Just like well-conditioned abs in the shape of a 6-pack, building a rock-solid marketing strategy and managing your marketing team starts with getting organized and staying focused. Over the past few years I’ve developed an organizational framework and system which I use to build marketing plans and strategies. It can apply to large businesses as well as startups.
This framework is based off my own experience building and marketing 6 startup companies, from my experience at eBay as a marketing analyst, and from my work as a marketing director at two consulting firms over the past 5 years. This framework is an outline for the 6 key components of marketing which I found to be the foundation for an effective marketing plan. I find that working and thinking through these 6 components in their given order works best.
My 6-Pack Marketing Framework is not rocket science and it’s not something I pulled from a textbook. This concept is based on the accumulation of personal experience and organizational habits that have worked for me and that I find useful- feel free to tweak and modify them as needed to accommodate your business and management style. For the experienced marketer some of this may seem elementary, but even the seasoned marketing professional can become more effective by reviewing these foundational components on a regular basis.
So here’s the framework I use to stay focused on what matters most in marketing.
1. Branding Elements – The foundational components of marketing upon which everything follows.
Branding elements include the name of the company, company logo, slogan(s), color scheme, keywords, value proposition, company description, company culture, and mission statement. The branding elements serve as the foundational elements for a business its marketing DNA. Everything stems up from the brand. Personally I love developing branding elements for new business and startups. Existing business should however evaluate and re-evaluate their brand and every component of it on a regular basis. I’ve seen companies cling to a bad name, poorly designed logo, outdated color scheme, or weak value proposition for a number of reasons. These reasons are often times irrelevant and based on emotions or biases, not reality or hard data.
Whether you’re starting a business from scratch or trying to improve an existing one, getting the branding elements right from the beginning are critical. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but this does require some serious thought and multiple stakeholders should provide input. Make sure there is a compelling and interesting story behind your brand. Determine what it stands for and encapsulate that into a name, logo, words, graphics, and colors. Your branding elements are the visual face of your organization.
Quick Tip: Uniqueness trumps “being better”, stand out and get attention with something in your brand! Be clever. Be BOLD!
2. Marketing Materials – Pieces of content produced using branding elements.
The next piece of the marketing pie is to use your branding elements to create marketing content in both digital and print formats. Below is a list of 25 pieces of marketing content you should consider creating for your business.
- Photo Images
- Vector Images
- Audio Files
- Web Pages
- Blog Articles
- Published Articles
- Press Releases
- Media Advisories
- Press Kits
- Email Templates
- Digital Ads
- Print Ads
- Digital Brochures
- Print Brochures
- Business Cards
- Print Banners
Personally, I will go through each one of the above content pieces and analyze them on a case-by-case basis to determine which ones make sense for the business for which I’m involved. Depending on a number of factors, such as stage of company, budget, or industry, you may not want to or need to create certain marketing materials.
Focus your energy, time, and resources on the marketing content that makes sense for YOUR business. For example, don’t develop business cards and print brochures if they’re not completely necessary. Some web-based business can get pretty far without ever creating a single print marketing piece. Always be asking yourself what the impact or ROI from a marketing expense would be with alternatives. So what would I get from $500 spent on business cards vs. $500 spend on Google AdWords or a LinkedIn advertising campaign. For large business with the budget it’s easy to do both, but cash-strapped startups typically can only spend money on what helps them directly accomplish their goals.
It is also important to develop a clear organizational system of storage and responsibility. Document where various pieces of content will be stored and accessible and determine who will be in charge of maintaining each marketing piece. It also helps to develop a naming syntax for marketing materials so you can keep track of revisions and versions as you make improvements over time.
3. Marketing Channels – Channels used to distribute marketing materials.
Once you have your marketing materials created it’s time to distribute these materials to their appropriate channels. Below are the 10 main areas I’ve identified where businesses distribute marketing materials.
- Search Engines
- Social Networks
- Ad Networks
The key with marketing channels is to review what makes sense for your business, your industry, and your business goals and objectives. Just because some giant software company gets great results from blasting out millions of ads on ad networks and sharing 2 blog posts per day on social media, doesn’t mean you should do that for your business too. Everything in marketing, especially when it comes to channels, is very unique to your brand and business. If you’re starting a new business, gather data through small tests. Market on various channels to see what works before you go full-scale with anything. If you’re trying to improve marketing results in an existing business, gather existing data from previous efforts and do competitive research to see what’s working and/or not working in your industry.
For marketing channels, apply a proportional amount of resources (time and money) to each channel based on what they provide in return, such as traffic, leads, customers, and revenue. I’ve seen some business with a complex niche product or service pour the vast majority of their marketing dollars into events because it works for them. Other business with a general consumer product will focus on volume channels and branding campaigns, heavy social media engagement, and email campaigns.
4. Software & Services – Tools used to remain efficient and execute marketing strategies.
In order to manage a marketing team and execute a marketing strategy effectively, you will need to leverage tools, software and services. These resources allow you to become efficient at carrying out specific tactical items, manage and track data, organize and store information, and automate some of the most mundane and tedious marketing tasks. Some tools are also essential for the creation of marketing materials and branding elements.
Some of the software and services I tend to use on a regular basis include the solutions for your “web stack”, including but not limited to your domain registrar and web host. Modern (digital) marketing is joined at the hip with your website so make sure your website is setup to scale proportionally to your type of business and your growth objectives and has within it the ability to integrate nicely with the various marketing software and services you’re using or will want to use in the future.
Next you’ll want to consider design software such as Adobe Creative Cloud and a stock image/photo service such as Adobe Stock or Shutterstock. Marketers are also working with CRM systems like Salesforce.com and ZohoCRM, and marketing automation platforms like Marketo, Eloqua, and Pardot. There are also social media management tools like Buffer and Hootsuite and project/task management tools like Trello (which I use) and Basecamp. It’s good to create a list of all these tools, their a costs, and how they will integrate or sync data with each other.
Also, consider analytics. There are a long list marketing and web analytics tools out there, but some that I’ve used include Google Analytics, MOZ, Crazy Egg, and Optimizely. Business intelligence tools like Tableau, Good Data, and Domo can also be layered on to analyze data collected from your sales and marketing efforts and used to create compelling visual presentations.
Distributing your marketing materials to the appropriate channels will involved a combination of manual work and automation and will cost money. However, leveraging these tools may not only aid in the creation and distribution of marketing materials, but may be a requirement to remain competitive and cost-effective. No, you can NOT and should not do everything in-house, no matter what size your business.
5. Human Resources – The people, employees, vendors, and partners who help execute marketing strategies and tactics.
One often overlooked component in the marketing process is people. As much as we can automate certain tasks with marketing automation tools and software, and programmatic advertising, the vast majority of marketing work is still carried out by humans or groups of humans.
When designing a marketing plan I always like to take inventory of the people and organizations I’ll need to collaborate with to execute my strategies. I’ll ask myself, who are these people? How will I interact with them? What methods of communication will work best with them? And what are the monetary and time costs associate with each individual? Having a birds-eye view of all the people involved in your marketing process goes a long way to making sure you address any potential points of failure in advance, and develop a plan to address issues if/when they happen… and trust me, issues WILL happen!
6. Marketing Metrics – Data, analytics, and measuring success as it pertains to marketing goals and objectives.
Finally, there is the measurement component. Marketing efforts inevitably spin off a tremendous amount of data and information- that is if you’re doing it right. With this data and information comes great power and ability to evaluate our marketing efforts and measure success as it pertains to goals and objectives.
As Tom Peters, the author of, In Search of Excellence (#1 best selling business book), says,”What gets measured, gets done.” This quote can be applied directly to your marketing efforts, and it should be. I find it best to establish a baseline set of marketing metrics of which I measure, and during what time periods I will measure them. This gives me insights into the true impact of my marketing efforts, allows me to know what works, what doesn’t work, and most importantly, WHY?
However, be careful to not get wrapped up in vanity metrics. All too often marketers can get distracted by useless metrics such as total website visitors, Facebook followers, email subscribers, etc. It’s good to gather data on these metrics for the purpose of marketing attribution and ROI calculations. For most business however, it’s not the quantity here that matters, it’s the quality and engagement level of your visitors/followers/subscribers or conversion rates that actually mean something. For example, I like to look at cost-per-lead and conversion rates per channel rather than a static metric like total website visitors or total LinkedIn followers. I can go on and on with other examples, but if you want to read a good book on this subject I recommend Lean Analytics.
So that’s a quick summary of what I call my 6-Pack Marketing Framework. Full disclosure, and sorry to burst your bubble, but following this framework will not give you 6-pack abs, but it may help you remain better organize with your marketing efforts, and manage your marketing team and its strategies more effectively. Maybe someday I’ll actually write something about how to develop 6-pack abs since I actually have some success in that area as well! This framework is still somewhat of a work-in-progress (as you should expect with me), but I think it’s a good enough start to share. Feel free to comment below and provide your feedback and thoughts about this concept.