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Three Questions Shape Every Marketing Plan

May 3, 2021
Organizations that communicate clearly have a detailed, up-to-the-moment understanding of their challenges and opportunities, and what needs to change.

When I do marketing strategy work with companies, two of the questions I ask are, “What are your Top 3 challenges?” and “What are your Top 3 opportunities?” As for the challenges, at least one of the three responses typically is not exactly marketing: It usually involves processes.

At least one, often two of the opportunities is not exactly marketing either. It’s usually relates to a business’s sales goals. And I’m never surprised by this.

It’s also why I phrase the questions without the word “marketing” as a constriction. What the non-marketing items always have in common is communication, i.e., marketing’s primary function.

A Marketing Department touches a lot of other departments: Customer Service, Sales, IT, Engineering, Product Development, Operations, HR, Finance -- just to name a few.  Marketing requires coordination with those other departments, as well as learning from them, to create communication flows to customers. It could be said that there are many distinct marketing disciplines -- up to 41 by some accounts -- but no matter how you count them, even when the platform and specific message may change, every single marketing discipline communicates content about a service, a product, or a brand.

Most marketing disciplines require input from other departments to create communication that resonates with customers and prospects. Using some common marketing disciplines as examples:

  Employer Branding is usually the HR-coordinated outgrowth of an operational need for talent. (This may be served up with a side of Internal Communications support from the Marketing Department as well.)

 Digital Marketing, Direct Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Traditional Marketing and Video Marketing all can be covered by the “content” umbrella, which starts with knowing your product/service. You cannot market a product what you do not know, nor if you don’t know with whom you are communicating. When I develop materials for any of these marketing applications, my first stops are Customer Service, Sales, and Engineering (or R&D), to learn what customers and prospects are asking, what the objections are, and how our product solves the problem. (Pro tip: Customer Service also is a rich source of customer-win stories.)

  Product Marketing often means coordinating with Operations and Engineering (R&D) for the kind of technical information needed for catalogs or how-to-guides. Marketing’s job, in this case, is to make the content accessible and give it a branded look.

  SEO Marketing or Voice Marketing might require some support from the IT team to re-configure servers or input on optimizing your website for voice search . It also might require a discussion with the Finance department to structure a reasonable budget for these efforts. (Or a new category of “spend.”)

  Event Marketing is likely to be an all-hands-on-deck affair as content is created by technical and service staff; Sales staff and other departments may be part of the hospitality outreach during the event, too.

Spoiler alert: For most of the opportunities or challenges I learn about the answer is in one of the disciplines listed above. Even if all 41 types of marketing are not B2B-applicable, it’s pretty clear that communication -- knowing what you are talking about and to whom -- is the basis of all marketing, and communication usually is the way to address the challenge or opportunity.

After discovering more about challenges and opportunities, the third question I ask is: “What are you willing to change?”  It doesn’t matter what the challenge or opportunity is, if you aren’t willing to change, you won’t be able to meet it. What it took to get you this far is what you have been doing; to achieve more, you must be willing to do something different than you have done before. In other words, you need to be willing to change. Change what you are communicating. Change how you are communicating. Change the platform you are using for communication. Change.

Whether you are building a single marketing touch, a campaign or a full marketing strategy, it can be kicked off with answering those three questions:
-  What are your Top 3 challenges?
-  What are your Top 3 opportunities?
-  What are you willing to change?

Your challenges are opportunities to change. Your opportunities are catalysts for change. And your changes are what keep your brand, product, or service relevant to your market. 

Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Manager at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.

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