More words are written about the role of strategy in devising your advertising and marketing communications than any other single subject. And we don’t want to add to this endless morass of words, which actually serve to confuse people more than they do to create clarity.
But here are a few things for you to consider, before you spend another cent on comms. We mean it: don’t spend another penny till you have asked yourself ALL these questions. And even this list is not exhaustive!
WHO are you talking to? Can you describe them? Not just demographically (age, sex, income, location etc – everyone does that) but psychographically. What moves them? What annoys them? What makes them excited and happy? What do they think about? What will they be thinking about when your message hits them?
Think of your advertising and marketing communications as being like walking up to complete strangers in the street and asking them questions or proposing ideas to them, when you don’t know anything about them. If you expected any real level of success, you simply wouldn’t.
Of course, nowadays we talk a lot about creating relationships with our target audiences – which is good, and wise – where we communicate with them steadily over a period of time, hopefully gathering information about them along the way. In reality, though, we will have always have limited success because while we think we are keeping in very close contact with our prospects, they are actually enjoying/enduring literally thousands of communications messages every week, not to mention just trying to get along with their daily lives. And what moves them changes over time.
So we need to understand the real environment into which our communications will drop, and treat every item of communications with equal seriousness. We also need to be aware that if we send messages TOO often, about things that matter to us but which are possibly of marginal interest to the person receiving the communication, then we risk pissing them off.
IS YOUR BUSINESS READY if your marketplace responds in numbers? And how will the response, if it’s positive, affect your business?
Could your business be put under pressure if your communications work too well?
And can you be sure that success in one area won’t mean a drought in another? Cannibalising one area of the business to feed another is one of the commonest mistakes marketers make, and then when that happens, everyone rushes over to support the area of the business that’s been cannibalised, and often with inadequate thought.
And then the $64,000 question: what will you do if they don’t work well – what is your “Plan B”?
IS WHAT YOU ARE SAYING WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO SAY? Have you done the hard yards to know exactly what you need to communicate, and why? Most advertising tries to do too much. People aren’t sitting there waiting to receive your messages and prepared to sift through a mass of information to get to the bit that motivates them. If there are ten things you could tell them, what is the one thing you must? Golden Rule: Say less, and say it better.
ARE YOU BEING ORIGINAL? Most ads are boring. It’s a simple fact. Advertising people get just as bored with the crap that’s around just like you do, by the way.
Creativity exists to break through the clutter of all the advertising and promotions that we see. Are you giving your advertising agency permission to be creative on your behalf, or are you holding them back because you don’t think like them? Remember, you’re working with a creative agency because you don’t think like them! Let them do their job ….
HOW WILL YOUR OFFERING LOOK NEXT TO YOUR COMPETITORS? “Me Too” is the weakest communications territory you can own. After all, if we can already get what we need from our existing supplier, why switch to you? You have to have a point of difference, and it starts right back with your product or service design, and not just your communications. And if you really are a “Me Too” product or service, then your communications need to work doubly hard – they really have to be different or you will simply be ignored.
This is just a short sample of the mental discipline that needs to be applied to any communications you do – and it applies internally as much as externally. Good, solid strategic planning will help you answer these questions, and the net result of good strategy will turn up on directly your bottom line as sure as day follows night.
Don’t go waiving budgets at ad agencies unless you have the answers to these questions absolutely nutted out – or unless they can help you nut them out. Any agency worth its salt simply must nowadays be able to offer you independent, credentialed advice on strategy and be able to quote real world examples where their strategic input has improved communications plans and helped to turn them into a success. If they can’t – or if they’re not convincing – look elsewhere.
And accept that your agency may challenge your pre-conceptions about your market place. You need a group of dynamic, honest minds working for you. Not an echo chamber.
Research + Strategy + Creative Execution = more than an Ad Agency.