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Marketing Objectives vs. Actions: Identifying Where the Discrepancies Occur

In my previous career, as a B2B media consultant for the fiber optic industry, I had many eye opening experiences.  I worked and provided consultation to the marketing departments for most of the industry, evaluating their objectives and plans.  My role was simply to develop campaigns to accomplish their marketing strategies and inside sales processes.  Note: operative word in last sentence is simply.

Marketing objectives have to be solid and clear before building actions.  Much like the foundation of a building, marketing objectives are the foundation of most successful businesses.  One would not frame a few stories up on a foundation that had not guaranteed for proper strength and stability.  In marketing, one should not build action plans without strategic, strong objectives.

It is challenging to be a successful marketer.  I learned over many years working with these companies, many tasks and action plans received from the top of corporations are missing what I call objective due diligence.  I have witnessed that step completely missed for some companies and checked off at others with a false sense of expertise in marketing objectives.   I once worked for a VP who said that he knew his strengths and weaknesses and what made him successful was surrounding himself with quality people and stellar expertise.

Marketers juggle countless requests that include branding, SEO, traffic, leads, thought leadership and the fun ‘push’ and ‘pull’ that is expected to happen seamlessly in the ocean they are navigating.  The process for determining campaign objectives needs to follow simple steps to avoid potential chaos.  Be sure to follow @FiberOpticCntr.

 

Here is a simple eight step process to follow:

  1. Understand
  2. Identify
  3. Ask
  4. Know
  5. Match
  6. Plan
  7. Execute
  8. Evaluate

 

Understand - This is directly related to understanding the definitions of the universal marketing objectives to ensure everyone is on the same page.

 

  • Branding: The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.

 

  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website through high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine — including Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

 

  • Traffic: Web site traffic is the amount of data sent and received by visitors to a web site. Sites monitor the incoming and outgoing traffic to see which parts or pages of their site are popular and if there are any apparent trends. Types of information collected include number of visitors, average number of page views per visitor, average visit duration, geography, bounce rates, and referrers.

 

  • Thought Leadership: Thought leaders are the trusted sources in their field for expertise and information. Their leadership and the engagement with it, creates sustainable change in an industry.

 

  • Leads and Lead Generation: Interest or enquiry into products or services of a business. . This combination of activities is referred to as pipeline marketing.

 

  • Social Engagement: Degree of participation in an online community.  Most businesses track Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

Identify – Once you have confirmed that you and your upper management or you and a partner (business co-op partner or agency) are focused on the same types of marketing terms that are listed above, it is time to begin the process of identifying the business objective. This should be a sentence or two maximum per objective. To get to that place requires honest, trusted conversations about how the business operates currently and challenges and weaknesses need to be admitted.

 

Ask – The only way to get the answers is to ask more questions. Do not be afraid.  Drill down – start at the objective, ask questions and work backwards.  More often than not the buzz word that they were about to invest budget into was not going to get the desired objective.  Matching the right media solution for the objective became an education endeavor in itself.  When given an action item to deliver more leads, it seems obvious that marketing would run a lead generation campaign and deliver names and contact information to their sales department.  The ‘drilldown’ questions should include where sales is currently getting their leads and understanding their process with them and feedback/conversion that is occurring.  Without that level of information, it is difficult to know what source you should be engaging with for additional leads.  There are many times that this internal investigation process can also uncover that ‘more leads’ is not the best objective and there is other issues to be addressed in the overall marketing/sales needs.

 

Know – It is helpful to have a visual as to what campaign action actually goes with each objective and why. Below are quick notes on how to match campaigns with objectives. Keep in mind there is overlap in campaign choices as you move through the steps but each has a different objective within the objective to be aware of.

  • Awareness – Awareness is directly tied to both Branding (perception/reputation/image) and SEO (techniques to increase amount of visitors to website).  You need to be known to be found.  You need to be seen as a trusted resource to be chosen.  Investment in Branding is going to impact those goals.  Campaigns that achieve branding include advertisements in magazines and journals, online and mobile ads, events, social media posts, email messages, videos, and content like blogs. It is also the interactions that your staff has with the outside world including sales calls, customer service responses, packaging from shipping, response times from phone calls and emails and how your website works/navigation.  All these build a brand.  That is a part of your awareness.  Investment in SEO includes content in magazines and journals from articles to news or press releases to mentions, online content, keyword inclusion, increasing content pages on your website and homegrown content like blogs. These all help increase how you rank.  Ultimately, you need to understand your potential customer behaviors.  Where are they reading, searching, learning?  Do they use video demos?  Do they read that trade magazine?  Do they still attend that trade show?  As a marketer, you will need to still cover all those bases but knowing how to prioritize your time and resources will be important.  This stage creates awareness and preparation for response.  An example of a discrepancy can be an ad placement for the first time in front of a new audience that does not clearly articulate who you are and what you do but asks for response such as ‘click here’ and fill out form for information.  Successful branding is generally achieved by having some frequency in front of a new audience, clearly articulating your business and building a perception of trust.  If customer is left with a feeling of distrust by asking for something from them to early in the relationship, you have potentially negatively branded yourself.

 

  • Response – Response is just that, getting engagement. It can be in the form of any of these objectives: traffic, SEO, leads.    I picture these three objectives holding hands and working in concert. They each need the other.  Traffic (how many visitors to a web site) is going to be directly related to the performance of SEO (how to rank high in search results) and Leads (interest or enquiry into products or services) will increase with the more potential customers getting to you.  Campaigns that achieve or increase traffic, SEO and leads include advertisements (brand awareness that creates search when recalled), online ads with direct links, events, social media posts, email messages, videos, and content like blogs.   Additionally, ‘gated’ campaigns or those that require registration for leads including white papers, webinars, downloads, gated technical content.  This stage creates consideration and response.  An example of a discrepancy would be marrying a video campaign with a lead generation objective.  Majority of content customers expect video content to be ‘free’ and are not interested in trading their contact information for viewing.  This kind of misalignment causes frustration on the customer’s end which results in bad branding and also will affect your traffic through bounce rate when they back out of the offer.  Next time they see an offer from your company, they might remember not getting helpful information and avoid your option all together.

 

  • Loyalty – Loyalty is the creation of support or allegiance to your brand, your company.  Objectives that achieve or increase loyalty include branding, thought leadership, and social media following to name a few.  Than campaigns that generally align with those can be video, custom content, event talks, webinars, and social media posts.  Loyalty requires time and quality.  Regardless of which of these marketing vehicles you are using, take the power of it very seriously.  Something that may seem like a quick-get-it-out-the-door video could be the only view into your business by a purchaser you are hoping to connect with.  Produce high quality in everything you do. If they feel they can count on your information and your core values align with theirs, you have started building loyalty.  Thought leaders, being the trusted sources in their field for expertise and information, build loyalty for your company when they provide the solutions and answers that potential customers can rely on.  They will begin to be followed and sometimes sought after.  This stage creates advocacy and referrals.  An example of a discrepancy would be pushing out a message that describes an offer for technical, trusted information and having a glorified product commercial as the download, etc.  Loyalty can be broken as fast as trust is broken.

 

  • Relationship – Relationships can be built through social media engagement, following, feed favorites as well as responding to content comments correspondence quickly and with a friendly thorough tone.   These are the campaigns when in-person conversations and personal emails are not taking place, of course.  We and our technical staffs cannot be in all places at all times but we can certainly create a following through social media that allows customers insight to our office, personalities and passions and ultimately helps them feel closer to us as people. This stage creates likes, follows, referrals, and recommendations.   

 

 

Match – Once you have a clear road map as to how specific campaigns accomplish specific objectives, carefully match your marketing plans to the order of business you need to build.

 

Plan – Everything in life runs more smoothly with a plan in place, right? For marketing, planning campaigns requires looking at the company as a whole.  Going back to step two, Ask, focusing on the campaign alone can be detrimental to a plan.  Understanding, documenting and following your business processes, in totality, before during and after a campaign and how all operations impact the outcome is critical.

 

Execute – Execution of a campaign can be primarily internal or primarily external but every campaign should have exposure to both.

  • Internal campaigns should be ongoing and seamless. This can include social media, press release and news postings, content posts, and email communication to your customer base to name a few.  A calendar of these activities should be maintained.
  • External campaigns are referring to outside targeted audience and generally are planned around a product or news release, event or publication publishing. This can include media advertising, database lists, and trade show attendees to name a few.  Including these on the master calendar of activities is critical.

 

 

Evaluate – Many marketing managers’ jobs are tied to ROI. Evaluation provides information about that Return on Investment.  But regardless of how carefully ROI is managed, it is not possible to have successful marketing without thorough evaluation from traffic to and through a website to following leads to a sale.  You have to know your reality to manage the business’ success.

 

As the Director of Strategic Marketing at Fiber Optic Center, Inc. (FOC), I am very lucky to work with a brilliant technical staff and on an exciting Cooperative Marketing Program.  We combine our strategic marketing knowledge with partner needs for custom programs and campaigns.  I am thankful for the invaluable access I gained, in my previous consultative career, to an array of sales and marketing organizations and their strategic tactics.  Looking forward to passing on some of that experience and my passion for B2B marketing.

 

Additional resources from the FOC team include:

 

Follow @KATHLEENSKELTON

 

Here are the links to this full Marketing Blog Series:

 

 

 

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Kathleen Skelton

About Kathleen Skelton

Kathleen Skelton, as FOC's Director of Strategic Marketing, utilizes her expertise in business development, online strategy, market planning, digital best practices, standard operating procedure development, and content management. A graduate of Curry College, she holds degrees in Communications and Education, English and Psychology. Kathleen resides outside of Boston, MA with her husband and four children. Follow @KATHLEENSKELTON