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Creative Tactics Need a Business Strategy


Years ago, while managing a team of business-to-business (B2B) marketing managers for 10 brands, I found myself tempted to put a sign on my office door when planning time came around: “Don’t come in until you can tell me how this idea will help you achieve your business goals.”

Why? While they were all talented marketers, too often they were pitching me tactics that would look good but weren’t connected to business goals in a practical way.

Usually, it either boiled down to internal clients making repeated campaign retread requests and less-than-optimal demands — “Can’t we just humor them this time around while we work up something better?” — or attempts driven by a fear of missing out, drafting off the newest and hottest marketing trends. These are perfect examples of reactive tactics. Their clients weren’t thinking strategically.

The temptation was too great to come up with something fun, hip and unique. They were image-driven tactics, not savvy business-driven decisions. Those folks weren’t the first to fall into the reactivity trap, and they won’t be the last. But the best marketers know to avoid it.

Don’t care more about the Joneses than you do about your brand.

It’s good to be on top of developing trends, but brands shouldn’t adopt them just for the sake of adopting them. You need to have a plan for how you’re going to integrate that channel or tactic into a larger marketing strategy that supports your marketing goals.

Most often, the mistake I see marketers making is convincing themselves that one tactic or another will be the key to their success. That puts them at an automatic disadvantage — they’re always chasing after the next big thing.

Remember when Snapchat was the hot channel, and brands were rushing to stake their digital claims on it? Just a few years later, here we are. Customers are running away from it just as so many brands are finally bringing their Snapchat efforts to market.

That’s not to mean that Snapchat doesn’t still have a role to play, or that it won’t continue to have one in the future. But it does mean that a lot of marketers reallocated serious budgets toward a “big thing” that brought less return than they’d hoped.

Generally, by the time you’ve identified the wave, it’s already passed you by. Tempting as it may be to jump on the latest marketing trends and buzzwords, doing so can jeopardize a campaign’s overall success.

There are definitely tactics that will work better for one type of business or another, or in this or that market scenario, but never will a single tactic or channel drive sustainable business growth. Content marketing, marketing automation, SEO, inbound, behavioral marketing and scores of buzzy trends all have one thing common: not one of them will work in a vacuum.

But it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t ignore innovations either. They often do work well when they’re supporting — and mutually supported by — the other pieces of an integrated, strategic marketing plan.

That’s what I wanted those 10 brand managers to see. I wanted them to zoom out. Campaigns fail when they don’t keep the larger business landscape in focus. So, how should you efficiently manage brand management?

Define the be-all and end-all business goal.

You wouldn’t wander into the wilderness without a destination, a map or, at the very least, a compass, would you? You can’t measure where you are relative to success if you don’t know where success lies.

Plan before you plan.

It may seem like extra work, but it’s critical that you begin with a clearly defined template for delivering an unambiguous, on-brand, business-driven message across all parts of your harmonious campaign. Devising a successful marketing strategy is very much like writing a concerto — the notes need to form pleasing chords, the chords need to form definite movements, the movements have to convey feeling, the instrumentation needs to lend itself to the feeling you seek to communicate, all the instruments need to be in tune, and the performers and conductor need to be vetted and well-rehearsed.

Design your campaign around the data you’ll derive from it.

Too many marketers make the mistake of creating a concept first, then trying to shoehorn analysis onto it late — the most important stage for my money and for my clients’ money — in development, or worse, after the campaign has gone live.

Make sure that every component of the campaign leads consumers to the action you need them to take.

Click-through rates mean nothing if your goal is to get a phone call. A phone call means nothing if it doesn’t yield a qualified lead or lead the consumer to the next step in the close. And your campaign means nothing if results can’t be tied conclusively back to it.

Those are the basics. Take them; use them. I can faithfully testify that they work.

When planning your next campaign, zoom out and look at how the creative efforts will play to the business side. Avoid the temptation to keep up with the Joneses, devising something that’s only fun, hip and trendy. Image-driven techniques need business-savvy thinking to drive results.

Link to the original article on Forbes.