Where are you now? Where are you going? And how are you going to get there?
These questions are important for individuals in any walk of life, but are particularly critical for professionals seeking to grow a business. My role focuses on helping clients grow top line revenue via strategic marketing planning and programs. That’s why I kick off every client engagement by asking — and getting clear answers — to these three questions.
Many professionals are eager to start with a planning process that can answer the questions, “Where are you going?” and, “How are you going to get there?” But I believe there is danger in not understanding where you are first. That requires you to unearth the answers to the question, “Where are you now?” before you even begin to think about the other two questions. The answers you find will ultimately feed the dialogue for the where-are-you-going and how-are-you-going-to-get-there issues.
Unsure where to begin with a true marketing assessment or what elements should really be assessed? Here are five areas you should cover.
Who do you want to reach with your message? Most businesses need to reach not just one, but multiple audiences. Those audiences might represent different verticals. Or different functional areas. Or different levels within the organization. Some might be decision makers, and others influencers. And let’s not forget about reaching existing customers for loyalty, retention, and cross-sale opportunities.
Many companies also need to pay attention to the prospective employee audience. I have one client that has gotten so busy over the last couple of years, they have literally told me not to generate new prospective clients for them. So now, in addition to overall branding and positioning, some of our efforts are geared towards an audience of prospective employees for recruitment purposes.
Until these various audiences are understood, you can’t properly assess messaging, which is the next step.
The message that the sales team delivers needs to be consistent with the marketing message. As obvious as that seems, it’s often not the case. Assessing the sales message should involve interviews and possibly even shadowing the sales team to understand how they talk about the company. Review sales presentations, listen in on telephone calls, attend sales meetings, and even ask for a few samples of one-to-one prospecting emails.
The marketing message, whether directly or indirectly, appears on your website, social media properties, email, collateral materials, and advertisements. The two key elements to understand here are: does the message do a good job of differentiating the company from the competition? And is the message consistent across all platforms?
In addition to looking at a company’s marketing materials, we always recommend a look at the company’s top competitors to identify whether there is a clear and distinct value proposition being communicated.
What’s one of the first things you do when evaluating a product, solution, or service offering? You pull up the company’s website.
Company websites are the hub of all communications. All marketing and sales activities will be compromised if the website isn’t moving visitors through the buying cycle. Here are key elements to assess:
Design: Does the design of the website properly reflect your company’s image? Does it allow visitors to intuitively find the information they are looking for?
Content: This goes back to messaging. Does the content on your site connect to your audience and clearly communicate what you do, how you do it, and the benefits to the audience? And is there a well-done blog that offers a more personal approach to delivering information? Blogs are an opportunity to tell stories, educate your audience, and demonstrate experience and expertise.
What other content can be found on your website? Here are a few examples of other content types that should be inventoried and analyzed:
- Case studies
- White papers
- Recorded webinars
- Press releases
Functionality: Is it easy to revise content on the site? How does the site render on laptops, tablets, and smart phones? Are there conversion opportunities for visitors who are interested in what you offer, but are not yet ready to speak to a company representative? Things like newsletter registration, white paper downloads, webinar registrations, and surveys work for this purpose.
Analytics: What do website analytics tell you about who is coming to your site, how they found you, what type of content they spend time reading, new versus repeat visitors, and more? There is a treasure trove of data that needs to be assessed before making plans for improvement.
The delivery of your message must go beyond your website in order to ultimately reach the largest possible relevant audience. An assessment should cover these key areas:
Search: Do people who actively search for businesses like yours find your company? What are the keywords that direct visitors to your website? What important keywords are not yet driving visitors to your website? Assessing this will help drive a plan for the balance between search engine optimization and paid search activities.
Social Media: Which social media properties make sense for your business? Do you currently have a presence on these properties? What is being done to build audience? What is the message that is being delivered?
Email: Communicating via email always begins with the development of your database. Do you have a central database segmented by customer types, prospects, partners, and influencers? If so, what types of emails do you deliver to these different audiences? Assess the existence and effectiveness of informational newsletters, direct sales messages, and lead nurturing campaigns in terms of open rates, click rates, and conversions.
Online Paid Advertising: Do you do any other digital advertising? If so, an assessment of creative and placements in terms of click rates and conversion rates will help to understand how to improve efforts moving forward.
Tools and Technology
What tools and technologies are part of your marketing effort, and how effective are they? Some of the key categories of tools to assess are:
- Content management system (CMS)
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Web analytics
- Email platforms
- Marketing automation
- Social media publishing and monitoring
- Editorial calendars
These tools should be part of a comprehensive marketing program. What tools are being used, how effective are you at using those tools, and what new tools should be considered?
Understanding where you are is the first step in a well-conceived marketing plan. Need help answering that first question? Get in touch.