an arrow indicating marketing planning

One of the biggest reasons marketing activity fails to deliver results is because it is managed poorly. In this article, we look at the fundamentals of marketing management and how the role can be outsourced to improve effectiveness and enable you time to build your in-house capacity. It is one thing doing marketing. It is quite another doing marketing that works.

Start by defining the brand position

Marketing does not start with marketing activity; it begins with a brand. It is the brand that needs to be built and maintained over time to occupy a place in the mind of the customer. Awareness, recognition, trust and ultimately, more profitable sales. This way, the brand becomes an asset to the business and hence needs to be managed. Marketing management is the exercise of managing the brand as an asset and ensuring it delivers value through sales and profitability.

There are two key documents involved in managing a brand: the brand foundations (or blueprint) and the brand design guide. These documents break the brand down into core components and allow marketing managers to stay the course when building the brand through various marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look at these two documents:

Develop the brand foundations

Most entrepreneurs think their company name or the product they sell qualify as a brand, yet often it is merely a name with a logo – not a brand. To develop a brand requires a process to flesh out the positioning in the market, namely the “who are we, who do we want to be, how do we want to be perceived, what sets us apart” questions. Clear answers to these provide the foundations for brand building and should be captured in a document to ensure clarity and consistency from the get-go to any marketing investment.

Capture the brand in a set of guidelines

Once the brand is defined in written form, it should be designed visually. A well-designed brand is more than just a pretty picture. It is a visual language that gives character and evidence of what the brand stands for. It also goes beyond merely designing the logo, to showing how it should be used. What images to include in marketing materials, the tonality of writing and generally how to keep everything to look consistent. A brand design manual should be compiled to flesh out the branding and ensure all of these elements are available at all times. This document becomes a critical tool in managing the brand in the future.

Develop a marketing plan

Once the brand is defined through a set of brand foundations and a design guide, it is time to formalise a plan to build the brand and drive sales at the same time. It is this dual purpose of all marketing activity: brand building and sales activation. Since marketing is essentially the science of studying the customer, any good marketing plan should start with a profile of exactly who the customer is.

Create a profile of the customer

This phase could start as part of the brand development phase, primarily when the brand focuses on the consumer market (B2C). Fact is a clear profile of the customer should be prepared to form the backbone of a marketing plan. It talks to the question “who are we marketing to?”.

A good customer profile should move beyond superficial descriptions and aim to identify the underlying needs target groups have. The more one can understand not only the tangible behaviours customers display but also the emotions that drive these, the stronger the marketing plan will be: what are their frustrations, needs, expectations and general behaviour? This same approach is applicable in both consumer – and business markets. In the latter, there may be an entire decision-making structure to consider – the typical decision-makers, influencers, gatekeepers concept. Such decision-making units should be mapped out, and individual need states for key role-players developed.

Focus on the marketing funnel

Successful marketing is all about successfully reaching your customer. It is about preparing the path to purchase the runway to the sale. This runway is called the marketing funnel, or sales funnel. It highlights a basic set of standard steps buyers tend to go through as they decide on a new purchase. Although there are variations on the theme, the standard funnel mostly looks as follows:

  • Awareness – the potential customer finds out about you,
  • Interest – they want to know more
  • Preference – they know who they want to buy from
  • Purchase – the part where the sales happen.
  • Loyalty – the customer returns to buy again.

Being clear on each step of the funnel allows for targeted marketing campaigns, focusing on a specific section of the funnel to kickstart the customer down their path to purchase. Having clear objectives, tied into the marketing funnel, for a particular financial year forms the business end of a marketing plan and how marketing success should be measured. Objectives need to be SMART, namely Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. In simple terms:

Develop a campaign

Once marketing objectives have been agreed, an “attack” must be launched – a so-called marketing campaign. Such a campaign should tie in with the brand and focus on achieving the set objectives (SMART goals). An essential aspect of such a campaign is that it should not rely on a single marketing element only. You can’t just do Facebook or just Google Ads. There need to be several elements tied together. It needs to be an integrated plan, meaning that it uses various marketing tools in conjunction to jointly “attack” the marketing goals.

Execute the plan

At Firejuice, we specialise at developing and implementing marketing plans. We believe that professional management skills are essential to ensure targeted marketing campaigns are executed successfully. We follow a tried and tested “best practice” approach to campaign management that starts with a brief to the relevant suppliers.

The brief

Every marketing initiative should start with a brief; a “spec”, that is in writing and tells the supplier what the requirements and expectations are. This written brief forms the backbone of a successful marketing project, whether it is the development of a new website, a digital marketing campaign or a new business card. A brief can be as simple as a short email, a PowerPoint slide or a 1-page document as long as it covers the following:

  • A tight description of the job that needs to be done and the desired outcome.
  • A timeline – when should the work be done?
  • An indication of the budget and a request for a quote.

At Firejuice, we insist that the client agrees to the brief before it is sent to the supplier.

A quote

Once the freelancer or agency receives the brief, they should provide a detailed quote based on the brief. A good quote consists of the following:

  • It is outcomes-based, for example, it should say: “we will charge X amount to build a 10-page website based on the current business profile information”. Note, this is different from being “input-based” and merely stating that the supplier will charge by the hour.
  • It offers an indication of how many reverts are included as part of the quote. For example, a graphic designer may consist of two reverts as part of their quote, meaning that the client can ask for two sets of changes to the work before incurring extra costs.
  • It indicates how scope-creep will be treated – i.e. everything over and above the brief and outside the revert. For example, a designer may state that they charge R450 / hour for any additional work required that falls outside the brief.
  • It states what amount must be paid up-front – if anything – to get the project started.

The client needs to agree to the quote before the suppliers start the work.

The (first) invoice

Once the quote is approved, the supplier sends the invoice for the first payment. No work should start before the first payment has been made. Any work they do before this point is at their own risk. When it comes to marketing, it is not uncommon for last-minute changes, and so until money has moved from the client to the supplier, nothing is guaranteed.

The work

At Firejuice, we ensure we see all work before the client sees it to ensure it meets with the original brief. Going back to the brief is a critical step and often overlooked. It is tempting to start judging the work based on subjective gut instinct, but ultimately the first question is “does the work meet the brief?” and only then “do we like the work?”. At Firejuice, we aim to provide the client with our view of the work to empower them with as much information as possible to make a sound judgement.

A formal revert

Once the work has been seen and reviewed, precise feedback needs to be provided to the supplier, in writing. Again, this can be a simple email.  This way, there is always a paper trail for how the work evolves and any room for confusion is limited. The process of formal reverts should be repeated until the work is approved. At Firejuice, we aim to minimise subjectivity and maintain clarity between all parties.

The (final) invoice

Once the client is satisfied, and the work is completed, a final invoice is sent and payment made. At this point, it is essential that the supplier hands over all the work to the client – everything. For example, it is not uncommon for logo jobs not to be handed over in full. The client received a logo in Jpeg, but do not get hold of the open files that will allow future suppliers to work with the logo. The client must take ownership of all the work and store it on their side where it can easily be found, often years later.

Reporting

A crucial part of any management activity is reporting. Professional marketing management requires that the marketing goals as set in the marketing plan (the SMART goals) be tracked and reported on monthly. This helps to understand if progress is made and whether changes are required. Ultimately marketing activity that works needs to be in touch with the market, which evolves continuously, meaning that no marketing plan can be cast in stone. Continuous learning is part of the marketing management process.