Marketing Tactics: the Medium or the Message?
What exactly is marketing? More specifically, what are marketing tactics? You don’t have to look far to find some very complex and verbose definitions of marketing. Typically these definitions are filled with meaningless platitudes and clichés like “proactively adding value.” A more simple, practical, yet worthy definition of marketing describes its basic mission: getting the right message to the right people.
Marketing tactics is what follows marketing strategy in the marketing and sales plan section of your business plan. Although tactical marketing is about the message, focusing too much on the marketing message can cause you to lose sight of marketing priorities. A lot of expense and creative effort are put into crafting eye-catching visuals accompanied by just the right phrase or slogan. But does it really matter how great your message is if it doesn’t reach the right people?
Whether to think of marketing as an art or a science has been a recurring question. Though semiotic scholars may disagree, there is an indefinable artistic slant to creating great content, as there is to the intuitive feel of knowing what works and what doesn’t. Even a marketing veteran, however, can have trouble predicting what message will be effective. Should selecting and employing the methods to convey the message be left to chance as well?
Set the Right Priorities
Consider the marketing tactics of a direct mail campaign. What is the most important component of your direct mail effort? Is it the list used, how creative the enclosed content is, or the offer that is made? Many small to medium businesses lacking direct mail expertise or experience use a backward approach. They spend lots of time, effort, and money on creating attractive content like a colorful letter and a glossy brochure. Then they spend little resources in obtaining the right list or crafting an offer that appeals to the audience. They have their priorities confused.
There is an old rule of thumb used by experienced direct mail professionals known as 60-30-10. Sixty percent of direct mail response is a result of using the right list. Thirty percent of responses are because of the offer. Only ten percent of responses are due to the creative content in the package. That is not to suggest you can send out sloppy, unprofessional content, but frequently an inordinate amount of effort is put into crafting creative and appealing content, which matters very little if you’re not mailing it to the right people.
Select the Best Tactic
One of our consultants worked with a client on improving their sales cycle process. The client was about to start a direct mail campaign to drum up some business. This direct mail effort, as well as participating in a few trade shows, was going to use up most of their marketing budget. As the consultant interviewed the client, asking pertinent sales and marketing questions, it became clear that using direct mail campaigns made little sense for them.
The client operated a niche business that sells “build to specification” specialty equipment, so buying a good list of prospects was very difficult, especially a list of thousands that are typically needed to achieve the numbers required for a direct mail campaign. Plus, the client described an expected 5% response rate in order to achieve their goals for cost per lead and cost per sale. Not realistic numbers by most direct mail standards.
Even more interestingly, when asked where most of their current leads came from, the client responded “from the Internet.” While the company had a decent web page, they put almost no effort into actively using the Internet to generate leads or increase sales.
For a niche business like theirs, where prospects can be hard to find, putting more effort into Internet marketing made much more sense than a direct mail campaign. In our current environment, the Internet is frequently used by consumers and businesses to find specialty products and services. In this instance, the client really should be using a substantial part of their marketing budget to ensure potential customers find them easily on the Internet by employing organic search engine optimization and pay-per-click campaigns.
The company recognized the good advice, and they are now in the process of shifting tactics in order to get more value from their marketing budget.
No matter which marketing tactics make sense for you to employ, the same principles apply. Create a clear and reflective plan that includes setting realistic goals that align with the overall business goals and strategies. Be aware of the impact on the marketing budget, and pay attention to the important ratios such as cost per lead and cost per sale. Plus, understand where the priorities are and then apply the money and effort accordingly, as we learned in the 60-30-10 rule. The most creative radio spot ever made will not be effective if it is not heard by the right audience.
Do some research and reflect on how theory and recognized best practices can be applied through tactics that make the most sense for your business. Use the Plan-Do-Check-Act process approach to create a coherent plan, measure the results, then analyze the results to understand what they mean and make the appropriate corrections.
Bizmanualz Sales & Marketing Procedures Manual applies the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach to several aspects of marketing, including Marketing Planning, Marketing Tactics, as well as to Sales Operations, and Sales and Marketing Administration.