Welcome and thank you for visiting this page – Digital Marketing Planning lessons presented by Mike Berry (Author & Global Trainer) delivered over the next 3 days.
These lessons have been taken from the Diploma in Professional Digital Marketing accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing and our Digital Marketing Strategy Knowledge and Coaching online program.
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Digital Marketing Planning
Hello, I’m Mike Berry, and we’re now considering digital planning and we start with situation analysis. Let’s begin at the beginning, which is putting our plan together. So clearly we’re going to need an understanding of the market. We’re going to have a good idea of what we’re trying to do, and some idea at this point of the stages that are required in order to get there. So that’s the beginning and we ask ourselves, how will we know if we’ve been successful? What will success look like? Also, how are we going to fine tune the programme? And particularly importantly, what are we going to test? Because we know we won’t get a 100% right first time.
So let’s start with this situation analysis. The sort of things we need to get our heads around would be customer characteristics, the behaviour of our buyers, which could be B to B or B to C, who are our competitors, and what are they offering? How does that threaten us? How does their positioning compare with ours? Also, our position in the market, the challenges that we face, how big is that market? And of course, we get old fashioned SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
And the whole idea of the situation analysis is that it’s like an audit. It takes stock of our marketing health. We could call it a launch pad for the marketing plan, encouraging us to reflect as management systematically on the environment that we’re operating in and how well we can respond, because there may be some things that are in the way, things which hold us back, some difficulties which we need to overcome. And it’s good to consider them as early as possible.
The reason for the situation analysis is to know where we stand at the moment, also looking at the opportunities and the threats that we’re up against, and of course deciding how well we can cope with the demands of this environment that the organisation finds itself in. Really only are two sorts of variables that we’re up against. The internal operational variables and then the external stuff. So we would call them the environmental variables, which every organisation is facing because no company operates in a vacuum.
You may be familiar with this one. It’s one of the classic frameworks of the macro environment, and the reason that stood the test of time, I guess there are two reasons, it’s memorable, and B, if you apply the pastel variables, the framework, then we make sure we’ve considered everything. And it may be that not every one of these is a big deal for our company, but at least we considered it. So whatever your business, whatever your organisation, think about the impact of political factors, of economic factors, social and cultural factors, technological, environmental, and legal or legislative factors.
Clearly, it’s going to be some overlap between the P and the L, political and legislative, because in most countries, the law is made by the government. Of course, if you’re into a high-tech business like mobile phones or virtual reality headset, technological is a big deal. If you’re selling toothpaste or you’re a manufacturing company in heavy industry, maybe things are changing a bit less in the technological sense, but you can still have environmental factors. You may be considering your impact on the environment, the waste products you generate. Every company is going to have a different terms so to these pastel factors, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider them all because we can go through this checklist and decide how much they’re going to affect our own business.
Then we look at the micro environment, and the micro environment is effectively getting a bit closer to home, looking at the variables, which will actually affect us from much closer. So every organisation has got relationships with the various stakeholders, and stakeholders can include customers and potential customers. But also you can see on the chart, employees, governmental organisations, the journalists, politicians, suppliers, in other words, every group with which the organisation has relationships, and these can be two-way relationships. So they send information out and receive information back.
And to some extent, as the author of the book, Luck says that from this diagram is taken, he said, it’s controllable to some degree, but you look at them and you think, “Well, we can’t control them. It’s difficult to control them.” So the key bit there is some degree, but this is the micro environment. If you consider all these factors, these groups impacting your organisation, but also the macro factors that we just looked at under pastel, you’re getting a pretty good idea of the operational environment for your business.
This is another old Chestnut Porter’s five forces and Michael Porter at the Harvard Business School in the 1970s said, first of all, there is a threat of new entrance coming into our business. Then on the right hand side, the threat of buyers, who’ve got bargaining power. On the left-hand side, the competitive force of suppliers who may or may not be there. In other words, they’ve got some clarity of view. If you really, really need them, they can put their prices up depending on how many alternative suppliers you can find.
Then lastly, on the bottom, we’ve got substitute products. In other words, people who are offering something rather similar to your organisation, but effectively replacing it, not with the same product, not with a competitive product, but with a substitute. And an example might be the way that mobile phones have replaced lots of other existing products and technologies, more primitive technologies than smartphones clearly.
And then the final force that Michael Porter identified was good, old, competitive rivalry. Someone offering pretty much what you offer in your marketplace, perhaps at a lower price or perhaps a slightly superior technology. People that think they can do what you’re doing and fancy their chances, and every company is potentially at risk from such a competitor. So that’s, Porter’s five forces. It’s one of those models that stood the test of time. And again, you may consider that not all the forces are active in your situation, but it’s a good exercise to go through them.
At the end of our situation analysis, we will probably do the good old fashioned SWOT analysis. And at this point we’re thinking about what is good, our brand, our people, our customers, et cetera. What should we be concerned about? And these really can be categorised into internal factors, such as strengths and weaknesses, but also the external factors, the opportunities and threats. And I would say it’s a good thing when you’re doing the SWOT analysis about your business to be relatively sensitive, even paranoid. What can happen? Be honest about your business, about what’s good and what could be better.
Learn from the past, but look to the future. And if you are dishonest or if you’re fooling yourself, you literally are only fooling yourself. It’s good to look at the total situation and be as dispassionate as you can about it. So just to summarise, the internal factors would be the strengths and the weaknesses. They’re inherent to your organisation. But of course, every organisation is subject to these external factors, which could be either an opportunity or a threat. And another well-known model is this SWOT analysis.
Okay. So now we’re going to move on to setting objectives. It is easy to set loose objectives and to kid ourselves that we’re doing a good job, particularly in our marketing, but the skill is to set challenging and yet achievable objectives and then hit them. That’s also one way that management can inspire and incentivize the marketing team. There is a balance to be found between a stretch goal and an impossible pie-in-the-sky objective, which can never be achieved and is itself demotivating, because people work out that it can’t be achieved. So let’s go through the characteristics of good objectives.
We are thinking about successful outcomes. Specifically, we would be talking about SMART objectives, which are specific, measurable, achievable or actionable, relevant, and time bound. In other words, there’s a detail here so that we know if we’ve achieved it, and we can measure that. In other words, this is an objective, which we will know whether we’ve achieved or not, because we’re going to be able to measure it. Actionable or achievable, relevant, in other words, relevant to our business and something that’s useful to achieve. It’s not like just an interesting number, it’s something that would actually move the needle on our business success. And lastly, timed, in other words, time bound. There is a limit, there’s a deadline. We have to have achieved this by a certain date. So in theory, we can have a meeting the next day and we can say, well, okay, how did we do? And there’s going to be nowhere to hide.
These are good SMART objectives. They could be about ROI, which is the ultimate. The ultimate KPI is ROI. In other words, what do we spend on marketing and what do we get back, and you subtract the former from the latter and hopefully get a positive number. In other words, you’re actually achieving something. We’re getting somewhere. The marketing is paying for itself and then some. However, there may be sub-objectives, which are not quite as good as measuring ROI, but which are still helpful. So click-through rates, conversion rates, social media shares, a whole lot of different metrics which are proxies for ROI. And none of them is as good, but they’re a lot better than nothing.
Of course, we need to make assumptions about the market size and about conversion rates, which will be guided by our experience and also by results. And the good thing is, if we keep on measuring, keep on keeping records, next year is going to be easier. So let us remain positive and let us develop a test and learn strategy, which I really believe in very fundamentally.
The business objectives would be the first sort of metrics. You might ask, how do these different metrics, all the terminologies on the different objectives, how do they all stack up alongside each other? Well, this smiling guy is called Avinash Kaushik. He’s an evangelist for analytics. He has at times worked for Google. He also has his own blog, and he’s written several books, Avinash Kaushik. He’s in this situation talking about business objectives and goals and metrics and KPIs. And if you read the blog post that this was based on, he talks about metrics being a number. So before that it’s business objectives, it’s broad brush, high level stuff. KPIs are of course, special metrics, key performance indicators. And to quote Avinash Kaushik directly, he says, “Sell more stuff is a business objective, but that means we have to do X, improve Y, reduce Z, and they’re all goals.”
In all these cases, our resources are limited, so we have to focus. And it’s easy to say focus, but of course the key factor is to try and spend our money in ways that will generate a positive return on investment. In other words, the activity more than pays for itself. If we are fortunate enough to have a variety of positive KPI outcomes, in other words, the ROI will be positive in a number of different ways, we must choose the long term most profitable for our business. And we continuously test and learn, because we’re always thinking of the future.
For instance, there are web marketers, online digital marketers, whose focus is on driving more and more traffic to the website, but is that necessarily the best course of action? Maybe we don’t even need more traffic. Perhaps we need the traffic that we’re already sending to the website to convert better. So maybe the same amount of traffic, but better quality.
How can we achieve that? Well, I didn’t tell you where the traffic is coming from, did I? Perhaps it’s pay-per-click Google ads. In other words, maybe we are attracting people to our website and paying Google for them, and they’re not converting and they’re never going to convert. Maybe the problem is that we are bidding on search terms which are too general, so we get a lot of wastage. We get time-wasters, people who are not really looking to buy a product like we sell at all. So perhaps we can change our keyword strategy. Perhaps we should.
What about the ad which attracted them? Maybe it’s too attractive, so we’re getting people coming to the website who again are not going to buy from us. They’re more attracted to our free gift or our persuasive copy. So maybe we need to tone that down a bit. And it could just be that getting fewer visitors to the website, which still convert at a good rate, is more profitable than the current situation. So let us not be too dominated by the need to generate traffic to our website. It’s more about quality than quantity.
Once they’re on the website, what do we want? Well, we clearly want them to buy from us. That may or may not be possible directly from the site, but ultimately we want more successful outcomes. We want more people taking the actions that we require. Guess what? People only do what they want to do, and that’s true of ourselves as customers, as well as true of our customers when we’re marketers. In other words, we’ve got to help them to do what they want to do, and we’ve also got to make sure that that is what we want them to do.
Think of it like a shop. You own a brick and mortar store, you invite people in, you smile at them, they walk around and they pick items up. Some of them put the items back again and walk out of the shop with another smile, and they didn’t buy. And you think oh dear, well, maybe next time. But some of them pick things up, like them, talk to you. You tell them the price, they say fine, and they buy the item and walk out with it full of smiles, because they are happy. And of course, you are happy as well. And I think the latter situation is what the e-commerce retailer is looking for. In other words, happy customers who are happy to spend their money and feel they’ve got good value, a good deal.
Then we come to our objectives, which as we said before, should be SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. And the R could be relevant as well. Actually, I prefer relevant, because achievable and relevant are different concepts. Achievable means you can literally do it. It may not be easy, but it’s possible. And relevant means that if you did do it, that would be a good thing. There are plenty of objectives which we can achieve, which maybe are making very little difference to our business. We’ve got to be very careful not to waste time with metrics that don’t actually move the needle. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound would be my favourite version of SMART objectives.
And as the Spice Girls once said, we’ve got to think what do we really, really want? What are we trying to achieve which would really make a difference? There may be lots of things which would be nice. You know, we’ve got more customers, we’ve spread to a different region, we’ve opened new outlets, we’re getting more engagement, people are seeing more pages on our website, people are spending longer. None of that might be the real thing. We’ve got to focus on what really, really matters, which generally in a commercial business will be profitability. In other words, getting more people to buy more things.
The very good video, which you can access for yourself, which is about the different KPIs which we could choose. For instance, raw numbers, progress metrics, and lastly on this video, we have change metrics. The idea is that we know where we are now, position A, and for that particular metric we want to get to a different place, position B. For instance, one such metric would be unique monthly visitors to our website. At the moment it’s 12,000, and we want to get it to 15,000 by the 1st of July, X year.
Secondly, number of pages viewed. Maybe we’re seeing three page views at the moment on average, customers are seeing three pages. We want to get that to at least five pages by the end of June next year. Okay, so again, we’re setting ourselves a time deadline. And then lastly, perhaps our conversion rate, which is always a good KPI, isn’t it? Because by definition, a conversion is something which is important to our business. It could be a purchase, it could be a qualified lead, it could be registering for our email newsletter, it could be watching three videos in their entirety. It could be a number of things, but whatever we define as a successful outcome. So these can be our KPIs.
Of the three on this video, I would say that change metrics are generally going to be the most important for us in what we’re talking about here. We’re at position A, we want to get to position B. We need to define both very clearly so that we know when we’ve achieved our KPIs. They help us to monitor progress towards a predefined goal. They’ve got to be metric-based, for instance, revenue, number of customers, and some of them are easier to measure than others. Brand awareness is difficult to measure, customer engagement, whereas digital marketing metrics that you can count, such as conversion rates, are obviously much easier to measure.
We’ve said that ROI is the ultimate KPI. In other words, the return on investment is the real thing that we need to be able to measure as closely as possible. It may be difficult, and we may be asking our finance colleagues for a leap of faith, but the less you do that the better and the more chance they can agree. In other words, go with data to the finance director, the CFO, and hope that she or he will look at your figures and understand what you’ve achieved and have enough confidence to give you more budget to do more marketing. And that is good marketing and it’s also good finance directorship. In other words, custodian of the company’s valuable marketing budget, which could always be spent on something else. So you’ve got to make a business case, and that’s as it should be.
Let’s just talk a little about CLV, customer lifetime value. It’s the total dollar value or pound value or Euro value of all the purchases from that customer throughout their whole relationship with your business. The problem with CLV as a metric is that it involves forecasting the future. It’s easiest to calculate in retrospect, isn’t it? We did all this stuff to recruit the customer. We kept them for four and a half years. They spent this amount of money with us all that time. And then you can evaluate the effectiveness of that whole relationship. In other words, what did you get back from them? What did it cost you to acquire them and keep them? And we hope that that subtraction is a positive number.
Crucially, that helps us in the future, because if we know that sort of customer, we can find more people like them. We can recruit matches to those individuals. And the beauty of that, of course, is that then we can fine tune our acquisition strategy. So in terms of effectiveness of our content, we can measure the popularity of our content, how much it gets shared, so how fast does our content move, what is our content value, and what are the costs of creating that content? Because very little content comes to you for free. It’s got to come from someone who you either employ or you buy it in from this organisation. And generally there’s a price tag attached to that.
It is possible to group your KPIs by type, and we’re going through the SMART insights model here of reach, act, convert, engage. We can look at brand measures, content performance measures, and commercial measures, all of which are useful, but these are three different sorts of KPI. And you can see on the chart that, for instance, for brand measures, we can look at unique visitors, new visitors, brand-direct visits, audience share. On the act dimension, volume of leads, percentage of product service interactions, and number of pages viewed per visit, et cetera, et cetera. So in other words, these three different types of KPIs can each be mapped against the reach, act, convert, engage, the RACE framework. And I think this is a very useful slide here.
In terms of KPIs, we can go to Jay Baer’s measurement, and he’s got an interesting take on this. He looks at consumption metrics, sharing metrics, lead generation metrics, and sales metrics. In other words, four different types of KPIs, according to the metric. So in other words, consumption can just be about page views, downloads, somehow interacting with our web property. Then we can look at sharing, in other words, retweeting, social sharing, sending a video to our friends, sending a link to this particular content.
Then we get into lead generation, for instance, goals, registrations, and qualified leads in B2B, for instance. And then lastly sales, which of course is ultimately what it’s all about. We can look at page value, goal value, revenue per visit, conversion rate, and indeed raw sales itself. So this is Jay Baer talking about KPIs and talking about the different categories that we can look at. And I think this is a useful slide to bear in mind as well.
Okay. We’re still on digital marketing techniques, digital planning. Now, we focus on strategy. We’ve got to have clear goals for digital channels. Marketing strategies should, of course, align with business strategy. It’s not as if the marketing department can afford to go off at a tangent doing their own thing, declaring that they are unilaterally independent. The idea of marketing is that it’s spending company money and it’s meant to be helping to achieve corporate goals. And from the corporate goals, we dive down and we get into marketing goals. Therefore, we don’t want any rogue CMOs doing their own ad-hoc approach. It should all be aligned, so we can create a specific online value proposition, which is basically what people are going to derive from the product, how is this communicated online, and basically answering the question, what’s in it for me?
We specify communications tools. We integrate digital and traditional channels. And why not? Why should we leave any channel out? They should all be considered. We’re not saying we have to do everything, but we should at least consider all the offline channels and all the online channels. And between them, put together the best overall mix. Also, we’re measuring the customer, we’re managing the customer lifecycle, so the customer life cycle will vary. Customers will be at different point of their life cycle. Sadly, every relationship that a customer has with the business will come to an end. How far through that relationship, that cycle, that lifecycle is this particular customer? These are all questions to ask. So if we’re going back to SOSTAC, we’ve got S-O-S, and the second S is strategy. It asks the question, how will we get there? How are we going to get to our objectives that we just carefully spelled out? The strategy is a roadmap, a plan to achieve our objectives, not just the KPIs re-stated, and certainly not just a list of tactics. All campaign proposals, including creative and media, should be judged against the strategy, and of course, the budget.
Here is a slide talking about the different personas. STP stands for segmentation, targeting, and positioning. And it’s absolutely true that your customers are not all the same and they’re never all going to be the same. Perhaps though, there are one, two, three, four, or maybe a different number but let’s work with four, groups who can be segments. They represent a tranche of customers, a group of customers who have got quite a lot in common. So they are heterogeneous within each segment. Cross between the segments, they could be quite different… Sorry, they’re homogeneous within each segment. They could be heterogeneous between the segments. So segments are different from each other. They’re distinct. But within a segment, there’s some commonality. People are similar in some ways, and that can help you with media planning. It can also help you with creative.
You can talk to a group of people and think of one person. You can’t think of 10,000 different people, but you can think of one who represents 10,000 and then another different one who represents another 9,000, et cetera. This is the whole concept of segmentation. And we can itemise our segments, our personas. We can give them names. We can start to segment according to the identified groups of people in our customer base. And that, of course, requires knowing certain amount of stuff about them so that we’ve got enough information to construct these segments. And we shouldn’t have too many nor too few segments. So something like five to 10 might be a good number. 20 would be absolute top limit. And beyond that, it’s getting difficult to identify who should be in which segment, because there are very fine lines between them. Equally, two or three segments may be too few so we don’t have enough selectivity on the differences between the segments if we’re making very crude divisions like that.
In terms of segmentation, this is my favourite illustration for an eCommerce retailer. What we’re thinking of really on this Rubik cube is that we have three dimensions of a customer. Recency, frequency, and monetary value. And remember, this is someone like Amazon or a saucy online retailer, and people are buying all the time from them. Obviously, not as many as they would like, but you can always get better.
Recency is when did someone last buy from you. Frequency is how often do they tend to buy from you. And monetary value is on average how much did they spend. We would like high scores on all those three. They bought last week, they tend to buy once a month, and they always spend more than a hundred pounds for instance. There are customers who score a lot less well than that on two or even all three of the dimensions, and they’re less good customers, but the very best customers are going to be the ones illustrated by the yellow sub cube, if you can visualise it. The top distant corner of this cube, they are the people with the highest recency, the highest frequency, the highest monetary value.
To be honest, they are the very best, that little mini cube you can imagine there. And you want to keep those people, look after them, enrol them in your frequent flyer programme, and maximise their customer lifetime value. Anyone else on that cube is suboptimal, but if they’re at one of the top corners, for instance, you could be planning to move them across into the yellow cube. And depending on why they are where they are, you can think of different ways. For instance, reactivating dormant customers, getting people to spend a bit more, get them to spend a bit more often. And this is all part of CRM, customer relationship management. Remember, of course, that recency, frequency, and monetary value are just one way of segmenting. You could also segment by geography, by language, by products bought, et cetera, et cetera. And for your own business, there will be a perfect optimization criteria, set of criteria. You have to find that in terms of your organisation and what really moves the needle.
Okay, so we’re now moving on to tactics and action. Some students, some learners feel this is the best bit, the most fun bit. Maybe, but tactics without planning and without strategy is just a random sequence of marketing events, so we can do better than that. I always argue for proper attention to be paid to strategy in order to give a firm foundation for the tactics, which will indeed follow. And there does come a time when we’ve talked enough, we’ve read all the research reports, we need to do some stuff. And in most modern marketing departments, there is a need to spend the budget, or someone might take it off you. And also the idea of getting the budget is that you’re going to make a difference to the business, so do it.
So who’s doing what? Where? When? Using what resources? How much will it cost? Who’s responsible? How will we measure, and what will we test? All good questions, most of which need to be answered, because this is your plan. This is your action plan to actually do your digital marketing. And of course, this is not the end of it. We need to be considering how are we going to improve our plan. Improving our landing page, our web template. What about follow-up email contact strategies? Integration with offline media, for instance, direct mail. What are we going to test? There could be a whole load of things, like acquisition tools, search terms, landing pages, email messaging, and offers.
All of these are possible, and it’s good to have a plan, not just do stuff at random, but plan it all in so that you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the next six months or the year are going to look like. Also very motivating for the team because they can kind of see that there is a plan. There is a structure. It’s not just random. And at the end of the year, we’re going to review all this and try and draw some conclusions so we can plan next year. In other words, it’s a continuing process of improvement.
So part of the action stage, apart from logistically who’s going to do what, when, how much will it cost, it’s also the wider organisation, these internal stakeholders. Let’s talk to them. And we actually have to talk to customer service. They need to know what we’re doing in marketing. What campaign is about to break? What will the customers on the phone or in email or live chat be actually talking about? Those guys are expected to be the face of the brand, the customer service people. They need to be able to act that role by knowing exactly what we’re doing in marketing. It’s just so bad if the company looks not joined up.
But maybe you need to talk to corporate communications, to the PR department. In some cases online and offline marketing are still divided, still split in their own separate silos, in which case at least talk to them and try and bring them on board. If you are a B2B marketing department, you’ve got your lovely colleagues in sales, very likely. Relationships may be great, or they may not be. And if marketing and sales get along fine, it’s really just a matter of keeping each other in the loop about what each side is doing. If not, there may be some relationship issues to repair.
So we are moving through the idea of planning, and we are moving now towards the future. This is a fascinating diagram of the possible future of the London underground. Someone’s had some fun here. If you know London at all, you can see there are whole new lines envisaged, which will all be apparently in place by 2014. Who knows what other changes we’ll have. But the fact is, no one really knows what the future holds. Planning is about staying in control so that when you do face the future, you’ve got a robust basis on which to do so. In other words, we are doing stuff which we have tested and which we know is working, and we are learning from everything we do so that we can do it better in the future. And most people would say that’s about staying in control, and I would make no apologies for that. You’re not a control freak. You are basically running your business in a responsible way, including your marketing.
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Okay. Well, this leads us very neatly to measurement. This is where we need to think about analytics. What are the key performance indicators or what is the basis on which we will measure our success? So we have our SMART objectives. Did you notice that includes measurable, realistic, and time-bound? In other words, there was a day, a day of reckoning, where we can ask, what did we do? How can we do it better? And at that point, we say, “Well, okay, we’ve had a good year. We’ve been successful. We’ve hit two out of our three KPIs. We just fell short on the third one, but we understand why. And next year we’re going to do even better. And knows how to progress.”
And sometimes we can stand back and say, “Okay, let’s understand why we didn’t do even better. Can we work out what would have made our performance better, faster, stronger? We would hit our KPIs sooner in the year. We would have exceeded our goals.” And that’s all healthy. That’s good.
What is unhealthy, of course, is blame storming and blaming one department for the lack of success. And I’m afraid people do use the KPIs and planning process as a way of having fights within the company. And please resist that.
We can study the conversion funnel on our website. That’s what good analysts do. They are asking questions. Well, what’s happening here? What type of people are making up the 8% adding a product to a basket? Why are we losing half the people at the checkout? Is there something about them? Is it something we can learn here? Maybe we don’t want those people. Maybe you shouldn’t be paying Google for them. In other words, we’re asking intelligent questions. We are developing hypothesis or insights, and then we are testing them and we are learning.
Okay. Sounds like a good way of running your digital marketing business, doesn’t it? However, we must always remember it needs resources. It needs people. Managing strategy is about doing stuff. You’ve got to have budget and you’ve got to have people. The people may be your employees. They could be working for an agency or a supplier, but ultimately to make stuff happen, people have to be incentivized and rewarded for their time in doing things.
Sometimes we have unclear responsibilities for digital, and sometimes that causes disorganisation and lack of coherence within the operation. It’s very important that we set objectives, but of course, sometimes there may be barriers. So we may have a lack of budget. Sometimes we do too much testing. It’s possible that we are always shifting to try something new and shiny, and we’re even duplicating experiments over time and we’re never learning and we’re never integrating all of our findings and our insights. That’s bad business. And it’s a waste of money sources.
If we have no plan and no plan to measure, then we are literally drifting and that’s a bad place to be. And a good marketing director, CMO, is going to make sure that as far as possible, we are organised and that we have a plan and that we work to that plan and that we are testing and learning as we go.
We’re now moving into the area, which we could call project management. And, in very crude terms, that’s getting the job done, but it’s a whole discipline in itself. And there are marketing departments who would say that they follow agile project management, scrum. There are ways of doing things which have been documented. Books have been written, conferences are all organised around different ways of running a project. The main thing is that you are aware in your project plan of the different areas here.
For instance, raw materials, tasks, and timing, money, people. And all those four areas are part of your project plan, because that is how we put everything together and there are no shortcuts. Some of these things cost a lot of money and that money has to be spent, but then it has to be accounted for. And we have to be sure that we are getting sufficient return on investment.
Project plans are built on list of tasks. Otherwise, nothing ever gets done. And if you’re working in an organisation currently, you will know how you run projects and people have to drive them. And this is not rocket science, nor is it new, but effective companies, especially in marketing and other techniques, they know how to run projects. Each task requires a name and a start date and end date, and a duration.
Define dependencies. Some task can’t start until the previous tasks are completed. In other words, we can’t do B until we’ve completed A. So A has really got to be done by this date. Otherwise, the other guys can’t even start on B. You will find that the system plots the tasks. It will identify the critical path, the task, which together determine the end date of the project. And then, task completion information can be updated as the project progresses and you have regular meetings.
So the Thursday morning status meeting at 10 o’clock, that’s good through every job that we’re working on. Let us see where we are with our dependencies and spot any problems. And this is the famous Gantt Chart, which you see here in all its glory. By the way, Gantt is not an acronym. It was Henry Gantt who invented it. So don’t waste any time trying to work out what Gantt stands for. It is, of course, a very simple way of saying this is what we’re to do. This is the start date. This is the end date. And this is a sequence in which these events will happen.
Some tasks overlap and that’s fine. Some tasks can’t start until a previous task has been completed. All tasks need someone responsible. And that person comes to the meeting on the Thursday morning and is put on the spot. “Mike, why didn’t your clients sign off this project? Do you realise that you’ve now missed your date by two weeks? Did you tell them it will be 15,000 pounds more?” In other words, this keeps us all on the straight and narrow, keeps the trains running on time. And again, chart or some variant of it is essential to making projects work.
Also, we need to think about resources. So where are the people? Who do they work for? Who is paying for them? And what are their priorities? Are we confident these people will actually do what they’re meant to do according to our plan? And if not, what recourse do we have? So consider all the categories: HR, financial materials, facilities, travel. This whole piece could be called logistics. And there are people who specialise in logistics and they’re worth their weight in gold because they make stuff happen. We’ve got to use whatever technology, whatever software helps. Microsoft Project is one such package. But however you do it, it’s got to be managed closely and systematically with either internal or external sources, resources, and maybe working together.
So if you use an agency, who is going to be their manager? Who appoints the agency? Who kicks them if they’re not doing their job? Who rewards them for a job well done? Who briefs them on the next project? Every agency needs a client.
Think about the costs, some of which will be variable. And guess what? Things can always go wrong. And you won’t necessarily welcomed that, but you’ll be a lot happier if you had foreseen it. And if you are in a position to minimise the costs, so that ultimately things which have just missed a deadline can be recovered and things which have become more expensive are still within a manageable budget. And that is the way of building contingencies so that you have a robust plan.
Let’s just look at external versus internal resources. Well, external resources, such as an agency. Of course, agencies have a variable cost. They have specialist expertise. They’ve got a track record of success. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be using them. They have certain skills and of course, they can be scaled. So if you find that you need more resource, they can get more, generally speaking. Also, if you decide you don’t need them anymore, you can turn them off like a tap. And that’s very helpful compared with hiring people and then having to let them go, which is much messier and more expensive.
What about such suppliers from a negative point of view? Well, maybe it’s an expensive way of getting this job done. Maybe the agency fees are more than you’d be paying if you add up the salaries of your in-house team. Maybe we look at this thing called bait and switch, which can sometimes work, and relying to relationship and personalities on both sides. You’ve got to manage the agencies and you hope that they like you and you like them, but both parties particularly respect each other. And very often, I’m afraid, these relationships do go wrong. And then that’s messy and time consuming to change. Holding a pitch is not most client’s idea of fun because it’s a long process. It takes up resource. And at the end of the day, there’s always a fear you haven’t actually got to any better situation than you were in previously.
So in terms of resource allocation, add resources to each task: materials, people, money. Is it a cost per hour or is it fixed costs? What about the resource name, individuals or categories? And what about resource availability? Manage your freelancers and in agencies, there’s a vital role. Someone that can liaise with the freelancers, bring them in as required, tell them when they’re not needed anymore, manage their expectations and basically manage their costs, which is very important.
We also need resource reporting. So what are we using? What are we employing? If it’s in-house people, they still have to be paid for. If someone’s working on your project, they can’t be working on something else. So we have to monitor our resources. We’ve got to manage budgets and well-disciplined organisations do internal accounting. You’ve used this in-house tech team for three weeks, Mike, they’re going to be charged to your job. In other words, don’t think you’ve made a profit because actually you’ve used our boilers to resource. Maybe it was necessary. Maybe there’s a bigger win here, but it’s good to be aware of what things are costing, even if they’re internal resources.
Sometimes the resource is not enough, sometimes the resource is too much. So you hire people and they’re sitting there waiting for something to do. Your web app team, your mobile app team is sitting there twiddling its thumbs, waiting for the CMO to come back from vacation so that she can brief them on the project. Meanwhile, they are being paid and they’re doing absolutely nothing. So resource under utilisation is as much a problem as short form.
And very importantly we need to make sure we’ve got the right people when we need them. Otherwise, whole projects can fall over because we haven’t got the right people to do the right job at a time, which is required because that then will then affect contingencies. So the other dependencies, the other parts of the job, which require that to be completed.
Something that you may have come across and I’ve heard it in several different contexts is T-Shape, something that Google particularly have espoused, but it’s not unique to them. The idea is T-Shaped people. And as an individual, you may have your own discipline expertise. You may be really good at pay-per-click. You may be an analytics expert, but maybe there’s a bit more to you than that. So you’ve actually got some understanding of technical SEO, of user experience, of content, sorry. Content is your expertise, but also, you know about press and PR analytics. And these people are very useful because they can see connections and they can work with colleagues. And overall, we’re in a situation where people can work as a team, understanding the roles of their colleagues and their coworkers, fully ultimate benefit of the organisation.
And here are some different sorts of T-Shaped marketing and T-Shaped people. And my own view is that we need both. We need generalists. We need people who are going to be managers who’ve got a good overall understanding of the different disciplines, but we also need real specialists, deep dive people that can do pay-per-click and wouldn’t know very much about SEO. People who know analytics, but don’t know anything about user experience and they’re in their silo, okay? But that’s fine because people are managing them that do see the bigger picture. So being T-Shaped is not a bad shape to be. Maybe something that equips you to be a general manager, which may be what you want to be.
There are more shapes. How about Pi shaped? Pi shaped talent has been identified as being someone that knows marketing, but also technology. That’s quite a valuable animal. Collaboration, empathy, interest in other disciplines. So, okay. I’m the marketing expert, but actually I have some interest in technology and I can talk to you about that and I can speak your language. These people can be very valuable.
There are other versions of this, the T-Shape being good, but we also have I-Shape, which is just a functional disciplinary skill. Okay, as long as you’ve got a manager who’s T-Shaped. And then there’s M-Shaped, multitask profile with the ability to apply knowledge across situations and domains. For instance, you might be a musician and an animator. You might know about big data and electronics, or you might be a product designer and a coder. And sometimes this is people who have had portfolio careers they’ve shifted. Not easy to do, and because of that, these people are rare, but they do make great general managers because they can understand the different parts of the jigsaw.
So the main thing is that the company has to have the right mix of people with different skills. And lastly, we’ve got to get the right people in place in the right configuration. And that’s the job of whoever’s putting the team together. And that’s a serious task because there could be people who are brilliant in their own field, but who can’t necessarily work with other people. That may be fine if there is someone there to act as the glue, as the manager, as the coordinator.
The analogy is a building contractor. So there is one person who is the expert, who is the coordinator that makes every aspect work together. But then there is an electrician. There is a plumber, there is a brick layer, and they’re all experts at their own particular craft skill, but they have little understanding or interest in the others. That’s fine, as long as you have the general manager, the foreman, who can put everything together. And that’s the idea.
In project management, we need to have the right team together, working in the right way to achieve the best results.
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