At the end of the year, just in time for the holidays, I’ll achieve another personal milestone – my book, Ask & Deliver, published by Forbes will hit the bookshelves. It’s been a journey that catalogs my journey to the heart of marketing – knowing and sharing your customer’s journey.
Over the next few months, I’ll focus on the four steps of a process for marketing success that I’ve seen play out time and again throughout my career. This process of Ask, Listen, Deliver and Improve holds true across industries and business models.
It works whether you are B2B, B2C, D2C or anything in between.
It works because it is human nature. Some might even say transcendental.
But it’s so simple that marketers and business leaders tend to abandon it for something more complex. Something that makes them feel smarter, stronger or more in control.
I’ve always felt that the best marketing campaign is one that delivers ROI. One that achieves the my clients’ goals and helps their business thrive.
And that success starts with asking questions so you can truly understand the situation you are trying to fix, change or capitalize on as a marketer.
Today I’ll dive more into the first step of this proven marketing process – ask. Consider it a preview of my book, where I get into the details of the process of Ask & Deliver looks like in real life.
How many times, as a marketer (whether at an internal agency or full service advertising agency) have you been asked to “make an ad” or “create a flyer” or “design a website”?
The request often comes in a vacuum and with little time to fulfill it.
We’re almost told not to ask questions. To just ‘get the job done.’
But when we don’t take the time to stop and ask who we are making the ad, brochure, flyer, website, campaign, social media campaign, influencer campaign, etc. for, we are defaulting to our own, limited insight. We’re basically saying that we have all the answers and don’t need any customer insights.
In fact, I’ve seen time and again that pride is the number one obstacle to asking the questions necessary to ensure success.
Maybe we don’t want to look weak. Maybe we feel pressured to have all the answers because clients are looking to us as the experts who have them. Maybe we’ve had past success relying on our intellect and gut instinct and believe it will serve us well again this time.
Whatever the reason, we are taking a big risk by not starting every marketing activity big or small with questions.
As marketers, we must seek to understand, not just hear what our brains hear. This is especially challenging in a time-challenged environment. When we are being pulled in ten different directions and expected to turn around killer creative, or launch a successful campaign, at breakneck speed, we feel we don’t have time to stop and ask.
We jump headlong into doing and don’t stop to ask if it worked until we’re done.
At that point, the money has been spent. The execution is done. And we will be subject to whatever blind spots we indulged.
Speaking of speed, that’s the second obstacle that often stops marketers from successfully delivering on customer expectations.
No matter how quick the turnaround, we must stop and ask the client (and ourselves) what is the goal? What am I trying to accomplish?
I’ve seen people rush into a project without even taking the time to Google a brand or business’ site to see who they are or what they do from that basic level.
If we don’t have even that most basic of information about a brand or business, how in the world can we have confidence in our marketing strategy?
We simply can’t. We must rely on hope. And as anyone who has spent any time around me knows, I’m fond of saying – hope is not a strategy.
Before penning one word or drawing one line or planning one media placement, I must seek to understand who my client and their brand is, what they stand for and what their core foundational tenets are. If I don’t have that, how will I hit the mark?
If video killed the radio star, politics has littered graveyards with dead marketing plans. Plans that were dead from the start.
If you don’t want to practice zombie marketing, you must press to remove politics from the decision-making.
Far too often, decisions about audience, messaging, marketing spend and more are made by someone who knows nothing about marketing.
Sure, the CEO or CIO or COO may know everything about running a business, but if a courageous marketer doesn’t help them see that they aren’t the marketing expert, they’re just wasting shareholder money. And that is something business leaders, particularly of publicly-traded companies, cannot do.
Marketing is really much more simple than we make it. If we would just take the time at the start of every marketing task to seek to understand who we are targeting and why we will give every plan a chance at true success. Plus, asking is not only the smart thing to do, it is the right thing to do. The human thing to do and as good humans, seeking to understand implies that we care. And as great marketers we do care, don’t we. So, take a breath, and ASK before you begin. I promise, it will make all the difference because if we miss the Ask, we’ll miss the mark.
So start asking questions. Questions like:
What are you trying to achieve with this communication?
What does your brand stand for?
Where are you today and Where do you want to go?
Why do you want to get there?
What has worked in the past?
What do your customers want?
What are your goals?
ASKing these types of questions will help you start and stay strong. If there is time, validate your answers through quantitative surveys and test your creative through technology.
That’s a strategy and it’s much, much better than hoping that you can put out award winning, results driving creative without really understanding what is at the heart of the work requested.