Six Things Marketing Should Be Doing to Ensure a Positive ROI
Are your marketing dollars being wasted?
There is often a stigma around how marketing dollars are spent. Business leaders don’t always fully understand marketing programs or how all the elements tie together. Other department heads get frustrated when, in their opinion, investment ‘Needs’ are turned down, but Marketing still gets funding for ‘Wants’. Finally, Marketing Professionals rarely feel they have enough funding for the results everyone expects their programs to achieve. So what can be done to ease the stigma and ensure marketing is a real activity that drives profits and the company’s future?
This article serves as a training tool for executives, of any background, to help set the standards and expectations for marketing in their organization. Below are six internal and external communication actions your marketing organization should be taking in order to ensure successful strategies and profitable returns. If you are in Marketing you should…
1) Know your company & have them know you.
Have a deep and documented understanding of your organization, the full breadth of products and/or services offered, your process flows, your customer’s full cycle buying experience, your product’s cost/profit structure and your current capabilities. Also have an in-depth understanding of your financials, your R&D capabilities & current development pipeline. You can’t promote something you don’t understand, nor can you see practical growth potential without knowing your current reality. Most importantly, share your knowledge throughout all levels of your organization on a continuous basis to ensure everyone understands the company’s reality as well.
Why is this important? By doing this your marketing ideas become practical, actionable plans using jargon others, outside of marketing, can understand and support. You will be able to capture low hanging fruit opportunities and other areas of the company will start to search for those opportunities as well.
2) Know your current and target customer groups.
Talk to & visit, customers, survey customers, understand their buying patterns, both what they buy from you and what they buy from others instead of you. Know what they like and dislike about your company and your competitors. Understand their full buying experience and ask them what your company can do better from a service and new product perspective. Find out their future product and service needs. Utilize your sales group when conducting your ongoing studies; work with them and have them help you. Document & analyze your results, then share your analysis throughout your organization.
Why is this important? Talking directly with current and potential customers is eye opening, especially when you are not trying to sell them anything. Customers tend to open up and share valuable information during this dialog because, in the end, they may gain something from it. Marketing professionals that collect this data, compile it and share results, trends, and opportunities with sales and the rest of the organization, can build internal support for their programs.
3) Know your Competitors.
Research & document their products and services, understand why customers buy from them and why they don’t buy from them. Try to determine your prices and products/services compared to theirs. Understand their target markets, their strengths and weaknesses. Document their process flows & customer experience (you can do this by buying from them, or talking with their customers). Your sales team can help you with this.
Why is this important? There is no need to recreate the wheel. If a competitor is doing something well, you should learn from them. If they are doing something poorly, you can learn what not to do. Also, it gives you an opportunity to direct your organization into a strategic sweet spot. The more you understand your competitor’s capabilities vs. your own, you can adapt your message, your development efforts and your dollars toward an area of opportunity, where your organization can be unique.
4) Know & plan your marketing tools.
You have a lot of choices in your toolbox: PR, advertising, websites, presentations, literature, DVD’s, direct marketing, trade shows, sales tools, packaging, product launches/expansions, social marketing, etc…realize that you do not have to implement every tool available to you. Your importance and value as a marketing professional are not based on the dollar amount of your marketing budget, They are based on the growth you bring to the company by effectively spending as little as possible to achieve your business & strategic goals.
Why is this important? If you take this philosophical approach to planning and spending, others will be able to understand the value of your programs as you explain your methodology. Ambiguous fund allocation such as brand building is often difficult to sell internally. However, if you couple the long-term/ambiguous budget requests with short and medium term effective spending strategies, you will increase your chances of getting budget support.
5) Proactively lead your internal and external strategy.
By conducting external market and internal research, and developing an in-depth understanding of your organization, you will be able to create a comprehensive strategy and implementation plan your entire company can embrace. Analyze your data points, find your strengths and weakness, opportunities and threats, define where you are today in the competitive mix and where your company can move to in the marketplace. Define the changes internally, and with your products and services, that need to be made in order to reach your strategic opportunities. Most importantly, get buy-in from all levels of your organization by involving them in your process and having them involve you in theirs. Your information, analysis, and proposal, are paramount for your executive leadership to set the course and fund the execution. Be proactive.
Why is this important? Integrated marketing approaches are successful marketing approaches. They provide the opportunity to lead your organization, align investment dollars, as well as functional activities to achieve your goals. Waiting for budget time to present your plan is a setup for failure, especially in this economic time when percentage of revenue budget allocations are not always feasible. A proactive approach to marketing strategy is something everyone can buy into because you work hard to ensure all aspects are understood and make sense for the business.
6) Track your results.
You are spending a lot of money, document where it goes, how much was spent, the objective you are trying to achieve, the revenue result and the operational savings. Your results should be tracked monthly, quarterly and annually. If your actions are not showing the result you need, change them….you have a lot of tools to pick from. Link your spending to your strategy and this will lead you to success. Share your results in ongoing reports throughout your company. Your ROI is represented in the results of departments other than marketing: Operations, Sales, Purchasing, etc.… So make those departments involved in providing and owning the results. Make communication a collaborative exercise of measuring return on investment dollars that the entire company can track and share in the success.
Why is this important? Too often marketing takes all the credit for growth; this leads to animosity in the organization. By sharing the work, the knowledge, the results and the credit, you will be able to drive your organization and funding for future marketing efforts.
Now, if you are in marketing you may be thinking…this seems like a lot of work that I really don’t have time for…why do I need to get everyone in the company thinking like me if it is my job to do that thinking? Here is the bottom line. Marketing is a leadership role, and Marketing Professionals need to take that role and make it real. The communication actions described in this article are not only for others to believe in and support you; they are for you to create the best programs for your company to grow.
Communication is the key to a successful ROI.
Success equates to:
- Integrated marketing programs that the entire company can support.
- Larger budget approvals aligned with proactive business strategies.
- Collaborative investment strategies linking operational investments with marketing programs.
- Positive Return On All Investments
Ask yourself this question, whether you are in marketing, operations, executive leadership, sales, or any other functional area… Do you believe your company’s marketing dollars are being wasted? You don’t have to be in marketing to set the expectation for positive returns. Use these tools to work with your marketing group and make a positive difference in your own organization.
I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life. Test out these concepts and share your results with us. Others can benefit from your experiences. Good luck!
Written by Lisa Woods, President Lisa Woods Consulting & Founder of ManagingAmericans.com
Lisa is a dynamic business leader & author located in Western New York with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she partners with business leaders to understand their vision, identify internal and external roadblocks, define a practical strategic path forward and guide a successful transformation. This work includes strategy definition & goal setting, organizational design, facilitating team buy-in, establishing visual metrics, internal and external research studies, business feasibility assessments, and investor insight into organizational strength, weakness & strategic opportunity. She helps business leaders drive growth & increase profits.
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