2009 was tough. Your company got beat down, you got more “noes” than “yeses,” and the best bet might be just to hunker down and wait until all market indicators are point up, right?
Now I’m not saying it’s time to break the bank, but it is time to start planning what you do, and just as importantly, how you measure if you have been successful or not. To be successful you have to plan, and careful planning includes understanding your core assets, what the market wants to hear (and what they have already heard), and how each program element can contribute to achieve your goals. It all starts, though, with having goals, of knowing where you want your company to be, being realistic in what you can achieve in a given time frame and then making adjustments along the way as the market and your company evolves.
As stated, the first step in planning your marketing, communications and public relations programs is to understand what your marketing goal is for the year. Ask yourself, “How do I want public perception of my company to change by the end of the year?” or “In what ways do I want to change the way my company interacts with its target audiences?” When you have that answer, you can start to build, and measure, programs to help make that goal a reality. Before you jump into any program, list what you are currently doing and then consider why the industry isn’t already making this connection between your company’s contributions and the business issue you are solving.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll look at the different types of goals companies can set for themselves and then discuss some recommendations as to how you set and measure programs throughout the year. We’ll look at the following categories: thought leadership, market leadership, lead generation, competitive threat offsets and category creation.
Let’s say your objective for 2010 is that you want the industry to recognize the contributions your company has made to solve a critical business issue for your customers. I would put this into the “thought leadership” category and your next step would be to create a campaign to help you achieve this goal.
Step 1: Before doing anything, you’ll need to inventory what you can credibly say publically about your company’s products, how it solves a specific business issue and what your customer base is willing to let you showcase about how you are helping them solve it. Next, you’ll need to take a critical eye to what your product does compared to your closest competitors to make sure that you’re not leading with a feature or functionality that will be considered a “me too” in the marketplace. It’s always good to look to define a market need by your product’s strengths and your competitor’s weaknesses!
Step 2: Now look at who within the industry is writing about the business or technology issue you’re addressing with your company’s products. Are there two or three analysts that regularly report on this market or that are frequently quoted in the trade media about this topic? Are there editors that write about the topic either in their regular columns, features or as part of their blogs? Is there someone that leverages Twitter to talk about this topic and usually generates a lot of “retweets” about what they post? If the market doesn’t currently give your company credit for solving this issue, a good place to start is with the industry analysts that are covering your market.
Step 3: Evaluate what the people in Step 2 are writing about and develop an understanding of the stories they are trying to tell and what stories they have already told.
Step 4: This is the tricky part. You’re going to need to leverage information from all three steps above to create a compelling story that articulates how your company is helping its customers solve this business issue. Your story will have to be informative, relevant and new.
Step 5: You might think you are done once the article(s), report(s), etc. come out , but you still need to see how this story is changing the way people think about you. Once the campaign is launched, are you getting more inbound leads or getting requests for additional interviews? Is your sales team telling you they are spending less time in meetings explaining what you bring to market and instead focusing on selling? Essentially, having a story published, did you achieve the goal of changing the perception of your company? The metrics you create will be specific to what you are trying to accomplish and it’s always a plus to understand what these are before you begin.
My next blog will focus on lead generation goals and make some recommendations about ways to help create pull from the marketplace.