Like the results, not the tool | submitted by Chad Kaderabek

A good hunter selects the tools for a successful hunt after careful consideration of his or her prey and the environment it lives in. As in hunting, top-level organizational goals should be set before employing marketing tools. Like going bear hunting with a fishing pole, selecting tools before goals hinders one’s chance of success.

Like in many small companies today, organizational goals may not exist. To develop reasonable organization goals, the involvement of all department leaders is critical. The sales department’s goal of doubling sales may be noble, but without operations buy-in its success is unlikely. Participation of all departments in the goal-creation process provides attainable goals and immediate organizational buy-in.

A method to help establish organizational goals is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis matrix (see Figure 1). In the top two quadrants is a list of the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Strengths and weaknesses should be in comparison to best-in-class business practices as well as relative to competition. Examples of a company’s strength may be sales force experience and a strong brand image. A weakness may be a retiring workforce or lack of cash flow.

Strengths
(What is your organization good at?)

Weaknesses
(Where does your organization need to improve?)

Opportunities
(How can you take advantage of market trends?)

Threats
(What market factors does your organization need to be aware of?)

Figure 1: A SWOT analysis is a useful tool to establish top-level goals.

The bottom two quadrants of the matrix include a list of opportunities and threats that influence the organization from the outside (economic/social influences). Examples of opportunities or threats may be natural gas prices, environmental regulations, and financial market fluctuations. After completion of the SWOT matrix, an organization can identify the opportunities that best fit its strengths (core competencies) and identify areas of improvement that will support opportunities and minimize threats.

After establishing opportunities and goals, create a marketing strategy detailing the best and most cost-effective marketing tools to support the goals. For example, if an organizational goal is to increase new product sales, design and deliver the message in a form that the target audience will respond to. If the target audience that influences the buying decision of natural gas engine packages uses electronic media, communication via the Web and email may be the most effective marketing tools to deploy.

Using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, apps, and the latest communication tools is nice. But if your target audience doesn’t use them, it’s a waste of money. The spectrum of technical skills is mind-boggling: from new college graduates who use laptop computers, smartphones, and iPods to industry old hands who prefer a phone and fax. Never before has the importance of knowing your target customers’ communication preferences been greater. Don’t know their preferences? Contact some of your key customers and ask. A quick informal poll will provide a representative picture.

An organization that allows goals to control the use of marketing tools provides successful and cost-effective marketing strategies. Many marketing agencies evolve from a single tool focus or competency – i.e., graphic design, direct mail, printing, trade pubs, PR, or Web. Although the agency may present a marketing strategy that seems to address the top-level organizational goals, the strategy’s base is solely on the comfort of their core skill. As the old analogy states, if you have a problem with your car and take it to a transmission shop, they will find fault with the transmission. The same goes for marketing solutions. If you ask for a marketing strategy from an agency with a Web design background, the solution will be the Web, whether it is the right tool or not.

In the end, marketing tools are evaluated by how they support the organization’s strategies. If a marketing agency won an award for best new app design and it didn’t generate any sales leads for the client’s new product launch, was it a good investment?

The impulse to use the latest marketing communication tools sometimes clouds the ultimate goal: to provide results that support the organization’s goals.

Chad Kaderabek is the business development director for K4 Innovations, LLC.

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