Marketing By Objectives

November 29, 2010

Objective-Action-Budget

In a recent article for the CMO Council’s Newsletter, Nicolas Watkis argues “Marketers won’t succeed if they don’t have objectives”. Right on, my friend!

As we have all heard before, marketers are now more than in any other time being measured and challenged to produce measurable results. Mr. Watkis then states “the most important activities for marketers are the establishment of marketing objectives, a plan for their achievement, a budget to support the plan, and the management of assets and resources to achieve the objectives”.

OK, I think we can all agree this makes sense, but then how do you go about coming up with a plan? His article argues that most marketers start with the budget and foolishly take that for a marketing plan while the right approach is actually quite different:

1. Set measurable objectives, both financial and marketing. The financial objectives are revenue, profits, return on assets (how much sales will the campaign generate? Is a valid question to answer in your objective) and although he doesn’t describe what the “marketing objectives” are, I would focus on lead generation numbers (how many qualified leads, for example) although other metrics such as “number of blog posts” or “twitter messages” could be valid objectives for social media campaigns.

2. List actions to be take for each objective, with completion dates, people responsible for each action and also think in terms of alternative actions (what to do in case the action is not successful). This last bit is important for factors outside your influence, maybe a contract that depends on another company has to be signed for the joint marketing campaign to start, or what to do if certain assumptions you’ve made when putting together the plan fail to materialize (i.e. what to do if mommy bloggers don’t pick up our story or offer right away as we hope they will do).

3. Profit and loss projection with a detailed marketing budget showing the allocation of resources. So here it is, the marketing budget, the final component of the marketing plan.

The methodology of OBJECTIVE -> ACTION -> BUDGET is logic, but why is it that so many marketers keep insisting on coming up with the budget before actually putting a plan in place? The “let’s copy last year’s budget” mentality is prevalent in many organizations because is the easy way out of a not so glamorous function. Maybe now is time for some change. So write “objective -> action -> budget”  down on paper, in big letters and stick it to your corkboard or use a post-it and glue it to your computer monitor. That’s what I just did 🙂

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If you’re gonna copy, make it right

February 15, 2009

An interesting blog post by Jason Cohen at OnStartups.com  discussed why you shouldn’t copy other companies just because they were successful at what they do. He uses examples like 37Signals, Copyblogger, FogCreek Software, Zappos, and make a good case for trying to think for yourself instead of just following what others are saying.

His controversial post caused quite a stir whith some people taking it personal, others agreeing with him and even others that were lost completely as to what the message he was trying to say was. Why do I care? Well, for one I’m interested in controversy and believe that dissident voices can often give us great insight into what we thought was a certainty. How often have you presented an idea to your team or to the company’s senior management only to get asked questions you never yourself considered before? My second reason for liking that post is that I agree with what Jason said.

Let me explain. Although I admire Joel Spolsky and think he’s right on the mark 99% of times, I wouldn’t simply copy his business model or his ideas and try to use them in my own company. The simple fact that it worked for him doesn’t prove that it will work for everyone. Another person I admire is Jack Welsh (former CEO of GE) but I also wouldn’t be as ruthless as he was during his tenure simply because that is not my style. Can you be as successful as someone else without using the same methods? The myriad of companies out there that are successful and yet operate completely different (Southwest and JetBlue, Yahoo and Google, GM and Toyota, etc.) are the proof.

Did Jason take some stuff out of context? Maybe. But the overall idea was interesting and valid, especially for us mere mortals that look in awe at others that have been more successful (however you define the term) and have to be brought back down to earth and go back to work.

The lesson here translated into the marketing realm is that you should always keep an eye out for the competition, for your partners, for other similar companies, for what is said to be working and why. What is the best ad campaign you’ve seen recently? Which is the best website? Who in your industry is the king of PPC and SEO? This is all good food for thought but beware of simply copying what others are doing. You competitor may have a very good reason why he decided to create a blog on his website and why he spent thousands on that slick direct mail piece but it doesn’t mean you should follow suit. Watch, learn, absorb all the good and bad then translate it into your own context. 

Effectiveness doesn’t come from copying, it comes from making it right for your organization. Do what works for you, not what have worked for others.


Effective Manager Defined

February 14, 2009

From time to time I go back to some business books I’ve read that had big influences in my career, one of which is “The One Minute Manager”, by Ken Blanchard. There’s a specific passage I think is a great definition of effective managers, it reads:

Effective managers manage themselves and the people they work with so that both the organization and the people profit from their presence.

This is a simple but powerful thought. How are you making use of your time? How are you making use of your team’s time? Are the tasks you and your team working on going to directly affect the company’s ability to compete in the marketplace?  Are the marketing campaigns you are planning or have planned going to directly influence sales? What are the key items in your agenda as a marketer that can have a direct impact in the company’s bottom line? 

Food for thought.



Effective Marketer Principle 5: Take Responsibility for Communicating

January 17, 2009

To get things done you need to communicate, ensuring the team is aware of the plan, deadlines, and expected results. Effective managers in general are good at taking the responsibility of communicating their decisions to the organization, ensuring everyone is on board and aware of what will happen. As you discuss the plan of action with your team and with the stakeholders (see previous post), you are also getting buy-in for carrying out the tasks. In marketing is especially important to ensure that the company as a whole is aware of what is being done. Marketing, after all, affects every part of the organization.

In big companies as well as in small ones Marketing can oftentimes be considered a necessary expense, the department where money gets spent without consideration and where results are difficult to be measured. If this looks familiar to you, then you need to start practicing Principle 5 of the effective marketer and start communicating what you do, why you do it, and how it impacts everyone.Communicate the Marketing Plan

As the marketing plans are shared with the rest of the company, and details on why each campaign or activity is being carried out together with their expected impact on operations and sales, the reason for marketing and why we have this department should become clear. Marketing is not just a concentrated effort from the staff in that department, it should be part of every employee’s responsibility. The business cards that are presented to partners and potential customers are part of marketing branding, the message being delivered about what the company does is tailored and perfected by marketing, the collateral material that is distributed and that sales people use at trade shows and site visits is also marketing, of course. Therefore an understanding of what this all means, why each piece is important and knowing it is part of an overall strategy helps when delivering the message(s).

The principle of communicating also applies to ensuring the marketing manager gives the necessary information to others in the company to get their jobs done. Sales, finance, operations, shipping, each department manager needs specific information that will help them do their jobs. The effective marketer knows what information they need and provides it to them (market intelligence will help sales, packaging and placement are needed for shipping, cost per lead and campaign ROI will make the CFO happy). This shows that marketing is involved in almost every aspect of a company’s operations.

Learn how, when, and to whom communicate, and you will learn how to gain support to carry out the marketing plan.


Effective Marketer Principle 4: Take Responsibility for Decisions

January 13, 2009

The fourth principle can be summarized in one word: ACT!project plan

Marketing managers can sometimes get caught up on the creation of the plan, discussing with the team everything that will be done, the campaigns, the nice webinars, the new collateral, and the press releases but forget the important part of the marketing plan, actually the important part of any successful plan: The Three W’s (Who will do What by When)?

Until there’s a clear “owner”, a task won’t get done. Is the old saying that if everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible. Drucker advises us to use the following when determining the responsibility for each task laid out in the plan:

  • The name of the person responsible for the task
  • The deadline (when does it need to get done?)
  • The names of the people who will be affected by it, especially if approvals are needed (think for example about whether the CEO, the CMO, or another high level executive needs to review and approve your ad campaign before it goes out the door. Make sure to add this person as part of your plan and also to allocate the appropriate time it will take for this person to review and approve – or not – the deliverable)
  • The names of people who will have to be informed by the decision (after you create a new piece of marketing collateral do you announce it to the sales team? Do you have to put out a press release after you revamp your whole website? Think of the communication activities that may result of completing a task)

A key part of taking responsibility and assigning people responsible for each task is to make them accountable. Metrics should be in place to ensure performance is measured – something that becomes critical if the task at hand may impact the overall results of a marketing campaign. If, for example, an activity within your plan is to send out an email blast to selected customers inviting them to attend a webinar, you not only need to ensure you are tracking the results of the email campaign (open rates, click trough rates, bounce rates, etc.) but you should also look into whether the sending of the email itself was done correctly. How? Look back and verify whether the deadlines for creating the email and scheduling/sending it out were met. Why the results were so good or bad? Results from the email might point to improvements needed for the copy, the overall design, or even the landing page used. It is important to know beforehand how you are going to measure success for each activity and also understanding the implications of not meeting the goals (maybe the email needs to be reworked and sent again to drive additional registrations).

Drucker’s wisdom also tells us about delegation and the need for de-centralizing decision making. We all have way too much on our plates to be concerned with every little detail of our marketing plans, after all that’s why we have people in our teams that (hopefully) can help us with some of the tasks. Be it an intern, a marketing coordinator, an assistant or additional marketing professionals, we need to learn that we can rely on each member of the team to carry out his or her task successfully and to make decisions along the way without having to get your approval every step of the way.

The path to becoming an effective marketer involves learning how to “let go” of having to make all decisions. You hired quality people, you should trust your team and you should coach them on how to become better at what they do so that they can one day take over your job and you can rise up the ladder as well! Make each person responsible and accountable but also give them the freedom to decide the best course of action in certain situations. That’s the only way you will be able to accomplish everything you set out to do in your plan. Quoting directly from Peter Drucker “Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level. It needs to be taught explicitly to everyone in organizations that are based on knowledge.” (from “What makes an effective executive”, Harvard Business Review, June 2004)


Marketing Action Plans

January 6, 2009

 

Effective Marketer Principle 3: Develop Action Plans

Now that you have identified the most important thing to be done now and making sure it will contribute to the company’s goals (see previous post), is time to develop action plans. Marketers are used to creating marketing plans, including advertising campaigns, trade show schedules, etc. Many marketers I know have calendars posted on the walls marking important dates, deadlines, events, and so forth. Spreadsheets abound, and ideas flow. A great marketing plan is created! Or is it?

The action plan in Peter Drucker’s “8 Principles” article involves thinking not only about what to do, but also the expected results.

Action plan checklist:action plan

          Desired results

          Probable restraints

          Future revisions

          Check-in Points

          Implications for how the marketer will spend his time

I need to stress the first bullet, “desired results”. It is very important to make sure your marketing activities are results-oriented. There’s a whole discussion around marketing ROI that we should have at a later date, I think most of you are already developing plans with specific goals in mind be it lead generation, web traffic, referrals, and even sales. Right?

 The last bullet, on how you will spend your time, involves thinking deep into the planning and really being realistic as to what you (and your team) can accomplish as well as what may happen as a result of implementing the plan in relation to your available time.  In some cases you may have to do some market research prior to changing the product packaging, or contact your customers as a result of new customer service website login options. The important thing is not to forget that the plan you devise may impact other areas (and require more actions) not originally thought. This bullet also reminds you that you need to dedicate time to your plan. Yes, we are all very busy in endless meetings and such but unless you spend time towards the activities you outlined in your plan you won’t be making any progress and you won’t be effective. As you plan your day/week/month, make sure that you are spending time on activities related to your original action plan. Keep asking yourself “what needs to be done NOW?”.


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