3 Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing a Marketing Campaign

Your business is growing and you are ready to take it to that elusive “next level,” so you’ve selected a couple of different marketing agencies to develop plans that will extend your unique message. They have presented their Integrated Marketing Communications plans to you, both look good and you can’t quite decide which one you want to go with. Although there are plenty of times in life (and business) you should go with your gut, frankly, this is not one of them.

A good communications plan can differentiate your brand offering and personality to a whole new audience of potential consumers to convert. A bad one can unnecessarily sink funds into a strategy that accomplishes little, and/or confuses your target market. As a marketer, I can’t think of too many business transgressions worse than confusing, or not reaching, your audience. So I’ve put together three must-ask questions that can illuminate the plan that gives you the best opportunity for success.

Asking Questions The three following questions will put pressure on agencies to make some definitive statements for you to measure potential effectiveness, on key metrics of any marketing communications campaign.

Message Specifics

First, be sure the message has been systematically developed with resonance, differentiation, and relevance as the pillars. Additionally, you want the company to be clear on how the number of impressions or Gross Ratings Points (measured as reach X frequency) will move the customer from unaware, to recognition, through to positive action. The agency should be specific about the differentiation in message at each stage and how that message will get through the clutter. Simply, you need to know how the message, number of impressions (views) and measurement will work in conjunction to accomplish the established objectives.

1. Comscore has a reach/frequency offering with their client interface tool.

2. Nielsen offers a multitude of measurement tools that measure and forecast population opportunity for all three screens (Television, Computer, Mobile).

Communications Objectives

Make sure the marketing communications objectives are established and clear. You should be comfortable that each objective supports your one main purpose for running the campaign, and that each objective is measurable. DO NOT settle for obtuse objectives, laden with room for the agency to leave specific accomplishments of the strategy up for interpretation. Objectives that will bring you to this end sound something like the following:

“Differentiate and position ‘XYZ Brand’ to 40% of the target prospects in each of the geographic markets, by the end of December 2010.”

“Generate measurable word-of-mouth about ‘XYZ Brand,’ leading to a minimum of 100,000 unique visitors to the website by June 2011.”

You may notice I didn’t mention sales numbers in the preceding objectives. If any marketing company purports that they can make a sale for you, run at warp speed and don’t look back. Turning hand-raisers into customers should never be considered a function of the communications plan. So, if you have enough prospects that understand your brand value – but not enough sales – hire a better sales team.

Measurement and Evaluation

Finally, you will want to know more in-depth specifics – than already mentioned – about how the agency plans to continually measure success. Included you will want to be clear about at what intervals measurement will occur, and what contingency plans are available, given less than favorable results.

Primary and secondary evaluative tools should be used to measure both qualitative and quantitative data. If your budget is limited, you may depend more heavily on secondary tools, but you will still need primary data for qualitative statistics. Qualitative measures typically will occur through surveys, questionnaires and focus groups, because they measure the affect the message has on the target population. You will want to get pre, post, and on-going measures. Quantitative measures will focus on arithmetically measurable statistics. Some measures to be aware of include:

1. Cost Per Gross Rating Point

2. Target Market Population

A. Where, geographically, and it what volume is my target located?

B. What media are they most heavily concentrated?

3. Media Plan

A. What methods (TV, Print, Word-of-Mouth, Digital) will be used to communicate, weekly?

B. How many prospects will be reached by each method?

4. What does the inquiry trajectory look like, i.e. how many contacts will it take to inspire the prospect to action?

I know the three questions turned in to something closer to twenty, but that is what any good open-ended question should bring about – a multitude of actionable answers. If you get clear unprompted responses to most, or all, of these questions – when you bring up the main three topics – then you have a company that is focused on your success. The company chosen should be excited to explain exactly how they plan to make all of this (and more) happen, because they’re aware of how necessary it is to account for all of the variables they can imagine to have a better opportunity their clients will get positive results.

Does anyone have a good story about dealing with an agency, or do you have a metric you look for to ensure success?

About Therran Oliphant

Therran Oliphant is a strong advocate for developing the academic and practical field of Integrated Marketing Communications. Holding an M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) from Eastern Michigan University, Therran has been a staunch advocate for developing the theoretical, practical and applicable concepts of the field, especially as it comes to digital advertising and media. His main passion is helping marketers more accurately interface with the technology community and ask the right questions to help them accomplish the objectives their brand customers have set. A career in data and advertising technology has allowed him to have a unique perspective on the science of utilizing the right methodologies to systematically ask the right questions that lead to delivering the outcomes necessary for success.