Working Backwards to Solve a Marketing Problem
By: Andrea Trapani
You picture thousands in new sales, but you haven’t roadmapped the way forward…by working backwards.
In addition to jumping right to tactics without first discovering and defining strategy, a mistake many make when launching a marketing program is that they’ve fast forwarded right to results, without thinking first about the path to get there.
Let me explain.
Let’s start with a hypothetical goal: “WE NEED TO SELL 1,000 WIDGETS.”
Too often, we jump right to a tactic that we anticipate will achieve our desired result: 1,000 widgets sold. Without fail, we look back months later trying to find out what went wrong. “We have all of the marketing tools in the toolbox, and we executed an intensive campaign, but we’ve only sold 30 widgets. What gives?”
You failed to work backwards.
Let’s say you need to sell 1,000 widgets. Let’s take a step back from there. In order to sell 1,000 widgets, many more potential buyers than that need to be made aware of the benefits of your widget, as only a fraction of those exposed to it will be in a position to buy, will be able to afford to buy, or will be ready to buy in the time frame you want them to. Let’s use some approximate back-of-the-napkin math to assume (you could/should actually research this) and say that only 10% of your market will be in your buying cycle at the right time and within your budget frame.
Discovery #1: You don’t need 1,000 qualified prospects, you need 10,000.
So now you’re marketing to 10,000 people. These are qualified prospects…people who may one day need to buy a widget, could possibly afford your price point, and understand on some level why your widget is at least in the running if not the preferred product. Let’s apply that same rough math and figure that only a fraction of those who are exposed to your product will ever be a candidate to consider it.
Discovery #2: You’re marketing to 100,000 people, in order to find 10,000 qualified leads.
Yikes! How do I get in front of 100,000 people who may be willing to pay for my widget? Well, define thine customer. Get to know them, geographically, demographically, psychographically. Where do they live, work and play? Once you’ve found them, you need to corral them.
Discovery #3: You have no means of directly reaching 100,000 people or more at once.
You don’t know 100,000 qualified prospects personally, so you need to go find them. What resources do you have at your disposal? You have the power of publicity, the broad reach of advertising, the ubiquity of a Web presence, the “viral” nature of social media. The magnetic properties of search engine optimization. But where to start, and what will yield the best results?
Discovery #4: You have to start somewhere.
You need bedrocks. If you can determine, through research and analysis, that advertising has the most merit, you need a clear, compelling message and brand identity. Better go build one. If publicity is the answer, you need a compelling news angle or story to tell. Better go craft one. If Web marketing will best reach your audience, you need a killer website. Better get one built. If social media is where your customers are living, working and playing, you need a social presence. Better start developing one. (By way of example, LinkedIn estimates that 300 connections on its social network opens you up to 3 million potential professional relationships.)
Discovery #5: You don’t know where to start!
This is where planning comes in. And research. And analysis. This is the laborious part, but the most fruitful. The work you do here will dictate your success in every phase of the program going forward. If you don’t plan before executing, you will continue to spin your wheels and have no idea which direction you should be going…but you will be making great time.
Discovery #5: I’d better define success before we even lift a finger.
This part is called strategy. This is a definition of what success looks like. This is where you determine metrics. It is the why and the what, and it comes long before the how. Most people skip right past this part because they think the strategy is clear: sell 1,000 widgets! That is not the strategy; it’s the endgame.
The Other Way Around
So, if you were to reverse the course, here is what you’d end up with:
1 – Strategy
2 – Planning
3 – Building the foundation (the tools)
4 – Execution
5 – Goal
Work backwards from the goal to get back to the beginning. Then, by all means, start there and move forward! Any other way is a shortcut, and shortcuts are fraught with peril!