Some dinner parties are hits. The food is good, everybody has fun, and before you know it, it’s late and time to go home. But then there are the duds – those painful evenings during which you’ve peeked at your watch under the tablecloth one too many times. So, what accounts for the difference?
Just like a dinner party, the marketing pitch with its successful sale is an interaction between people. And, the same principles for success apply to both marketing communications strategic plans and dinner parties.
Sound marketing communication strategy is a connection between people
Most of us care deeply about the product or service we are trying to market. We see its advantages and understand how it can help customers do better or be better. Similarly, as buyers, each of us cares deeply about the products or services we purchase, asking ourselves how is this good for me?
Developing a keen marketing communications strategy is an exercise in rigor. Doing it well means having:
- an intimate understanding of your product or service features and benefits
- detailed knowledge about each of your customer segments
- key messages targeted to each segment
- clear business goals
- sound strategies for achieving goals
- specific tactics to carry out each of the strategies
- success measures for knowing if you have achieved your aims
- a budget you can afford
In the midst of the persona developing, focus grouping, spreadsheeting, calendar-building, and estimate-seeking, it’s easy to lose sight of one fact — there are human beings on both ends of this effort.
Think about what makes the perfect dinner party. Then, apply it to your strategy.
Thinking of your plan as a party can help you keep the people on both ends at the forefront during every stage. So, what are the elements of success?
1. Invite just the right people.
Make sure you know who you are talking to. Do your targeting. Create a detailed matrix that includes everything you know about each type of prospect. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all customer, one big gob of people. You wouldn’t invite both vegetarians and meat-eaters to your party and then serve a big beef roast, so don’t try to connect with all of your different customer types with the same message, or even at the same time. Some segments may care about you in June, but not in January. Target prospect knowledge is the key to having the right folks at the table.
2. Be an attractive host.
Why should anyone want to spend time with you? What is it about your organization that carries weight with each segment? It may be company reputation, time in business, competitive pricing, or specific product or service features that resonate. It may be different for each segment, so make sure you list all of the reasons to buy for each of your customer segments. Know what facts are most likely to make people want to join you and then build those into your key messages.
3. Keep the conversation lively and mutual.
Nobody wants to come to a dinner party where the host is yapping away at them all night. Your best prospects feel the same way. Create a set of tactics that reaches your targets in the way and with the frequency they are most likely to appreciate. Don’t bombard them with stuff. Make sure what you deliver is short and to the point. Give them what they most likely are interested in, and offer a means for them to react. Just because you have it doesn’t mean they care. You can’t force them to eat something they don’t like.
4. Don’t kill yourself with the work.
A simple menu of excellent ingredients is always better. Avoid loading up on tactics. There are often quite a few tactics that could support a specific strategy, but choosing too many will exhaust your budget, you, and your co-workers. Take multiple customer segments, add multiple tactics, and the level of effort required for both execution and measurement grows exponentially.
5. Get help if you need it.
Not everyone is a strategist. Some are astute tacticians or superior project managers. Or, you may be too close to your challenge to attack it with new vision. If developing the strategic plan is too daunting, consider hiring a consultant or agency who has done this work many times, and can bring forward insights and ideas gleaned from other industries. There’s no shame in hiring an expert as an extra set of hands so you can cook up what you do best.
The real secret behind a successful marketing strategy is in caring enough about the people on the other end to deliver what they want in a way that will delight and excite. Think of them as the guests around your table. You’ve invited them. It’s your job to serve them well.