We’re in a hurry to get everywhere, but generally speaking, you need to know where you’re going in order to get there (the exception of course being a wander for wandering’s sake, which is a whole other subject).
So it is surprising the number of times I’m asked by a prospective client—or even a friend needing some marketing advice—for my thoughts on the exact campaign they should doing “right now.” I’ve even heard people experience this in interview situations too, when the hiring manager asks, “so what big campaign should we do?”
This kind of question is like asking someone to plot a course to nowhere, and no one is going to get very far that way. Before the “what should the campaign be” question, we need to address the “what is your goal” question. I know, I know—taking about a goal takes time and thinking. But without understanding the objective, you’re unlikely to get a solid result.
A goal doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, most marketing objectives fall into three basic categories:
- Awareness: Ye olde “they can’t buy from you if they don’t know you” scenario comes into play here. Awareness as a marketing strategy has been in style, out of style, and back in style. It is still a core objective for many marketers, although how to go about generating awareness has changed quite a bit over the years. One of the great aspects of modern marketing is you can generate focused awareness, i.e. making sure that the right target market gets your awareness message. The other nice thing about awareness is that it can often be baked into other marketing strategies.
- Acquisition: This is a pretty common marketing goal, and often follows after some awareness efforts. Acquisition is all about filling the sales pipeline—whether your sales cycle is days, weeks or months. With acquisition stated as your primary goal, your marketing team and agency can sharpen the lens on campaigns and programs that are going to be most effective at driving new customers in the door. And may I take the liberty of a Public Service Announcement on behalf of consumers when I say: if you launch an aggressive acquisition campaign, be sure to have the customer service and new account response teams to back it up.
- Retention: Your easiest next sale is from one of your current customers. Customer retention is as critical to business growth as acquisition (and some marketing leaders I know have said retention is more important than acquisition—as the saying goes, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a company). Satisfied customers will continue to buy from you, and they’ll also provide one of the most reliable sources of new business—word of mouth. Even if you don’t plan to engage in a customer retention campaign, be sure your acquisition campaigns don’t alienate your current customers.
The next time you want to run the best campaign ever, start with the destination—is it awareness, or a hybrid of awareness-acquisition? When you do, you’ll have much better odds of a successful arrival.