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Once you have a clear sense of your business objective and your target audience (topics we discussed in Part 1 of this series), it’s time to take those actionable steps you identified and put them to work for ongoing results. Making a strong plan for your marketing strategy allows you to build on your knowledge, providing ongoing results with small tweaks to your process rather than having to reinvent the wheel every time a new opportunity arises.
This post explains how to set up a plan, work through a learning agenda, and create the assessment processes necessary for ongoing, meaningful results that last.
Step 3: Develop the Communications Strategy
At the end of our last post, we discussed using our newfound understanding of the target audience and their consumer journey to communicate to them in a relevant manner. For our example of a plus-size swimwear company, we mapped out the steps our target audience, “Summer Moms,” take when packing for a family vacation, and what could be useful for them at that moment. This included ideas like sending out a catalog that read like a magazine before swim season started, shipping the suit ordered and a size up and down with a prepaid bag for returns, and providing free returns for satisfaction guaranteed.
Now that we know what we could do to provide unique value to our customers in a unique manner, it’s time to develop a communication strategy that can consistently tie it all together in a consistent manner, and align the different teams in our company that need to be on the same page to make these promises a reality.
You have already done the work of determining what you want to achieve, who you are focusing on, and what insights you can gain from a deeper understanding of your target audience’s consumer experience. Now the communication approach asks you an important question:
Based on our insights, how must we behave in the world?
This is the core question driving the actions you will take through your campaign. If you know that your consumers are likely to be pressed for time and overwhelmed by choices, you know that your behavior should center on finding a way to meaningfully curate products for customers so that they feel more focused. If you know that your consumers are likely to be concerned about ordering a product online without being able to try it on, you know that your behavior should center on finding a way to give them flexible options.
Once you know how you need to behave in the world to meet your customers’ needs, the next question follows logically: What must we do to deliver that behavior?
You ask this question in order to develop a meaningful, focused plan of action.
Here’s what this would look like in action for our imagined swimwear company.
Our insights about our customers’ experiences lead to communication principles that can help guide the rest of our choices in meaningful ways. We know now that our marketing principles should be centered on creating a positive sense of self, supporting self-exploration, and enhancing the swimwear shopping experience.
Step 4: Develop a Learning Agenda
At this point, your team is likely going to have different ideas about how to develop the communication approach, but before diving into execution, it is very important to frame what assumptions and decisions have been made up to this point, what is still possible to test and validate, and what should not be changed until a larger reassessment of the campaign. This is because the tactical details of the plan that is going to be developed in the following steps relies on having a very specific direction. Iand if all the whole team is not clear on it, the team it may develop a plan or take in-flight decisions that contradict the overall strategy. If that happens, your campaign may not perform as well as it could have, and you may not be able to understand what went wrong.
Going back to our specific example, we now find ourselves in a situation where we could take multiple creative directions to develop our communication strategy. In order to determine which approaches will work best for our given objective, we should put a Learning Agenda in place.
Here, we can use different approaches (such as facts, stories, humor, and feelings) to make our communication principles memorable.
We’ll use the Learning Agenda to put our campaign approaches to the test. To do this, we start with our business objective and then consider three pillars of a marketing campaign: Audience, Product/Solution Experience, and Communication. From there, we will put each of our possible test parameters (developed from our analysis and insights) through a possible learning objective, challenging the assumptions made up to that point. In our example, we have a higher degree of confidence in our target audience and product solution, but we feel less confident about the communication approach to be taken. This can happen when there is conflicting evidence of what could work, or the team is divided in its opinion.
Rather than making an arbitrary decision, our swimwear company has decided to build this Learning Agenda to determine which approach will work best.
Step 5: Create the Media Plan
Now that we know what messages we would like to send to our customers and base our internal actions around, we need to align communication, creative, and site experiences in order to ensure a consistent image for our brand.
Don’t stop at the advertising phase! Many marketers make the mistake of thinking that their work is complete once they have a successful advertising campaign, but they should think through the entire consumer journey including their time on the website and their unboxing experience. If actions determined from the insights are carried through from beginning-to-end, customers are likely to recognize the value and relevance of the brand, making them much more likely to become repeat customers and recommend the brand to others.
Our swimwear company wants to test one approach against another. The first is a fun and light-hearted approach coupled with a site experience that showcases situation-based collections., It will be tested against a feature-based approach that highlights the multiple sizes shipped and free returns.
Establish the Channels Role
You’ve got an overarching communication strategy and a test plan. Now what?
The next step is to consider how you are going to deliver the right message, to the right user at the right time. A fully fleshed out media plan maps the role of each channel based on the ideas originally generated during the contextual mapping exercise and the desired consumer journey. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use every available channel for each campaign. Choose your channels based on the goals and opportunities of that particular campaign. Here the main priority is to be relevant, and often times, less is more.
Think about these channels as touchpoints in your potential customers’ consumer journeys. When are they likely to see these messages in each channel? How is it likely to interact with their overall consumer journey?
Here are some examples of how different channels can be used to achieve different goals. Notice that each one has a different KPI measure to determine if your strategy is working well.
You will use a mix of different channels depending on the particular phase and segment of your target audience. For example, a media plan for our swimwear company might look something like this:
We take a different approach based on whether we are trying to make new audiences aware of our brand, entice visitors to consider a purchase, or nudge possible dwellers to take the final step. The channel and messaging vary depending on who we are trying to reach and where they are in the consumer journey.
Step 6: Define Measurement Plan
Once you have all of this put into place, you need to have a way to make sure that it is working. It is very important to choose a valid measurement methodology. Your measurements are only as good as your data, and inaccurate assessments can lead to lots of wasted time and resources. While it can be disappointing to find out that a strategy isn’t getting the results you expected, it’s better to know that right away so that you can make adjustments rather than continue to chase an unsustainable plan.
The measures should all branch out from the underlying business objective, and they should be focused on measurable KPIs like the number of new customers or sales. Here is what the measurement plan might look like for our swimwear company:
We might implement a brand lift study, surveys, and data-driven attributions to measure the success of our strategies across our phases of awareness, consideration, and sales. By looking at measures for each segment, we can see where in the process we are doing well (having people sign up for to our newsletter, for example) and where we need to improve (driving sales at a lower cost per sale, perhaps). This information allows us to monitor our campaign and take specific actions to achieve our overall objective.
Summarize Campaign Execution Plan
It’s time to get everyone on the same page. Your execution plan will serve as the blueprint for the entire team during the final stages of setup and execution. It should include the campaign objective, target consumer, and communications plan to both internal and external stakeholders.
By breaking your execution plan into three phases (plan, execute, measure), you will create a linear process that gives you the tools to put your plan into place in a logical way.
Step 7: Optimize
The true advantage of having a clear marketing strategy is the ability to optimize. Some pieces of your campaign will not allow for in-flight fine-tuning, and you’ll have to let them run their course before making revisions in future iterations. Some elements, however, can be adjusted during the campaign, allowing you to make real-time improvements to your entire strategy. It can be helpful to identify which elements of a campaign are available for in-flight adjustments before you begin.
This kind of optimization only works if you have taken the time to set up the entire plan from the beginning, ensuring an understanding of the different steps and putting the assessment measures in place to gather data quickly and efficiently enough to make adjustments.
Ultimately, taking the time to lay out a meaningful campaign strategy and put it into action with intention and attention to details will pay off in big ways. You will gain control, focus, and the ability to operate on an ongoing basis, continuously improving your outcomes and having the power to adjust to market fluctuations.