Communicating Marketing Goals is Tough to Do

Picture yourself in a meeting with a marketing agency. It’s that time in the meeting. The one everyone dreads. The one where everyone dances around the topic like desperate kids at prom.

“Let’s talk about your goals.”

As a long-time marketer, this is usually where my internal monologue goes nuts. Someone will talk about creative before anyone knows what we’re trying to do. Another team member agrees to a plan without knowing what the plan is. At this point, no one has mentioned any goals. They’re talking about what it will feel like to be successful, but they haven’t figured out how to get there.

It’s time we marketers stop trying to fancy things up and start leveling with you. We can’t make you happy if we don’t know what will make you happy.

There. I said it.

Now, there are almost unlimited key performance indicators that I could list off. You and I could sit in a conference room for 12 hours and never scratch the surface of possible KPIs to use. But KPIs are not goals; they’re measurements. What’s the difference? Well, if you’re driving from Houston to Dallas, you want to complete the journey. You’re not trying to put 239 miles on your car’s odometer.

“I Want More Money” Isn’t a Goal

Back to the important question: What are your marketing goals? And saying, “I want more money,” is not good enough (this comes up shockingly frequently).

What your marketing agency needs to know is what kind of money you want to make, how much, and what you plan to do with it. For instance, if you’re a managed IT services provider, you could state that you want to make more money. But how we go about this will depend on your brand goals, not your financial goals. What do I mean?

  • If you’re a new IT provider, getting new leads is goal #1. A close second is tracking those leads through your sales process to find out where it can improve. It’s likely that a content calendar will help you meet your primary goal. This would include press releases, interviews with leadership, and how-to guides. If your service contracts allow, advertising certain products by name would help.
  • If you’re an established managed IT services company, we need to take your business’s pulse. We need to know your retention rates and your annual cost increases (both for you and your customer). Then we need to compare that info against the reality of the economy within your service area. At this point, we can plan to maintain your current sales, grow your sales, or position your business for a buyout.

My point is this: Saying, “I want to make more money,” is not enough information to build a marketing plan.

Marketers Need to Ask Better Questions

The real issue is the question. Asking a business owner or marketing head, “What are your goals?” is a bit like asking a kid “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s too broad, and it lends itself to somewhat ridiculous answers.

Let’s take the bull by the horns and stop being afraid of what we need to know.

The W5 Helps You Determine Measurable Marketing Goals

When a marketer asks you what your goals are, we’re asking for the headline of your needs. We need to agree on the who, what, when, where, and (if available) why of what you’re doing, and we’ll provide the how. I call this method the W5, and Chow-Bryant uses it a lot when planning campaigns.

Who

Knowing who you want to reach is a powerful thing. Chances are, if you know this, you’ve done a lot of research and lost some sleep over your findings. But if you don’t know this, that’s okay. As long as you understand what your product or service does for your customer, we can figure it out.

Let’s go back to your IT services company. You don’t know who to target, but we do know some key things about managed IT services:

  1. Private individuals do not need managed IT services.
  2. There are several levels of price and service. Some of these levels will be more profitable than others.

So, again, asking to make more money isn’t enough information. But at this point, we know your target is businesses who need the service level that is most profitable for you. Appropriately targeting for your marketing requires transparency with your business’s overall financial situation.

What

Usually, within the first 30 minutes of a marketing sales meeting, we know what you think want us to sell. Pretty often, though, the product or service at hand is not the product that will actually move the needle. Ideally, what a marketing company promotes is what people want that your company can make a profit on. Other times, it’s a new offering that needs some exposure. You have to be firm. There’s always someone who’s “100% sure” they know there’s built-in demand, and who can’t prove it.

For our managed IT services company, a product manager may decide that the company can do more than IT alone. They can also branch into SEO. This is outside your company’s core competencies, but the PM’s gut knows that everyone will sign up.

A responsible marketer has to look at the overall supply chain and cost for any new product or service. In this case, you will likely have to hire or contract a service to even offer SEO. Call center reps and network engineers do not inherently know this skill.

But, within your company,  you offer Sharepoint administration. Many businesses in your service area could use this, and few know about it. You’re not on the hook for the Sharepoint license, and you already have staff who can handle such work. Which of these products makes the most sense to market? Sure, as a marketer, we need to roll with the punches, but we also need to consider that our efforts will tie to sales. Before attempting to advertise a new “cash cow,” we must look at the cradle-to-grave cost.

When

To be honest, the when of marketing is the easiest concept to understand. It’s said that timing is everything, and this is usually right. It’s a rare product or service that you can advertise in the same way throughout the entire year. As individuals, we see this in action all the time via holiday candy, summer blockbusters, and more. In B2B, advertising efforts are generally dictated by fiscal calendars and trade shows. The big hiccup is leaving enough lead time to plan, revise, and execute on a marketing plan.

For your B2B IT company, you likely want to time product promotions with Q1 for your best clients. The budgets reset or grow, and you can encourage expanded use of your services. Later in the year, you head to business trade shows for the verticals you. Before those shows, ads run that encourage some kind of interaction at these shows. In my experience, it helps to plan all efforts at least six months in advance.

Where

Where to run marketing is often more complicated than most people know. There are normal geographic indicators like city, state, and country. Then there are nebulous regions based on features, such as Tornado Alley or the Eagle Ford Shale. Finally, there are also DMAs, which, are usually a greater metropolitan area. They can get very strange, though (take a look at the Denver, CO DMA for an illuminating example).

The where of marketing is often dictated by the who and the why. If you know who wants your product or service and why they want it, then you have a better idea of where to reach them.

With your managed IT services company, we already mentioned trade shows. These happen at a given location and during a given time. Most of the attendees who are from out of town will be within a 5-10 mile radius around the event location. Geotargeting is your friend in this case. But what about more remote instances? If your company wants to target oil and gas exploration and drilling companies within the Eagle Ford Shale, I’ve already highlighted how difficult it can be to determine where the population centers are in such a sparse area.

It’s worth noting that “where” also pertains to what marketing channels you need. For sparse areas, this will often mean a mobile-first campaign. Same for trade shows, where people often operate by smartphone alone for 3-5 days straight. If your service area is a downtown area, to reach decision makers, you need to focus desktop traffic.

Why

And now we get to the meat of the W5. We can know all the details of an ad campaign, but if we don’t know why, we can’t formulate a good how. Throughout business, everyone asks this. The why of a marketing campaign aligns with your mission statement and business plan.

Managed IT services companies often have a why like this: “We have teams who are highly qualified and maintain various certifications. Companies of our clients’ size can only dedicate so much to their IT team, and often it isn’t enough. The want to work with us because we save them money and headaches. Our clients benefit from outsourcing their networking and support staff. This is a cost-saving effort and gives a higher level of service than they could provide in house.”

Putting It All Together

Now that we know who, what, when, where, and why, as I mentioned before, your marketing agency comes up with the how. For your IT company, your goals are:

  • To reach business decision makers working for companies of a certain size.
  • To sell the most cost-effective solution for you.
  • To have the campaign to in full swing by Q1.

Now for the how. If this were my pitch meeting, I would tell you that we need to make this a digital-first campaign. You offer IT support, so it makes sense (plus Chow-Bryant is a mainly digital agency.) The rest of the details would come together in time for our next meeting, after I research platforms and audience details.

And now is when we might realistically discuss KPIs. You want money from a specific set of services your company offers, and you know who you want it from, where they need to be, and when it needs to happen. Logically, we measure leads and sales. Because of this, we now move the conversation on to some of Chow-Bryant’s other services, like customized analytics and business intelligence. In this way, we can ensure the numbers that we report are accurate.

When we both understand what you want, we can work together as a team to make sure you get it.

The Goal of This Blog

By the time you get to this line, you’re probably ready to check your marketing’s W5(s). At least I hope you are. But my goal? My goal is for you to contact us to find out how Chow-Bryant can help you.