Doing More With Less

Building a marketing plan that does all the right things and dumps everything else.

One thing we marketers are good at is ideas. Most of us come with a deep well of creative possibilities. Creative messaging concepts. All the possible marketing tactics. Which coffee shops to go to during the implementation process. It's what we brand managers are best at—coming up with stuff.

Sometimes, it's better if you pick a favorite coffee shop. There's no offense meant to all the other coffee shops out there, but there are times when one particular shop will work best for you. It's in the most convenient location, they're the best at making your favorite drink, and they have optimal climate control settings for your physical makeup.

The same is true for marketing, too. No matter how many ideas you have, you can't do them all. Even if you could squeeze a few more of them in, sometimes, that only serves to dilute your results. Today we're going to talk about some principles to help you determine what not to do.

What's the Big Idea?

First, you'll want to start with a concept that brings your message into focus. It needs to stand out, and it needs to establish positioning. One of the key goals of a marketing message is to stick with consumers. That's why a message needs to have a run time that is sufficient in both duration and reach. That means that you don't want to dilute your message by having multiple messages.

On the surface, this seems like common sense, but it's easy to stray from this rule of thumb when you're doing multiple disconnected tactics like sponsoring a baseball game, exhibiting at a trade show, and so on. Sometimes, companies may try to write messaging unique for each setting. There may be a time to use this approach, but when your messaging is always different, it's harder to remember.

The more promising strategy is to unify your message across all channels at least enough to get saturation with your big idea. This ensures your positioning goals have a better chance of sticking.

Where is the ideal customer?

Your customers can certainly be reached in a lot of places. Let's imagine if your ideal customers are IT managers or CIOs. You might find them on LinkedIn, through industry magazines, at trade shows, googling something about their challenges, listening to Radiohead on Spotify, or any number of other places. Reaching them in all these places would be amazing. Doing it with excellence would be even better, and you probably can't unless you have the bandwidth and budget to back it up.

Inevitably, your customers will be more engaged in some places than others. Based on an intelligent look at your customer's buying habits, you'll get different results from different channels. You might gain brand awareness within a podcast, and you might get white paper downloads within a LinkedIn ad. The best plan is to determine what you need to get and where you can best nurture that result. Often, you'll need to develop and refine each channel separately to be sure you're optimizing the results.

Establish a goal that builds your marketing funnel at each stage–awareness, consideration, conversion, and loyalty. I recommend you work on one at a time, maximize it, and then add the next one when you're ready to expand, but not until you master the first. Remember that awareness increases conversion, so don't be afraid to start by investing in brand awareness to increase the value of more tactical lead conversion channels that come later.

What is the return on value?

When one dollar yields two, it usually is a reasonable investment. When three dollars yield one, that's probably less valuable than you would like. That's why examining the return on your investment is an essential exercise of the marketing planning process at the beginning and review at the end. At all times, you'll make decisions based on the best data you have so far, so collecting data at all times is ideal.

The basic way to understand ROI is to examine the total spent on a channel, divided by the number of impressions and then divided by the number of conversions. Compare this to the value of a conversion, such as the purchase value of your product. This could be a whole science experiment, so to keep it simple for the purposes of this post, let's look at a rudimentary example.

Suppose you sell a software product for $100 per year and spend $10,000 on a marketing channel to promote it. That channel yields 100,000 impressions and 200 conversions. Since I'm good at math, I know this costs $0.10 per impression and $50 per conversion for a $20,000 return. That's 2 dollars for the price of 1. That sounds excellent to me.

It's not uncommon that the ratio of conversions to dollars spent can change based on volume. This means that if you cut your budget in half, you could get less than half the conversions, increasing your cost per lead.

In other words, every channel you add divides your budget until each dollar delivers less. That's why it usually makes sense to minimize your marketing channels to the fewest places where you can have the most impact. This basic concept applies to all businesses. Every business is different, but whether we're talking about a service purchased for $100,000 or a product sold for $100, the same method will always apply. You'll have to consider the whole buying cycle to put together a smart plan, and don't be afraid to ask for some advice if you need it.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to your marketing plan, you should probably do less and not more. The simplest plan is the best plan.

For sure, more money, time, and attention make all the difference, but no matter the size of your brand, there's always a risk that you face diminishing returns with every message, tactic, or budget line item you add. If you do have the capacity for a more in-depth plan, build every secondary message around one big idea. Build each marketing medium around one primary channel. Build your multi-tiered marketing objectives around one primary goal. Focus on one budget at a time.

One message. One channel. One goal. One dollar at a time.

If you take one thing away from this newsletter, it's that when it comes to your marketing, maximizing a few things will go further than cutting corners on many.

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