Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the marketing world, copying competitors’ strategies and tactics won’t get you far.
So what’s the key to differentiating your business’ marketing from that of competitors? We asked industry experts for their input for this week’s “CMO.com Wants To Know.”
Casey Carey, Director of Google Analytics Marketing, Google, told CMO.com:
A compelling marketing plan will clearly communicate the answers to three simple questions:
1. How is marketing doing? A brief look back communicates clear accountability for marketing. A quick review of what worked and what didn’t, performance against key KPIs versus plan, and visibility into marketing’s contribution to the business sets the stage for what to expect in the future.
2. What are you going to do different? On a quarterly or even annual basis, a big portion of the marketing plan is to maintain and tactically optimize the status quo. These activities are a given and, while an important part of the plan, they are not really that interesting. What everyone wants to understand is, “What are the big bets that will really move the needle?” These should be well-aligned with either emerging opportunities within the marketplace or in support of big strategic corporate initiatives.
3. What business results can you expect to see? This is the question everyone wants to know the answer to. Establishing a clear linkage between marketing and its contribution to sales or revenue moves marketing from being a “discretionary expense” to a strategic business driver. This part of the plan should be aligned with key strategic initiatives, such as supporting new product launches, increasing share within a specific market segment, or increasing awareness and preference for the brand.
As a marketing leader, you should clearly establish line-of-sight between your plans and the priorities of the business. If you cannot, you may reconsider if it is part of your plan.
Doug Ryan, President, Chicago & San Francisco, DigitasLBi, told CMO.com:
If you look at the marketers who are succeeding in our evolved marketplace, they’re not bound by a campaign mentality. They’re crafting their stories to come from many places besides directly from the brand. Brands like Zappos and Über are benefitting in different ways from surprise and serendipity more than from crafting clear, consistent narratives. Their stories unfold on different threads spread across time and channels that defy neat categorization into well-defined beginnings and ends. Stories are still an essential part of brand building, but the emphasis is on the plural. When you exchange stories and share your reactions to them, that is more than storytelling. For the brands that do it best, it’s a conversation that never stops, that is constantly building on itself and moving in different directions
Tyler Lessard, CMO, Vidyard, told CMO.com:
Remember the fun! Every marketing plan has its standard components: goals, situation analysis, target markets, strategy, measurement, and so on. Of course, don’t forget that executive summary at the top because we all know that after the CMO signs off on it, no one is going to want to read that boring document in its entirety again.
Marketers play such an important role in connecting companies with their customers. The nature of our job is to engage, inform, and entertain, but when it comes time to put the marketing plan together, all the fun seems to get sucked out in favor of dull, dry corporate-speak. Most brands are still very formal. You can stand out by having some fun and entertaining your audience with humor and creative storytelling, and you can inform them at the same time. In fact, they’ll retain more of the information if you deliver it in an entertaining way. Even if you work for a stodgy brand in a conservative industry, you can appeal to human nature and emotion to build a more personal relationship with your buyers.
I’m not saying you should go out and hire Louis CK to write your marketing plan, but if you don’t build some fun into the planning process, you’ll end up executing a boring marketing plan to a bored audience.
Steven Handmaker, CMO, Assurance, told CMO.com:
Online. Offline. Personalized. Automated. Mobile. Omni. Nearly every marketer I know is searching for the right mix when it comes to their overall marketing plan. Unfortunately, there’s no right mix in the world that is going to save a marketer from an undifferentiated marketing message. This is why I continue to pray to the purple cow.
The purple cow, as Seth Godin taught us back in 2003, is that distinctive (and remarkable) attribute you have and no one else does--or, at least, no one else is talking about. If you combine a differentiated message with a marketing plan aimed at the right audience featuring the right marketing mix, you’re giving yourself the best ultimate chance for success. In order of importance, it’s message, audience, mix.
Steven Cook, Founder, Fortune CMO, told CMO.com:
I recently heard a talk by Lisa Gevelber, VP of marketing at Google, who nailed the moment that we are living in as brand builders and the implications for building marketing plans to win the battle for the consumer’s mind, heart, wallet, and advocacy. With smartphone penetration at 75% in the U.S. and many developed markets, most people using their mobile phone several hundred times a day, and Google searches on mobile phones now surpassing the number of searches on any other connected screen, brand marketers need to think about all of the mobile moments that matter in their consumers’ daily lives. For example, if your brand is a restaurant, if you don’t have high search presence and relevant content with a great UX at the very moment when consumers are looking for a restaurant that night ... then your brand will lose out to the brands that are searchable and relevant when consumers do a mobile search to solve their problem or achieve their goal.
This is now a truism for any type of any business in any vertical. One great example Lisa shared was when Sephora saw their customers using mobile phones in their stores, rather than spending a lot of money and time hypothesizing about what content their consumers would find valuable, they simply asked their consumers, “What content would be the most useful and helpful to you in your shopping experience?” The answer was, “Help me select the right shade.” So Sephora’s mobile app focuses on that content as the entry point to engage their consumers to improve the shopping experience and increase average check.
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