Does Your Marketing Strategy Look Like A House?

7 Dec
2009

house triangular

Marketers have always struggled to reconcile the long-term, strategic brand-building efforts with shorter, more tactical executions designed to drive spikes of revenue. Social media marketing struggles with a similar issue. I think you need to have both, but you need to be careful about your execution on both fronts. I think of marketing like of a house: the long-term strategic part is the foundation, and the tactical bursts are the “spikey” roofs like the one to the left, meant to augment and increase.

Before the holidays I had a chance to catch up with Cat Lincoln, aka “DearBadKitty” on Twitter. A longtime blogger, Cat now works with a group of brilliant women called Clever Girls Collective. What I like about CGC is their practice of relationship as a foundation to their social media and blogger outreach approach. Relationships are built several ways among key groups: brands with end consumers, brands with bloggers, and brands with their own communities, as well as with external communities. Whether you do it online or offline, relationships take time to build. Marketing and branding today are less about pushing out your message than connecting with the market at its pain (and joy) points. As I wrote earlier, marketing is not a drive-by-shooting, in that all marketing efforts must move in lock-step and over time, growing organically and reinforcing each other. The great news is that the social web makes it ridiculously easy to listen, connect, rinse and repeat.

As more and more marketers start to use the social media tools to market their products, the temptation is to take old marketing tactics and simply translate them into a new medium, which simply doesn’t work. There are two main types of marketing: strategic marketing (this is the long-term brand building marketing) and tactical marketing (its shorter-term, tactical counterpart). Whereas brand marketing is more concerned with the brand personality, how it’s perceived in the marketplace and where in the customer’s awareness it resides, tactical marketing is more concerned with driving awareness and revenue for a particular trigger event, be it a holiday, sporting event, promotional giveaway, brand launch, etc. Tactical marketing has a beginning and an end, and is usually measured against a goal, which is oftentimes to exceed last year’s sales. Tactical and strategic marketing have co-existed together for years, and are a tough balancing act. To some extent, strategic and tactical marketing are at odds, because while branding is tasked with building the value of the brand in relation to its price, tactical marketing often has an aggressive pricing element. If you want to visualize it in form of a graph, strategic marketing results in slower, steady revenue / market share increases, while tactical marketing results in those magic sales spikes that brand managers love seeing.

Brand managers are often evaluated and paid on their ability to surpass last year’s sales, and the only way to exceed last year’s spike is to build a taller spike this year. It’s an addiction of sorts, and entire departments are so entrenched in it, that it’s not going away any time soon. I’ve worked with major brands in the past, in various capacities, but one thing was always true: brand managers always wanted to see tactical elements resulting in spikes. When selling and providing social media and online marketing services to clients, we have to understand this addiction to delivering spikey sales, and we need to figure out how to make promotional tactics co-exist with relationship marketing without eroding each other’s value. Cat Lincoln and I discussed this at length, and I attribute inspiration to write this post to our talk.

If my client is driving a huge promotion for Superbowl weekend, I would need to produce online and community-driven content to support these efforts, as well as use Twitter, Facebook and blogger outreach to communicate these programs. However (and this is huge!), we must take special care to educate the client that this will only work with two major caveats:

  1. You have taken the time to build a community and become genuinely interested in what your community is saying, and
  2. You limit these tactical “stunts” to very focused, finite and infrequent bursts.

If you only drive tactical stunts, you will fail to harvest the true value of building relationships. It’s OK have both elements as part of your approach, just make sure you put some strategic thought into how the two fill fit together. You are building a marketing house; your strategic marketing, community and relationship building is a steady ground floor, while the short-term stunts are triangular roof on top.

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