Every now and then, you might find yourself wondering how you ended up someplace. Sure, with GPS and Google Maps it’s harder to get lost than it used to be, but it still happens. It can happen, too, in the world of marketing. There are tools, data and channels to help move a message from point A to point B, but sometimes you might still lose your way.
The problem usually has to do with faulty assumptions, or questions that have gone unasked or unanswered. There are, of course, endless opportunities to second-guess yourself, your colleagues, your agency, your plan, your results and your sanity and that runs the risk of “paralysis by analysis.” However, there are three points when you should step back and really challenge your thinking.
In the beginning . . .
Before you start anything, you need to ask two fundamental questions: “Who do we want to reach?” and “What do we want them to do?”
Sounds so simple, but let's be honest, how often do you actually think about this before moving forward? If you don’t ask these questions, if your boss doesn’t ask these questions, if your team doesn’t ask these questions, if your agency doesn’t ask these questions — well, things just aren’t going to end well.
Ask and answer them as critically as possible. Get super detailed. If the answers are something like, “We want to reach customers and have them buy more products,” you’re not really trying — or going anywhere.
Better answers might be, “I want to reach beer brand managers and have them download our latest research,” or “I want to reach kids and get them to eat more waffles,” or “I want to reach local business reporters and get them to talk about an event we’re planning.”
Those are nice and detailed answers you can build campaigns around, and that’s the whole idea, right?
I just got here . . .
Sometimes you arrive on the scene and things are already underway. Or the team, budget or media mix has changed for some reason. Those are times to step back and ask, “What are we doing?” and “Why are we doing it?”
Being new to the scene is the perfect time to question assumptions, investments and activities. Of course, you’ll want to be politic when doing this — you may be inheriting an executive’s pet project or spending use-it-or-lose-it funds at the end of the year.
Either way, it’s valuable to ask these questions when evaluating an existing situation. Including those who might have been involved from the beginning can help provide context and insights, as well strengthening the team.
Well, that was fun . . .
When a campaign has concluded and the dust has settled, it’s time for another set of questions: “Were we successful in our efforts?” and “Did those efforts move the needle?” If you started with the original questions listed above, answering these should be a no-brainer. Either you got those downloads, sold those waffles, energized those reporters or you didn’t.
If you did, hats off to you! If you didn’t, well, then it’s time to question your original assumptions, evaluate your execution and look for lessons you can apply in the future. Even if things didn’t work out as planned, there’s value in doing an honest post-mortem (which has a whole slew of fresh questions).
Regardless of where you are in a project, program or campaign, there’s always the opportunity to improve by asking smart questions. Just try it! You’ll be glad you did — and, at the very least, you’ll understand how you ended up wherever you are and won’t end up on the road to nowhere.