Why your marketing needs a specification

If you're going to build a marketing machine, you need to make sure you have a good specification
In my last blog ("What's the point of marketing?") I discussed how the first step in engineering a new product is to establish its purpose. In marketing it's the same, you need to establish the purpose of your marketing and how it needs to support your customers at every stage of their buying decision.
Once you've done that, you need to define your specification.

An engineering specification or functional design specification will typically include everything you want the product to do, how it should work, how it should be manufactured, timescales, cost restrictions and any other pertinent requirements.

In my last blog, I used the example of designing a keyboard. In this scenario, I'd need my specification to describe...
  • The type of computer or tablet it was going to be suitable for
  • Whether it'd be wired or wireless
  • The keyboard layout
  • The colour, size, shape and ergonomics
  • Whether it would include any extra functionality such as media buttons or an integrated mousepad
It's always tempting to sidestep this phase or start with a rough outline of what you want to achieve, However, the consequences of this approach can be costly.
Without a good specification, your development team will be designing in the dark. The chances are, your project will over-run, there might be avoidable rework and the outcome won't be as good as it could've been.

Marketing is no different.

If you want your marketing to deliver results quickly and cost-efficiently then you need a detailed specification.

There are two kinds of specifications in marketing: your strategic objectives and your tactical objectives.

Your strategic objectives look at the big picture of all your marketing, sales and aftersales processes. This is the equivalent of how your whole product will work.

Your tactical objectives look at each individual marketing activity or campaign.

You should set objectives for each individual email campaign, advertising campaign or exhibition. These are the equivalent of your component or subassembly specifications.

Without strategic objectives, you can’t measure the success of your marketing as a whole. Without tactical objectives you can't measure the success of your individual marketing activities.

Set your strategic objectives

"I want more sales" is not good enough. This is the equivalent of drawing your product spec on the back of a napkin. It's fine to start there but it's nowhere near sufficient to seriously step up your business.

Objectives need to be SMART:
  • Specific: there can be no ambiguity or wiggle room
  • Measurable: you need to be able to know definitively, yes or no, whether you have achieved them
  • Achievable: they need to be realistic
  • Relevant: they need to be supporting your overall business goals and vision
  • Time-bound: by when will you have achieved this?

Say your business objectives are to increase turnover by 20% year-on-year for the next 3 years. Then your marketing objectives for the next 12 months might be to:

  1. Increase sales to existing customers by 5%
  2. Increase conversions of qualified warm leads by 5%
  3. Increase new enquiries by 10%

Since those objectives will build on each other, combined they equate to more than 20% increase in turnover.

Define your audience

Your marketing specification should also define your audience. The best way of doing this is to create an ideal customer persona. This describes that person that, if you saw them at an event, you'd climb over everyone to speak to them because they're a perfect match for your business.

In creating a customer persona, don’t focus on demographic information. In my experience, this is usually the least important way to define an ideal customer. Instead, consider…

  • Their attitudes to your industry and your product
  • The specific problem you solve for your customer, and how they feel about that problem
  • How this problem affects their life
  • How long do they take to make their buying decision?
  • What is the impact of a poor buying decision?
  • Who else will they consult in the decision?
  • What questions or concerns will they have?

Download my “Customer Persona Checklist” for more guidance on doing this exercise.

Tactical objectives

Think of your tactics as the subsystems of your marketing. Once you know what you want your whole marketing system to do and how it'll work, you need to break that down into different marketing activities. Each of those needs to be specified before you can start planning them.

You can't set tactical objectives until you've worked out which activities you need to do so that's a topic for another day. But the principles are the same: make sure they're SMART. 

If you're struggling to set your strategic objectives, please get in touch. I'd love to talk to you and see if I can help.

Ros Conkie


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