such distinct uses for social media and miss the opportunity to leverage the unique strengths of each platform.
  • Further, many merely push out the same messaging or imagery across platforms each platform, contributing to “wallpaper” (e.g., while Pinterest and Instagram both use photos, you can use different photos to tell different stories via each, don’t just use the same because they are both image-driven media). Takeaway: Apply similar rigor to how you think about leveraging digital assets, but as these aren’t just “bought” (like a print ad) but also “maintained” over time (i.e., requiring effort to grown and cultivate your presence/followers unless you outsource this to an agency), understand what you will need to do to manage your profile in a way that establishes a meaningful connection with your target.


Note: This article builds on two previous columns, “Understanding Your Target Consumer” and “Defining What Your Business Stands For.” Next week we’ll talk about how to go to market smartly in “Learning Early, Inexpensively and Correctly – The Science of Testing and Measurement.” For those wanting to look ahead, you can take a look at the digital platforms you currently use or are considering using. For example, do some simple benchmarking of competitors to understand how often you should tweet, what a respectable number of Facebook likes or Pinterest followers is, etc. You are not alone in asking these questions: check out the marketing analytics start-up SumAll for the latest learnings on benchmarks for social media for your site and/or look into platforms like Buffer which help you understand the streaming/scheduling considerations as you use multiple social media platforms.



Image credit: CC by Jason Howie

About the author: James Black

James Black is a marketing and insights consultant and freelancer based in New York.  He has 10+ years in marketing and sales experience across P&G, McKinsey and L’Oreal.  Most recently, he founded and led a retail start-up, Black & Puryear Ltd., in the U.K., where he served as Director and Chief Curator.  At L’Oreal, James was head of shopper insights, where he identified and shaped shopper insights to drive greater connection between consumers and L’Oreal’s portfolio of beauty brands across channels.  At McKinsey, he worked in the firm’s Marketing & Sales practices, advising clients on marketing topics across B2B, packaged good and retail clients.  At P&G, he working in both traditional brand management roles as well as in the company’s marketing centre of excellence, studying best practices.  He has an AB from Harvard in Government and an MBA from the Darden School of Business (University of Virginia).

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