Category: Marketing

27 Pivotal Questions to Ask Before Writing Your Next Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan

If you’re a Chief Marketing Officer, or a V.P. of Marketing, or even an entrepreneur running your own business, there’s going to come a time when you have to hit the re-set button and write a new marketing plan.

That’s something we do quite frequently for our clients, as outlined in an in-depth post we uploaded called Even We Were Surprised When Our Marketing Campaign Grew Our Client’s Revenues by 278%. If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on how to re-brand and re-launch a product or service, check out that post.

But before you do, take a spin through the questions below. These are fundamental questions you should ask yourself before you put pen to paper and write your next marketing plan.

Questions to Help You Lay Your Marketing Foundation

Here are the fundamental questions you should ask about your product or service that will help you lay the groundwork for the marketing campaign you’ll launch in the future.

  • What is our product or service? (Okay, that’s a pretty basic question, but you have to start somewhere.)
  • What makes our product or service different? (Don’t get too hung-up on this question — sometimes you have a Me Too product that’s not really different. That’s where the magic of marketing comes into play. In other words, you’ll use marketing to highlight a product feature or benefit that your competitors have ignored or overlooked.)
  • What is our awareness level? Do we have a positive, negative, or neutral brand impression?
  • Who is our primary competition? How are they positioning themselves? What strategies are they using? What have they overlooked?
  • What is the core message we’d like our customers to know about our brand? Is it safer? Sexier? Cheaper?
  • What unspoken need does our product or service fulfill? (Don’t overlook this very important question — sometimes this can be a game changer. After all, Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee. Instead, they fulfill unspoken needs such as culture, coolness, and companionship.)
  • What kind of research or insights do we have about our customers?

Questions to Help You Think Through Your Marketing Campaign

Okay, now that we’ve laid the groundwork for your marketing strategy, let’s dive into some questions that will help you take the appropriate steps to launch your marketing campaign. Here goes:

  • What has been our most effective campaign to date? What made it effective?
  • What has been our least effective campaign to date? What made it fail?
  • What is the purpose of our upcoming marketing campaign? To build brand awareness? To deliver leads to our website? To drive foot traffic to our retail locations?

Questions to Help You Identify the Needs of Your Target Market

Remember, your prospects and customers are typically buying something that’s deeper than your product’s features or benefits.

Before we get into the questions on this section, here’s an excerpt from a post we wrote previously called How to Think Strategically About Social Media. It highlights some of the issues we’re talking about when it comes to what people are really buying.

If you’re Maid Brigade, a national home cleaning service, you’d say that your customers are buying a clean house. After all, when someone calls Maid Brigade, that customer doesn’t ask them to mow their lawn – they ask them to clean their house.

But is that really what they’re asking for?

Oh, sure, a clean house is an essential element of what Maid Brigade is selling, but there are plenty of businesses that clean houses. So the question really becomes, “In addition to a clean house, what is it that a Maid Brigade customer is really buying?”

For starters, they’re buying a brand they trust. For some companies (such as Coca-Cola and Apple), the value of the brand is one of their most important assets. For perspective on the value of a brand, consider this ­— in your neighborhood there are probably several local restaurants that sell pizza. And many of those restaurants sell better pizza than Domino’s. But Domino’s almost certainly sells more pizzas per store than any of the restaurants in your neighborhood.

Why? Because Domino’s has a national brand that people have grown to love and trust. And, when it comes right down to it, love and trust translates into big bucks. And more pizzas sold.

Now that we’ve talked about the value of a brand, let’s jump back to the Maid Brigade case study. People don’t hire Maid Brigade simply because they’re a trustworthy national brand or because they do a good job cleaning houses. It goes much deeper than that. When you drill down into what prompts someone to buy their services, you start to uncover some of the unspoken reasons why people gravitate to their brand.

For example, Maid Brigade was the first national chain to go green with their cleaning materials. So a certain percentage of people hire Maid Brigade because they like the green aspect of their services. For most people, “green cleaning” isn’t the very first thing they’re looking for when they do research on home cleaning services, but it’s certainly a key differentiator for their brand.

But we’re still just scratching the surface — you can go much deeper.

For example, what is it that people really get when they get a clean house? People get more than just a clean house – they also get time. In other words, they free up several hours a week that they would otherwise spend cleaning.

What do they get in those several hours? Initially, you might say they get time to play more tennis, time with their grandchildren or time to work with a charity. All of those answers are correct, but when you examine it further you realize that they’re actually getting the opportunity to have more fulfilling lives, to have deeper relationships and to get to know themselves better.

See how that works? What people are actually buying in a product or service goes much deeper than you might imagine.

If you were to write down a list of the features and benefits of using Maid Brigade, many marketers would just scratch the surface. But by getting inside the mind of the customer and thinking about what truly motivates them, you come up with emotional hot buttons that resonate with their prospects and customers.

Again, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t lead with “green clean” or “spotless counters” or “freshly-vacuumed rug.” Those aspects of the Maid Brigade brand are all important, but when you overlay those benefits with the deeper, more meaningful emotional hot buttons, you connect with your prospects and customers on a more lasting basis.

The excerpt above will help you understand the importance of digging deep into what it is that your prospects and customers are really looking for.

With that in mind, here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself as you dig deep into your target market’s needs, wants and desires.

  • Who are they (from a demographic point-of-view)?
  • What do they feel?
  • What do they need on the surface?
  • What are their hidden motivators for buying our products or services? (For example, many people buy B2B products or services because they like the salesperson, but if you asked the purchaser why they bought the product or service, they would never say, “because I like the salesperson.” Liking a salesperson is a hidden motivator.)
  • What’s the value of this product or service to the customer?
  • What does the customer need to know before he or she will buy from our company?
  • How does the customer make a decision to buy products or services like this? What is the process we have to go through to make a sale? (If you’re in the B2C world, this is relatively straightforward. But if you’re in the B2B world, you have to deal with multiple layers, which are outlined in the graphic below.)

B2B Marketing Process

Action Steps for You

The questions outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re really interested in doing a top-notch job on your next marketing campaign, there’s a whole series of questions you should ask after this batch. We’ll be uploading a post about that in the future.

Until then, here are some action steps you should take before launching your next campaign:

  1. Clean the Slate: For a campaign to be break-through, you’ll need to start with as clean a slate as possible. I understand that there are legacy campaigns that you have to consider, but try to open your mind to new, fresh thinking. Otherwise, you’ll just be repeating the same mistakes you made in the past.
  2. Row in the Same Direction: As you clean the slate, you’ll also want to get your team rowing in the same direction. That means establishing goals and objectives for whatever you’re doing — and, most important, getting buy-in on those goals and objectives before you do the exercise outlined above.
  3. Pay Attention to Details: Many organizations do brainstorming meetings or launch campaigns, but then lose track of the initial objectives and/or end game. Keep your eye on the prize and make sure you track your progress. Otherwise, the whole experience will be for naught.

Good luck. Keep me posted on your progress. And let me know if there are any questions you think I missed in the comments section below.

Oh, and one other thing — if you liked this post, would you mind sharing it with your friends via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or Pinterest? Thanks!

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, an Atlanta-based advertising agency and digital marketing firm that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

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10 Secrets to Improve the Results of Your Next Advertising Campaign

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Are you interested in improving the results of your next advertising or marketing campaign?

If you work at an advertising agency or digital marketing firm, or if you’re a marketing director at a large corporation, then keep reading. We’ve done some research about consumer behavior that should be of help to you. And we’ve distilled our research down into 10 secrets outlined below that can help you improve the ROI of your next advertising or digital marketing campaign.

Ready to dive in? Great, here goes:

Marketing Secret #1: People Buy for Emotional Reasons, Then Rationalize Their Purchase with Logic

Do you think people buy Rolex watches because they’re reliable? Of course not. And while some people may rationalize the purchase of a $50,000 Corvette by talking about the hydro-formed suspension or the pushrod engine technology, the real reason they’re buying the car is because of how it makes them feel. Oh, sure, there are some purchases that are based on logic, but most purchases start with an emotional intent to buy, which brings us to our next point.

Marketing Secret #2: The Path to Consumer Purchase Starts in the Right Hemisphere of the Brain

Recent studies have shown that people must engage with a product before they form an intent to purchase that product. When people engage with a product, the event is stored in short-term memory.

But if a fact or event has emotional significance, it shifts from short-term memory to long-term memory. Once it is stored in long-term memory you’ve taken the first critical step towards building a relationship with a customer, which is one of the secrets behind relationship marketing, a topic we’ll talk more about later.

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Marketing Secret #3: People Lie to Researchers

Well, they don’t intentionally lie. They just say they’re going to do one thing, then behave differently. For example, studies have shown that people who want to be perceived as health-conscious will under-report their alcohol consumption in focus groups and surveys. Some of the more recent marketing research techniques are designed to overcome these barriers to truth. But overall, it takes an experienced practitioner to draw the proper conclusions from any research.

Marketing Secret #4: As Much as 95% of a Consumer’s Thinking Occurs in His or Her Subconscious Mind

This is why your brand is such a critical component of what you’re selling. What is a brand? It’s all the verbal and non-verbal components of your product or service, such as graphics, characters, logos, product names, customer interaction, etc. A well-developed brand helps your consumers feel something about your product – and helps you tap into the 95% of a consumer’s thought that happens on a subconscious level.

Marketing Secret #5: Consumers Don’t Think in Words

Brain scans indicate that the neurons in our brain responsible for conscious thought light up before there’s any activity in the parts of our brain that involve verbal language. This, too, supports the idea that people engage with a product based on how they feel, not what they say.

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Marketing Secret #6: If Your Employees Can’t Explain What Makes Your Product or Service Better, What Makes You Think Your Customers Can?

Try this exercise – walk down any hallway in your office and ask five different people what your brand stands for. You’ll get five different answers. Why would someone buy a product from a company that its own employees have trouble differentiating? Increasing sales and revenue will be a difficult challenge as long as everyone in your organization can’t articulate what your brand essence and points of differentiation are.

Marketing Secret #7: Understand What it is Your Customers are Actually Buying

If you ask people what they look for in a bookstore, they’ll almost always say good selections and low prices. But if those were the only real criteria, would be the only bookstore. What are people really buying when they go to a bookstore? The experience of buying a book. Do they feel at home while they browse? Can they flip through a couple of books while they curl up on a sofa? Does the coffee smell good? All of those experiences are important to the success of any bookstore.

When you understand that customers aren’t buying your product as much as they’re buying the experience of your product, you’ve unlocked one of the keys to increasing sales and revenue.

Marketing Secret #8: If You Want to Increase Sales Tomorrow, You Need to Build a Relationship Today

Unfortunately, the days of running a commercial on prime time network TV to reach the vast majority of your audience are over. Today, consumers are fragmented over a broad spectrum of media some of which are virtually advertising free. If you want to encourage someone to buy your product, you need to build a relationship with him or her over the entire lifecycle of his or her involvement with your brand. Content marketing is a great way to build and grow a relationship with prospects so that you can eventually convert them into customers.

Marketing Secret #9: Most Consumers Would Be Willing to Pay a 25% Premium for their Favorite Brand Before They’d Switch to a Competitor1

Other studies have indicated if a purchaser is buying an over-the-counter medication for their child or spouse, they’ll almost always buy the name brand2. Subconsciously, the buyer believes the national brand works better, even though on a conscious level, they admit that the ingredients are the same.

Marketing Secret #10: The Longer a Prospect Engages with Your Brand, the More Likely it is They’ll Buy Your Product or Service

This blog post is a case in point. A certain percentage of the people who are reading this will email me to find out more about 60 Second Communications. Why? Because over the course of our (short) relationship together, they’ve established that 60 Second Communications represents a level of talent, brains and experience that they’d like to utilize to increase sales and revenue.

Who are we? We’re an advertising agency that creates mobile marketing, social media, digital and traditional campaigns that help companies get new customers, win repeat business or increase their marketing ROI. We have staff experience working with some of the best-known brands in the world (including Motorola, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, AT&T and CNN) and would be happy to use that experience to help you win new customers, get repeat business or increase your marketing ROI.

The Bottom Line

No matter what kind of company you work for, all businesses have one thing in common — they’re trying to get more customers to buy buy more of their products and services more frequently than they did in the past.

The 10 secrets outlined above should give you plenty to work with. And once you’ve digested those, send me an email and I’ll show you several more ways you can use consumer behavior secrets to grow your sales and revenues.

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, an Atlanta-based advertising agency and digital marketing firm that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

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  1. S. M. Davis, Brand Asset Management for the 21st Century Study (Chicago: Kuczmarski & Associates, 1995).
  2. Gerald Zaltman, How Customers Think, (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press; 2003).