Many in my industry see the way big advertising agencies operate as a standard to emulate.
I think they provide more examples of what “not to do.” And, I’ll likely receive begrudging emails from large agencies for writing this column. I remember reading an article by Don E. Schultz, marketing professor emeritus of service at Northwestern University, about how big agencies were “undergoing a massive re-examination” of their approach to marketing communications.
After I stopped laughing, I thought, “There’s a lesson in here for all of us.”Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mocking Professor Schultz.
He is a leading authority, and I have great respect for his work. I was amused at the notion of big agencies changing their status quo. They’ve been paying lip service to fixing their backward process for years; and not much has changed. Schultz’s point was, now that the higher-ups are realizing they need to “reverse flow” their approach toward creative development and media planning, maybe change finally will happen. My point is that Goliath bureaucracies take a long time to adopt wholesale change; paradigm shifts don’t usually come easy for big companies. Fortunately, the feedback loop for small business is relatively short. We can test an idea and implement new tactics quickly. Here are three good examples of the wrong ways (and the right ways) of developing a marketing communications program.
No. 1 Message
Wrong way: First come up with the creative and then figure out how to deliver the message. Large agencies usually have their media and creative staff in different departments — and most begin with the creative process.
Right way: First figure out how to best reach targeted customers, and then come up with the creative approach. There shouldn’t be a wall between media and messaging people (or process). The question is, what communication channels are best based on the budget and reaching the right audience. When answered, develop the creative to leverage your chosen media channels.
No. 2 Research
Wrong way: The method of conducting marketing research is very process-driven. Come up with the best data gathering and analytical techniques.
Right way: Be outcome oriented, as opposed to process. Begin with the end in mind; consider what information will be necessary to help you meet the customers’ wants and needs. Ask yourself: What customer insights will guide me in making the right offer?
No. 3 Resources
Wrong way: Acquire the biggest budget possible, then figure out how to spend it. Measurement and accountability are secondary.
Right way: Instead of looking to increase the budget, think about increasing the return on investment. More isn’t always better. Allocation should be based on client results, not agency awards.
Your planning sequence should place media before messaging (and imaging), put research outcomes ahead of process and consider return on investment instead of just total budget.
This column is the “wrong way” for me to get jobs from big agencies, but it demonstrates the “right way” to plan and implement your marketing communications.
Andrew Ballard is president of Marketing Solutions, an agency specializing in growth strategies. For more information, call 425-337-1100 or go to www.mktg-solutions.com.