Our Think Big Guest Blog for this month is all about marketing, and it comes from the president of digital marketing agency Inboun, located in the offices of Think Big Partners.
A word that gets thrown round a lot around the halls here at Think Big Partners is “iterative,” which is the act of repeating a process with the intent to reach a desired goal, target or result.
It’s mostly used in the context of making small, valuable updates to a software product on a frequent and consistent basis.
Despite the fact it’s on my list of “words I want to kill,” the concept is solid, especially when applied to a marketing strategy. In order to understand the beauty of the iterative approach to marketing, let’s reminisce about how it used to be.
The Bigger the Better
Ten years ago, strategic plans were quite something. Hundreds of pages, beautiful graphs, artfully designed with custom typefaces and the company’s perfectly matched colors. These plans took months to put together and a huge team of people.
I happened to be a part of one of these teams where the lead account service person stated that the document was not yet long enough, and that, “the client has paid us umpteen-thousands of dollars for this plan, it needs to be really long.”
You see, the more pages you put into the plan, the harder it would be for the client to completely understand it/do it themselves/justify spending more to have someone else do it, and really, would they even know it if we didn’t fulfill the whole thing?
Then, and here’s the kicker, it was bound in such a way that it was easy to “shelve” because that’s where it would sit – happily collecting dust, never to be opened again.
Lose the Weight
Even in my own agency, I worked really hard to get our plans down to 20 pages. Enter the iterative approach to marketing, also known as the better way.
This may come as a shock, but I proudly state that our strategic plans are one page long. We do a lot of planning, documenting and producing to get there, but our day-to-day strategy that we (and our clients) work from is one page in length.
“How on earth can we possibly get all of the things we must accomplish for our clients onto one page?” you ask. Here’s our thought process. We believe that strategy, i.e., the process of building an actionable plan, is a living, breathing, growing thing.
Strategy is not something you do once at the beginning of the year, and pray it works. It is something you build constantly as you learn, see things changing and adapt to feedback from the marketplace.
We also believe that whether you’re a big company or a small shop, you should really only focus on one marketing strategy at a time. Focusing on smaller, more targeted activities helps us to learn more about the audience we’re addressing, helps us isolate out which marketing activities are actually getting results, and helps us get deeper brand positioning.
Alternatively, the giant, 100+ page strategic plans are complicated, take armies of people to execute, and you really can’t tell which activities are getting the most bang for your buck because there are so many tactics being deployed at the same time.
How to Get Small?
When it comes to building an iterative marketing plan, you only need to answer a handful of questions:
- Why are we marketing? What’s the purpose? More revenue? More adoption? Deeper engagement? (This should be a number and it can be a stepping stone to a larger goal – remember, we’re iterating.)
- Who are you talking to? What do they care about and why do they need your product or service?
- What’s your story? What’s your brand personality? What makes your brand “human?”
- What makes your brand unique. What’s the thing that makes your company stand out? “Ours is the only company that _________________.”
- How will you know you’re winning? Which metrics tell you you’re getting closer to your goals?
- What 3 topic areas (we call them pillars) focus on your goals and your story and force us to do one thing at a time?
- Where will you put your messages? Where are your people already having the conversation and how can you join it?
Once you have all these answered, condense them to one page and then don’t touch it. Work your plan just the way it is until your data has proven you need to adjust. Then change it, and keep going.
If this seems overly simple, I’m afraid it is – but simple does not mean easy. Getting smaller takes teaming up with some smart, disciplined people. Once you’re executing your plan, check in on it every month with new data you’ve collected and things you’ve learned about your audience. Then iterate and repeat.
Jayme Thomason is president of Inboun, a digital content experience company located in the offices of Think Big Partners. For more information, visit www.inboun.com.