Spending Without Strategy: Recipe for Disaster

I am horrified to share that I have, more than once in my career, heard a marketing director or CMO refer to their 3rd and 4th quarter marketing plans as a "spend down" of remaining budget dollars. For example, "We need a plan for our $2 million spend-down to finish out the year." While commissioned advertising agencies* absolutely salivate when they hear that a client is desperate to get rid of some money, I believe that semantics are everything and that referring to a "spend down" of your budget is like admitting that you have no regard for strategy. "Let's put $500,000 into billboards, $1 million into radio and television, and the remaining dollars into direct mail and social media." Okay. Maybe that's a good media mix for your company, but where's the strategy that drives those decisions? And the data that drove the strategy?

While not every postcard campaign needs to be preceded by a market research initiative, at Silver Tree Communications we believe that every creative and placement decision made by marketers must be supported by strategy. And we believe that every communications tactic should be measurable.

5 Things You Must Know and Articulate Before Committing to the Tactics

1. What kind of ROI do we hope to achieve with this campaign or this collection of tactics?

2. What have we always known about your key customers and what they want? What do we know about the future customer and why she isn't currently choosing us? How can we communicate that we are bridging that gap between expectations and the customer experience?

3. During this campaign period, what pop culture events, weather changes, political milestones or other influences should be accounted for and exploited in our placement and creative approaches?

4. What is the competition currently doing to communicate to the marketplace? Are we going to go head-to-head with their tactics and creative, or do something altogether different? Why?

5. What do we want to promise the customer? How is that in line with or out of synch with the actual customer experience? Do we need to make any adjustments to the product/service, the retail environment, our website, our sales training and process, etc. before we roll out the new marketing?

In business, as in our personal lives, it pays to think before we spend. Smart spending now will allow for more spending later. If the quality of the thinking is robust and strategic, the results will enable future spending that exceeds your expectations. So next time you're asked to "hurry up and spend" your remaining budget dollars, don't start by making a media allocation pie chart. Just a few hours or days of the right strategic activities will make all the difference for your business. We're happy to show you how.

*By the way, Silver Tree Communications does not accept commissions for media placements. We believe in working hard for our fees and being ethical while we do so. So we've separated the strategy/planning/creative part of marketing consulting from the media placement process. STC works with an independent, top-notch media buying firm in Chicago; they work hard to earn their commissions by getting you great deals on your placements. We collaborate with them on strategy, timing and creative, and we don't accept any monies for referring our clients to them.

So because our revenue at STC isn't affected by whether you invest your marketing dollars in direct mail or radio commercials, you can rest assured that we'll never steer you toward a tactic that's not 100% on strategy for you. If you've ever received a media plan from your current agency that only contained commissionable tactics (e.g., radio, TV, billboards) despite how many times you've told them how effective your e-mail campaigns and direct mail have been, we hope you'll find our approach refreshing. You deserve nothing less.

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