Marketing is not an exact science and getting it right often requires frequent reviews. Try these guidelines to make the process more productive.

About every four-to-six months our company goes through the cathartic process of reviewing our marketing performance. Like many companies, we use a variety of marketing techniques, platforms, and processes for generating leads that bring in new customers. Our results have improved considerably over time as we’ve changed and implemented new strategies, but, like most companies, we still want to get better.

Our review process follows some regular patterns:

  • We start with what the goal was and work our way back
  • We use metrics to determine what worked and what didn’t
  • We break down our platform performance and campaign performance separately and in an integrated fashion

These are just a few of the patterns, but you get the idea. We make a deliberate and thoughtful evaluation of our most recent efforts to determine what to continue, eliminate, or modify. This is the occasion when we also review any new approaches we may be considering.

Here are the guidelines we try to follow to maximize the value of the review process:

1. Once Tried Does Not Mean Forever Understood–“We tried that once…” often echoes in the room as the death knell of many marketing ideas. However, audiences change, campaign execution varies, and subtle differences in the message can have a huge impact. If the group stops at the clichéd shut down comment, then not only does this idea get shot down, but many of the other similar variations get shot down as well. Encourage the exchange of ideas and ask about the variations and differences rather than discouraging the discussion.

2. Less Pride of Authorship, More Pride in Outcomes–Marketing ideas come from creative people who often associate the discussion of one of their campaigns as a discussion of their value. It is hard to disassociate, and I have found that telling people, “Don’t take this personally…” is futile. What success I have had in addressing campaigns or efforts that have not met expectations has been in changing the nature of the discussion questions. By shifting from “Why didn’t this work?” to “Where in the campaign did we have traction and where did we not?” the conversation becomes less about the creative quality and more about the structural elements. Put another way, structure is less personal and in the end, I believe, more valuable.

3. Seek to Understand Timing First–Probably the most common question businesses ask about their marketing is, “Why isn’t this working?” However, that question is irrelevant if the timing is not understood. Many companies will change their website and digital strategy and expect an instantaneous change to their results. Most digital professionals know this is not realistic. Our first question is “What should the results look like at each stage and why?” Building a dashboard of performance that takes timing into account provides for more measured expectations at more appropriate phases.

4. When In Doubt, Try Something New–I’m not a fan of diving into pools in the dark if you are not certain of the depth of the water. However, when we are considering new approaches, if we have discussed them to an even standstill, we try it. Marketing is not a perfect science and it does not claim to be. Great marketers that I follow all talk about it as a continuous process of improvement. Design, execute, evaluate, re-design, execute, evaluate…There are few silver bullets in the marketing world and those that happen are hard to predict. It’s better to follow a process and include trying new things.

This process is hard on our company because as we often say:

“Facts are our friends, even if they aren’t friendly.”

Marketing reviews are crucial to managing your business. Try these guidelines as a way to make the process more productive.

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