We operate in a world of ever-increasing complexity, with new communication channels appearing every few years (search, social media, voice interaction...). As such, maybe it's not surprising that we often see consultancies and agencies chasing newness over solid marketing principles.

Here's the framework we use when planning marketing activity, which prioritises strategy and outcomes over than technologies, mediums and formats.

KPIs & Success Criteria

The starting point for any campaign should always be the intended outcomes, success criteria and KPIs. Without a robust understanding of the aims and measures of any work, there's no way to effectively judge the success or failure of that work.

These may be anything from increased sales to reduced return rates on goods sold, traffic volume increased to conversion rates improved, coverage achieved or new product launch profitability. However, whilst the aims and measures themselves are highly variable, they will sit at the core of every decision of a campaign.

The Available Levers

Once you've settled on your intended outcome and measures, you then need to examine what it is that influences that thing. This is rarely a single thing, but instead will generally be composed of many levers which can be altered to effect the intended change.

For example, if you're dealing with returns costs, then that's influenced by product category sales mix, customer knowledge level, returns rates, shipping costs and so on. If it's traffic volume then that's influenced by the earned and paid media mix you have, your brand stickiness, the level of conversation you're present in in your industry... There's multiple opportunities for addressing any particular intended outcome in marketing, and a mix of these will be required to create the desired change. For our example, increasing sales could be a happen through a mix of:

Owned Media

  1. Attracting more of the right kind of people, at a time that's right to engage them
  2. Engaging existing customers who are at a point where they might consider an upgrade
  3. Enabling brand advocates though communications to spread word of the product's value

Earned Media

  1. Being present as a recommended retailer on reviews sites
  2. Ranking well for branded queries for the manufacturer in question
  3. Being well regarded and recommended as a vendor in industry press

Customer Mindsets

As marketers, we can influence, persuade (or dissuade), encourage, inform, remind, and engage with groups of people in hundreds of ways. But ultimately people don't do things because they're put in a demographic group. They act due to their mindset. Their experience of and sentiment towards the brand, their perception of the product and its customer value, the efficacy of the sales process and so on.

As a result, it's mindsets that we should be thinking of when we're deciding on messaging and customer targeting. Why are this group engaging with your brand in a way that would make the outcome you're aiming to change relevant? Understanding their objectives and mindsets will give you an understanding of how to influence them.

Let's we've a business selling audio equipment, and we're aiming to increase sales of high end loudspeakers. This gives us two sets of customers:

  1. New customers to us, aiming to purchase high end audio gear for the first time
  2. Existing customers upgrading current equipment

In the case of the former, the mindset is going to be more tentative, seeking reassurance on the brands being purchased, the level of spend involved, and the reasons for purchase. With the latter, they're already sold on why they should own products in this category. Instead, you need to extol the virtues of this particular purchase area and why that's going to make the difference they're seeking.

Messaging

With an understanding of who we're appealing to, and what we're aiming to have them do to move the metric we decided on, we can now begin to shape our messages to those people. These should be, at their core, as simple as possible.

Cobb: We need the heir of a major corporate to dissolve his father's empire.
Eames: Well you see right there you've got various political motivations and anti-monopolistic sentiments and so forth but all of that stuff it's... it's really at the mercy of your subject's prejudice you see. What you have to do is start at the absolute basic.
Cobb: Which is what?
Eames: The relationship with the father.

Inception, 2010

This is the conversation we need to have with ourselves when it comes to deciding messaging for our campaign. We need the absolute basic form of the idea we're trying to convey.

In the case of the two mindsets we identified earlier, these might be something like:

  • I love listening to classical music, and want a better experience of it at home
  • Better equipment will improve the experience of listening to music I currently enjoy

Competitive Landscape

Finally, remember that your competition isn't just the people in your marketplace. It's all the ideas that are either counter to or competing against the messages you're seeking to deliver. Thus a competitive analysis must look at competitors to both your business in particular with regards to the results you're trying to achieve, and the other messages you're competing with.

For example, if you're attempting to reduce returns in jewellery, part of the issue you'll face could be customer sizing. Your direct competitors are other people who sell similar product, and their efforts to get that sale. However, the problem faced is the customer and their lack of knowledge as to their ring size, combined with that the vast majority of people don't own a set of sizers. The real competition for the outcome you're facing is the customer's motivatedness to get the size correct. You need to make it as simple as possible for them to find out their size, or find ways to make the logistics of returns as cheap as possible and message that convenience to the consumer. One example of a company that's done a great job with that would be Schuh, with their 365 day returns policy.

With an understanding of our messages and the competition they face, we can start to put together the basic outline of what our marketing efforts will be.

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