Saturday, August 13, 2005

Definitions Underpin Marketing Process

You know how the argument goes around the table: is this a goal or an objective? Is this an objective or a strategy? Can it be measured?

Does it seem that every time you start up a new marketing project in a team setting there is initial confusion on how to outline the task?

This Marketing 101 textbook definition part of marketing is one that gets ignored in real life. I can remember sitting in college class as the professor droaned on and on about the difference between a goal and a strategy. Is this what I came to college for? Perhaps I should have listened more carefully in that class.

Every business culture should have its own way of understanding these terms. Having worked as a promotion consultant to Procter & Gamble for two decades, everyone at our agency understood OGSM as the outline we had to follow: Objectives, Goals, Strategies, Measures. It is a way of life at P&G.

If you have the same issue, let me offer a set of definitions that have helped me get past this logjam. The key words that everyone involved should define in a consistent manner are: Need Statement, Goal, Objective, Strategy and Measures. If there is collective understanding of these terms then you will save a lot of time and misunderstandings.

Other companies have different ways of enabling a common understanding … but far more companies simply do not have a consistent way of using key terms … and that means every project starts with different participants assuming one thing while others on the team assume something else.

Here’s how I use the key terms:

Need Statements define the problem you want to solve. Examples might include (1) we need to increase sales lead qualification, (2) we need to increase measurability of our marketing campaigns, (3) we need to purchase software to automate our marketing processes but no one knows how to use this software.

Goals state the high-level purpose. The goal statement should be written succinctly in one or two sentences. Goals should be written to address business problems and needs. Examples might include (1) we want to improve how our brand is perceived with a specific target audience segment, (2) we want to gain sales department support for our next marketing campaign, (3) we want to improve the internal department efficiency so we can produce more campaigns without increasing staff.

Objectives state the expected performance outcomes of the marketing initiative. Objectives should ALWAYS be observable, specific and measurable. Objectives should always support the stated marketing goal. If not, the objective should be re-evaluated. Objectives state the expected performance outcomes of a marketing initiative, with specific measures for accountability. They usually involve performing a specific task or action. Examples might include (1) the website visitor will enter a product order from the shopping cart with 100% accuracy, (2) the campaign will produce a 35% response rate, (3) we will have 85% unaided brand recall when the campaign is completed.

Strategies are the few high-level processes for delivering the measurable objectives and tactics become the breakdown of the strategies into specific assignments. Examples might include (1) we will achieve our objective for increasing leads by 40% by initiating database driven marketing campaigns, (2) we will use trade magazine publicity to achieve our brand awareness objectives, (3) we will add a human-face to our brand image by initiating employee blogs.

One last comment … make it all measurable. Go on the line with clearly stated metrics and then measure the strategies and tactics. Again, from my experience, too many marketers write fuzzy Goal/Strategy Statements. They don’t want to be held accountable. If that’s the case, get a different career. Your company cannot afford sloppy marketing.

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