What are marketers thinking of?

I’ve been subscribing to email newsletters since the early 90′s and–more recently–RSS feeds to try to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world of marketing and business.  Aside from a few must-reads, most of my efforts are a waste of time.  However, every once in a while something just jumps out of my mailbox.

Like today’s eMarketer Daily.

Today’s article, What Are Marketers Thinking? stood out because of one bar on a bar chart:

Most Important Marketing Trends from eMarketer

Back to basics?  That’s music to my ears and this one graph will make the daily dose of dreck palatable for weeks.

Now all the usual caveats about research apply here, but in the slim chance this graph actually means what it purports to, this is a great thing for one simple reason.

The science of marketing requires some basic craftsmanship.

After all, a carpenter with a Masters in structural engineering wouldn’t do you much good in finishing your basement, if he couldn’t work a level and measure wood with a reasonable degree of accuracy before cutting.  My few–and exceedingly poor–attempts at carpentry attest to my lack of the most basic skills required, even though my garage contains a reasonable assortment of carpentry implements.

So what’s back to basics in our business?  I’ll cover just one today and hope to discuss more of the remainder in the coming weeks.


This is the one of the marketing basics that’s so easy to understand, so easy to forget and yet is at the center of what it is we do.  Too often, I’ve asked the question “what’s the objective here?” of non-entry level marketers and received blank stares.  This is the number one question I ask of clients and will spend a lot of time ensuring that the answer is very well understood before we move on.

When thinking about marketing objectives, I think you can’t go wrong using Sergio Zyman‘s famous definition of marketing and using it as a template (I’m always about easy, wherever possible) for your particular product or service.  Mr. Zyman says:

“The purpose of marketing is to sell more stuff to more people more often for more money more efficiently.TM” 

So what’s the objective of your campaign?

  • Increase sales by X% to Y units during period Z.
  • Sell A units to target market B as measured by C in N time.
  • Increase average backend take by X% among customers acquired by D channel during the month of W.

You get the picture, but look to the root cause of failed marketing campaigns and you’ll find–more often than not–a basic misunderstanding at the very outset of the campaign as to what the objective was.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s the test:  Go back to your campaign post-mortems (you do post-mortems, after-action reports, debriefs or whatever you prefer to call them after every campaign, right?) and the report/email/sticky note should have two bullets on the summary.  The first bullet should have the objective laid out similar to my examples above and the second bullet should read either “achieved” or “not achieved”.

Why is it important to be able to boil down the objectives to one simple line that can be answered with either one (in the case of success) or two (otherwise) words?  Because you aren’t going to achieve your campaign objectives unless everyone knows exactly where you’re going and how you’ll know if you get there.

Your team is more than likely going to consist of some internal marketing people, some internal or external technology folks, media buyers, creative types, online community evangelists, bloggers and others, and the output will be ultimately be measured by your financial or accounting people.  They’ll all be doing a lot of stuff, usually in a big hurry and therefore in parallel.  There’s only two ways to keep a group of people on the same page:  Lots of meetings (which ruin creativity, extend the process and triple the cost) or perfectly crisp articulation of commonly-understood objectives.  I prefer the latter, always.

Your assignment:  Look at those marketing efforts you weren’t happy with (or couldn’t measure, which by definition, you should be unhappy with as a 21st century ROMI marketer) and see how many were lacking the back-to-basics of a clearly articulated set of simple and commonly understood objectives.  Now, promise yourself and your organization that you won’t do that again and make sure the remainder of your marketing efforts are tied to very tangible marketing objectives.

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