It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it, in other words; “The medium is the message.” First spoken in 1964, communication theorist Marshall McLuhan’s famous quip rings even more true today. From TV to the internet to social media, new mediums of communications have influenced society beyond the actual words used. For marketers, the message is about far more than the medium through which it is delivered; it’s not just how you say it, it’s why you say it.
McLuhan himself explains that “the purpose of the advertiser is to make an effect.” Marketing can only affect audiences if marketers take the time to ensure their messages reflect their brand’s identity and their audience’s desires. Before jumping into action, business leaders must uncover the underlying problems that need addressing, the business objectives that need to be met, and the key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure those objectives.
It’s tempting to skip steps. Choosing channels is enticing, and the execution phase is where the magic happens, but don’t be in such a hurry, skipping ahead rarely leads to success. Yet, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) highlights that 65% of B2B businesses do not have a written strategy. Marketing can’t infuse a brand’s vision and customers’ preferences into targeted communications unless they are uncovered first.
So, before deciding on which medium best suits your message, ask yourself the following questions.
1. What do you want to be known for?
Evaluate your organization to ensure your marketing content, channels of choice, and overarching strategy align with your brand foundation.
- Purpose: Why does your brand exist? What energizes people to come to work every day? What ideas should connect all of your communications?
- Values: What do you believe in? What philosophy of yours sets your organization apart from others? What strengths make your brand stand out?
- Story: What “reasons to believe” give you credibility? Why would your audience trust the stories you share on your channels?
2. What audience are you trying to reach?
Analyze your organization’s ideal customers or clients. Conduct customer research to understand the following about your audience.
- Motivation: Who is your target audience? What is your ideal target buyer persona? What underlying beliefs and widely shared priorities drive your audience to act?
- Inclination: What are your audience’s pain points? What evolving interests, needs, and preferences do your audience members share concerning your products and services?
- Location: Where can your audience be found? What is your audience’s geographic location and media of choice? From where does your audience get their information? How does your audience find you?
3. What business goals do you aim to accomplish?
Determine the objective(s) of the assignment, and write them down. Three options of primary objectives include:
- More Users: Increase the relevance of existing products and services to under-serviced customer segments.
- More Usage: Increase consumption of existing products and services to established customer segments.
- More Utility: Move customer segments from lower value (commoditized) to higher-value products and services with incremental benefits.
4. What challenges do you need to solve?
Uncover root marketing issues by asking key diagnostic questions. Through thorough self inquiry:
- Problems: From poor research to broad targeting, determine the obstacles that prevent your organization’s marketing from achieving its desired goals in the fullest capacity.
- Opportunities: Compile a comprehensive list of content and channel opportunities that your organization can leverage to achieve its desired goals and step ahead of the competition.
- Solutions: Create step-by-step plans of action to overcome known obstacles and take advantage of any opportunities uncovered.
5. What can you do to measure your success?
Align around KPIs and compare the data across the marketing funnel against industry standards and past performance. Constantly evaluate content performance and the tools through which it is shared. Examples of metrics include:
- Top Funnel: Impressions, Reach, Web Traffic, Engagement Rates, Open Rates
- Mid-Funnel: Clickthrough rates, Response Rates, Downloads, Cart-inclusion, Free Trials, Demo Request
- Lower Funnel: Qualified Pipeline, Yield, Average Order Value
Ultimately the marketer must consider which mediums are aligned with your brand, where your audience spends the most time, and, if placing a message there, whether it will resolve the challenges at hand. Then, measure the outcome to ensure the marketing program is working.
Remember that why you say what you say is as critical as how you say it. Know where you are and where you’re going in order to decide how to get there. Uncover the issue, the goal, and the audience — before choosing the channel and executing the campaign. Marketing leaders can only leverage any channel to achieve their targeted business goals when marketing activities align with clear business insight and brand identity.