The Questions…

So, today I’m going to reiterate a discussion I had over a year ago with some folks in an industry that thinks Cal Worthington is state of the art. These are the basic questions that many folks forget to ask when they’re formulating a product or campaign. Think of these as the guideposts to not only what, but also WHO.

  1. Who is the target audience?
  2. What is the desired behavior change?
  3. Where will they accomplish this change?
  4. Why should they make this change?
  5. When will they need to take advantage of this offer?
  6. How do they take advantage of this change? (this is often subsumed into #3)

So, here’s the thing. This is really about a marketing campaign more than a product development, though it applies to both. Questions 1-3 are really marketing questions while questions 4-6 are sales questions. Too often marketing people get confused about the delineation of responsibilities and this, IMO, is the reason why sales people and marketing people are often at odds. There’s a reason why sales answers the bottom half and it’s because those questions are all about relationship.

Marketing has all the data and the smart analysts to identify audiences. And you know what? Sometimes they miss a bit, but identifying the basic group is important. Here is one of the places where sales people really help the whole process…they can refine the target audience or identify an alternative audience with a vested interest. Too often marketing folks neglect the advice of the front-line people.

The next question is the crux of the campaign or product. However, it takes a deft mind to realize and focus the question. How many of us see a given product update and have a serious problem making the change. There is no value to the update for us. Perhaps it’s just that the product already does what we need and the only point where changing works is when support is withdrawn. Perhaps the update is too little, too late. Sometimes the change is pointless. Using the second question, you will refine your development and your campaign to hit the right folks.

Now, some folks will say that #3 is a bit useless, but the fact is that in a TRUE marketing campaign, you have to funnel the target audience to the sales force. You can’t funnel if you don’t identify the collection point, right? In B2B, the truth is that often the sales force IS the “where” in this equation, but not always and sometimes the answer is really, “We’ve updated x and you can get x at” The point is, though, if you don’t tell folks where to accomplish the change, they likely won’t waste the energy.

Now, I’m not going to go into the sales questions except to say that many B2B marketers offer a rudimentary answer to “why” and then let the field tailor the message. This is another area where marketing people often get in the way. The sales force knows the customer and has a deep relationship. They’ll know the best way to tailor a “why” argument and sometimes, the truth is that the marketing answer sucks. Honestly, we need to trust the sales professionals on the second three questions.

This bifurcation also extends, somewhat, to different media even. Question 1 potentially identifies the media channel. If you’re trying to reach folks who are, on average, 55 or older, you’re not going to reach an efficiency by using Facebook. On the other hand, if you’re looking for young professionals, using Lifetime TV is not going to work, either.

So, why did this come up and why do I have some passion in it? Well, it came up because there was a “marketing” person who kept driving the need to engage via social networking, but when asked the fundamental questions, he didn’t have answers. Throwing things against a wall until one sticks is not going get anything done efficiently. The other reason I have some passion here is because I’m a consumer and I’m shocked at how poorly most marketing campaigns engage me. A commenter to Palmer said it yesterday, but I reiterate it today:

In fact, much of what we do in marketing and media is easy, if not, there would not be too many of us doing it.

So, why is so much of it less than optimal? I’m guessing that the discipline is less than optimal and I’m passionate about letting the right folks do their jobs…and honestly, “Sufficiently targeted, advertising becomes information.”

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