Guest post by Debra D. Kujawa (read nore about Debra at the end of this post)
In football, nothing brings the stadium crowd to its feet faster than watching the gazelle like moves of a great running back or the powerful arm of a skilled quarterback as he hurls a perfect spiral with pinpoint accuracy 50 yards downfield to a heavily guarded receiver. And while we definitely recall those heart racing moments as pivotal to the game’s outcome, we tend to overlook the quick 4 and 5 yard passes along the sidelines the team used to move the ball down the field quickly—converting their first downs and conserving the clock by stepping out of bounds after each completion.
In marketing, there are times when it is wise to shift focus from long term goals to immediate or short-term opportunities—an option play , if you will. The tricky part, is timing—determining exactly when to change course, what the new/immediate goal will be, and most importantly, what it’s going to take to get there.
Case in point: consumers and the current recession.
With limited exception, few saw this past year’s economic disaster coming. And those who did, admittedly could not foresee the financial devastation—which many economists have likened to the Great Depression of the 1930s—producing a global impact unlike any ever seen or experienced before. Thousands of businesses—including some major corporations—closed their doors forever, putting nearly a half million workers on state unemployment rolls.
What’s this have to do with marketing? Plenty.
Marketing is largely a numbers game. Determine your market. Zero in on your target. Map your strategy. Implement. Track the results. Tweak your strategy. Implement revised strategy. Repeat. Review. Revise. And so on… Then came 2009 and the marketing world was turned upside down.
Suddenly, all of the numbers changed. And to echo the immortal words of the late Carl Malden…“What will you do?”
In business, not unlike football, marketing options must be evaluated carefully and often times, quickly. There’s only one opening kickoff/product launch: several variables have to be in the correct position and at the precise moment for everything to coordinate. If there’s a stumble or two during the initial phase and you’re unprepared or worse, unaware, you and your client/product/company, could be headed for disaster.
Strategy, while generally planned well in advance, must ALWAYS have the “if/then” option: IF plan “A” doesn’t bring about the desired results in the time allotted, implement plan “B.” Which means: you MUST always have a plan “B!” Trust me when I tell you most of American businesses are operating on plan “B” right now. In fact, there are probably more that are much further down the alphabet.
The automotive industry in America had to quite literally scrap all of their planned marketing strategies and campaigns during the height of the recession. We all remember the common thread of …“if you buy a vehicle and lose your job, don’t worry! We’ll work with you! Please continue to buy our products!” Ok. A bit of liberal paraphrasing, but you get the picture. Interest rates on car loans went down to zero—or practically zero— and most leases no longer require signing fees. The plan-of-the-day has become incentives—many of which are still being implemented.
So. How does this have anything to do with marketing a hamburger, new cell phone, or a furniture store? Plenty. Marketing is designed to tip the competition scales in favor of our client’s product and/or business. It is our responsibility to immerse ourselves so totally in our markets—to ‘read’ the signals from the competition as well as the consumer so, just like the best quarterback; we can change the play to increase our chances of a more favorable outcome. While the “Hail Mary” pass produces the dramatic hold-your-breath-moment when it’s the closing seconds of the 4th quarter and your team is behind, it still remains a last-ditch shot-in-the-dark effort, which usually doesn’t pan out. The “Hail Mary” strategy in marketing is one that should NEVER be in your play book.
Marketing isn’t nearly so black and white as it used to be, but that’s part of the excitement as well as the satisfaction in producing campaigns and solutions that work. Some quick reminders:
- Do your homework: research the competition, review the plan, remember to focus
- Be flexible: even the best plans can fail—if it doesn’t work—use your alphabet [plan “B”, etc.]
- Listen: to the client, the market, the competition, the focus group…
- Allow yourself to be persuaded: sometimes our ideas are so “good,” they mask important information and variables that we should consider—see “Listen” above
- Use your intuition: creativity and intuitiveness often go hand-in-hand. More often than not, your “gut” is on target.
Go ahead. Create your long-term marketing strategies and goals, but remember: always include solutions for the unexpected, un-forecasted, and unimaginable. “Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” ~Pauline R. Kezer
Market wisely…market well.
About the Author
Debra D. Kujawa is President of Ki-neckted, LLC, a marketing, management and PR company.