Snowbird Series #1 – Are you doing Random Acts of Marketing? The real culprit may be your approach to strategy.
Guest Post By Matt Dion
Matt Dion was the CEO of Mintent which was acquired by RTOWN. Matt has gone on to be a Business Coach with Metronomics. I asked Matt to write the first blog in the Snowbird Series because to stop the Random Acts of Marketing, we firmly believe your business goals and objectives need to be reasonable and clear. Once these are in place then it is about setting and executing on a marketing and digital marketing strategy to support those goals.
Enjoy Matt’s blog!
Over my career as a marketing professional both as in-house head of marketing, running a digital agency and as an advisor and consultant, I’ve had the privilege of working with many, many companies on their marketing strategy and execution. Quite often the conversation starts with a tactical problem, often pressing and seemingly urgent such as: “how do we get more leads for our sales team?”, “how do we tell the whole world how awesome we are?”, “how do we articulate our value prop in a more compelling way”, “can you help me find a marketing person?”, “how much should I even spend on marketing?”, and my favorite – “how do we get in the Wall Street Journal?”
While having empathy for the urgency of the situation, almost always driven by some level of dissatisfaction with the attainment of one or more business goals, I usually have to share the unfortunate brutal fact that very rarely is there a free lunch in marketing. What I mean by this is that anything done quickly, without a plan, not tied to the overall company’s objectives, priorities and metrics, without a clear picture of how to measure the results and what success looks, will almost certainly lead to “Random Acts of Marketing” and not achieve anything more than a quick hit of the wrong metrics going green.
In these situations, I almost always encourage them to “back up the bus a bit and tell me about your strategy”.
There certainly are many ways to define strategy (topic for another article) and I won’t get into that here but there are certain parts of the strategy that I need to know about your company if I am going to have a fighting chance of doing a good job with your marketing dollars:
- Core Values
- Core Purpose
- Long term goal (10+ years) aka BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
- One year company priorities and metrics
- 90 day company priorities and metrics
- Scorecards for leadership team
It is a longer discussion as to why each of these aspects of a business is so important and essential for the marketing team to understand them but in summary it allows the marketers to understand why, what and how the company does what it does, where it is going, what it needs to accomplish its goals and who is accountable for what.
Now one thing noticeably missing that many people are keen to send me is the 5 year spreadsheet that nicely shows the hockey stick growth projections. I know people put a lot of work into those and sometimes I politely accept them if offered but I don’t look at them at all – why? Because they are absolutely useless to me. They certainly can play a role in getting the support of investors and boards of directors but as coaches we refer to them as 5 year WAGs or Wild Ass Guesses. They are typically created in a vacuum without a lot of bottoms-up support or data, they also aren’t usually widely communicated and these static one time efforts tend to sit dormant after their first use. I saw Alex Osterwalder, creator of the Business Model Canvas, at a conference recently and he referred to these type of investor driven spreadsheets as “Not evidence but fantasy made explicit” and referred to Scott Cook, the co-founder of Intuit who said “For every one of our failures, we had a spreadsheet that looked awesome”. The bottom line is that these spreadsheets are not a good anchor for the marketing plan as they are largely fiction.
So in order to be strategic, we need to anchor the marketing plan to the business strategy. So what should we anchor it to? The BHAG? – nope – too far away and abstract. The quarterly plan? – nope, this is ok for tactics but no major business metric will be impacted this or next quarter by marketing. The annual plan, although important in this discussion, is also right around the corner and will drive some of the shorter term tactics but impact the strategy only slightly.
So what is the answer? Welcome the 3HAG – 3 year Highly Achievable Goal. This concept was coined by Shannon Susko in her bestselling book 3HAG Way. I have made this concept the center stone of my coaching practice. It is where the near term and long term meet. There are many great reasons for having this and if you want more info on how to create this, please reach out to me. Amongst other things, the 3HAG clearly articulates in 3 years from today: what do you want your revenue to be, how much cash do you want in the bank, and the number of “widgets” (things that you sell) that you need to sell in order to hit the revenue targets. This is the perfect strategic element to tie your marketing plans to. Why? It is close enough that it will drive action – 12 quarters is always closer than we think – but there is some time to work strategically – get some important and not just urgent things done. It is clear and specific and the whole team can march towards it every day.
So in a best case scenario for me as a marketer, the company will have all of these pieces readily available and can send them over to me. Companies that use BOS (business operating systems) like Metronomics, EOS, Scaling up etc tend to have some or all of these aspects as part of their program. Many of them use an iteration of what Vern Harnish originally created – the OPSP (one page strategic plan).
So without these elements in place, documented and shared with the marketing team the probability of you engaging in random acts of marketing is unfortunately high. I strongly suggest before you invest anything meaningful in marketing, you get these strategic elements completed first. As a business coach myself, I of course would be remiss not to suggest getting a coach but if you aren’t ready for that, I suggest joining a roundtable group that uses one of these tools or even signing up, reading the books and starting with a DIY approach. As an MVP, you can download the original classic OPSP template and start “gutting it out” today with your team. It won’t be perfect at first but it will be good enough for now and will go a long way in helping your marketing team rid your company of the dreaded Random Acts of Marketing.
If you want to discuss any of the topics in this post, please reach out to me and we can hop on a call to discuss.