Dec 18, 2017

Assessing Your Past Year's Marketing Performance

This is part 1 of 2 parts on taking stock of your marketing and planning resources for the year ahead.

If you want to do marketing better at your company, this is the time of year to take stock of where you are, how far you've come and where you want to go. Brands aren't built in a day, and neither are marketing programs. It takes time and effort to get all of the gears in your marketing machine turning and working together to move your message forward.

So grab a piece of paper, and start by asking yourself these questions about your marketing:

  • What worked this year? What didn't work?
  • What did you do to drive sales? (What could you do more of?)
  • What did you do to improve customers' impression of the brand? (What could you do?)
  • What made your employees feel great about your brand? What might?
  • What made it easier to talk about your offering? What services or products are still difficult to describe to customers and prospects?
  • What foundations did you lay for the year ahead?

Don’t worry about messy answers. Just gather some thoughts on things you liked and would like to do differently. Then look at your notes in these areas, and start grouping the areas that need more work into these four categories: Fundamentals, messaging, infrastructure and programs.

Fundamentals

These include your business name, logo and business card. All of these should be professional and up to par for your industry. If you don't have these on a business card, on your email address and your office address on your website, it's hard to create credibility as a business. If you're reading this, you probably have this already, but we've met companies who haven't got these covered.

Brand identities should be carefully considered as well. The logo is a major piece of the brand identity, but it's not all of it. How you talk about the brand (messaging) and how you present it (logos, colors, fonts) are also part of your brand identity.

If any of these areas need attention, just make a note and then move on. They're the first building block, and you'll see why in the next section.

Messaging

Once you know what your company is called and what you do, the next most important thing is to figure out your core messaging. This is the most basic messaging in your brand, and it should guide all marketing inside and outside your company.

It includes:

  • Mission (why your company exists — and what gets you out of bed in the morning)
  • Vision (the north star of your company — or where you're going)
  • Company values (the things you deeply believe in and hire for)
  • Elevator pitch (how you informally explain your company — it's hard to do well)
  • Tagline (the one takeaway people should remember)

Getting these right, and making sure everyone in your company understands and embraces them is the most valuable thing you can do to improve your marketing in any year. Overlooking them or ignoring them puts brands at risk of having disjointed marketing efforts, unmotivated employees and lackluster sales teams.

Foundations & Infrastructure

With your brand identity clearly in place and your messaging solid on who you are and what you do, it’s time to assess or assemble the infrastructure of a marketing program for your brand. The details of where you invest and how will depend on your business model — who your customers are, how you create awareness, how your sales process works and how you engage new prospects.

Here are some common things we consider marketing infrastructure:

  • Website: What kind of website do you have and do you need? A five-page website or a 500-page website? What type of content do you need for it? How will you manage it?
  • Sales Collateral: Does your company use print sales materials or product sheets? Does your company need great business cards or none at all? Or just lots of PowerPoint presentations and PDFs? Do you need playbooks, client gifts and giveaways? Decide what the priorities are for your business and your industry.
  • Social & Search: Being found on the internet is about getting found by the people you want as customers. Creating social media accounts and a basic plan to manage them is table stakes today (almost every business will benefit from a LinkedIn page at least). Then, set up your business to be found in Google, Yahoo! and Bing search engines. Some of this is done on your website, but it also involves contacting the search engines directly to get your Google Local and Yelp listings correct.
  • Email & Marketing Technology: This is more than setting up your company email on Office 365 or Google Apps. Setting up an email communications platform like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor can help you stay in touch with customers and prospects — using newsletters, announcements, promotions and industry updates. For more advanced marketers, a new breed of software called marketing automation can connect your email campaigns, social media, content marketing, blogging and search analytics in a single admin dashboard and make your marketing even more intelligent.

But these are all infrastructure — setting these things up won’t actually deliver results alone. They’re just tools and systems. Now you need a strategy for why, and a plan to manage and execute on programs. You need programs and then skills, resources and time.

Marketing Programs

A program is an ongoing series of activities or events focused on a single goal or set of goals. It’s like a campaign, with the exception that campaigns end, and programs sometimes don’t. Campaigns usually start, build and then have definitive endings. They’re good for political elections and product launches.

By contrast, a program is a sustained effort that may need to be continued on and on, and these need to be evaluated and adjusted over time. Here are some examples of marketing programs:

  • Awareness: Ongoing efforts to build the word about your business, like public relations outreach to news outlets and industry associations.
  • Sales Enablement: Creating the messages, collateral and outbound emails that your sales team needs can be an ongoing marketing effort that gives your business a competitive edge.
  • Advertising: While some brands can run campaigns to support certain seasons or products, many businesses simply allocate resources to keeping general visibility for their product or service throughout the year. Think of the billboards you pass on your way to work. They’re not new brands — they’re just reminding you they exist.
  • Content Marketing: Today, many of us spend hours every day reading, watching and consuming information on the web. Many brands are now diverting some of their promotional and advertising dollars to invest instead in content their customers care about. Think about the Vans Warped Tour, a 25-year program of live music concerts, or any Red Bull sporting events. Those events are content.
  • Events: Even if you’re not Red Bull, you may have a serious event marketing program. For many companies, the planning, management and execution of events throughout the year takes an entire team. How you engage with your customers, partners and industry at association events is a form of marketing program that can run for years. How you plan, manage, evaluate and improve on that program takes effort.

These four areas of your marketing effort build upon one another to create solid, effective marketing. All of these can be run one after another. Most likely, you’ve got all of them working, but each area has places that can be improved.

In part two, we’ll look at how you plan your resources for effectiveness moving ahead.  We’ll look at how to take your past year’s performance assessment, apply it to your fundamentals, messaging, infrastructure and programs, and then allocate the skills, resources and time you will need to get results in the future.

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