Stupid questions make for clever marketing

by Tom Albrighton 20 July 2009 Branding

Does your marketing sell? When did you last ask the question?

Sometimes, those involved in marketing campaigns (both buyers and providers) get lost in a sort of creative love-in, congratulating themselves on a great job and forgetting the core aim.

It’s only natural – it’s great to feel like an expert. But there’s no harm in throwing in some really basic, almost stupid questions, such as ‘why will this ad touch customers?’, ‘why will it sell?’ or even ‘why are we doing this?’

In reality, this rarely happens in the modern business setting

In reality, this rarely happens in the modern business setting

You should ask these simple questions whether you’re working with a major agency or a freelance copywriter. Don’t worry about looking stupid. It’s better to look stupid in the meeting room, when you’re appraising your new ad campaign, than in the CEO’s office when the sales figures come in.

Or maybe it’s not about sales. A very distinguished professor of marketing once told me that the success of marketing should never be measured by looking at sales. He was making the point that marketing’s most direct results are increases in brand recognition, goodwill and so on, which only indirectly affect sales (along with a host of other factors).

Nevertheless, revenue will probably be the key indicator of marketing success for most businesses, but you may also need to look at enquiries received, website registrations, average order value, market share, brand recognition and so on. And whatever you’re aiming for, your marketing needs to be oriented towards the goal.

You may be aiming for something that isn’t measurable. Scott Monty, Ford’s new Head of Social Media, noted that ‘Ford isn’t on Twitter and Facebook to sell cars’. They are, of course, but they’re doing it by building up their public profile, which indirectly leads to more sales but is hard to measure in itself. Maybe your marketing also has goals that can only be measured subjectively – just make sure you go into the campaign with your eyes open, knowing what you want and how you’ll know when you’ve got it.

This is particularly important in areas such as social media, where the current buzz can hustle you into doing something for its own sake. There should always be a reason. So fire off those ‘stupid’ questions and make sure your marketing is doing something that needs to be done.

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