I was presenting at a conference and one of the audience members asked me a question that I answered in a way that I think left him less than excited.
“What are your favorite marketing tactics?” was his question.
“The ones that work” I replied.
He said that was not what he meant and pressed me for an answer.
“I don’t have favorites” I explained. And it’s true I don’t have favorites ultimately and don’t care. It’s not that I don’t care about the marketing tactics themselves. It’s really that I don’t care which ones work, I would use the ones that work. Yes there are certain techniques that any organization can and should implement. But the point is not the tools, techniques, or methods that you use.
The point is to produce results.
So the tactics I prefer are the ones that fit my strategy and produce results. It was clear that this audience member felt that answer was a cop-out. However this is very far from the truth.
Too many organizations get stuck on certain things that may or may not have worked in the past. It’s really easy to use a certain technique over and over again it’s also really easy to only use that technique. Because tactics by their very nature are part of a larger strategy, the tactics themselves are not where we need to put our focus. The larger strategy is of course were really need to focus, and that strategy is about producing a certain set of results.
So thinking about tactics means first you have to think about strategy. And thinking about strategy means first you have to have a clear idea of the results you want to achieve. So it is not about tactics.
Another reason for not having favorites is that quite often blinds us to change. Even the tactic itself changes over time.
Take for example, customer feedback.
In the pre-Internet days customer feedback was often a difficult or elaborate process to orchestrate and use successfully. Physical products bought often had survey and comment cards that included opportunities for customers to provide feedback on the purchase they had just made, and any experiences problems or suggestions. Beyond that companies were forced to conduct phone -based surveys, or mailings, or in person surveys with their customers.
The effort to identify, generate, and analyze this information was significant and often times too much for many companies to bear. This often sent companies to large-scale sources of opinion and survey data. On the plus side because so many organizations could not do it or chose not to do it those who did gave himself a decided advantage by being close to the customer.
Flash forward to the days of Internet proliferation, and it seems as it will be tremendously easy to connect with customers and get their feedback. From a technological standpoint this is very true as it is now much easier to connect with customers to get feedback. Of course it’s easier for everyone to do and now there is virtually no barrier to reaching out and collecting the information. In fact that information quite often flows to even when you don’t choose to collect it. Reviews online, social commentary on Facebook, Twitter and other sites provide a constant stream of customer feedback.
So the tactic itself, get feedback from customer, at the high level is the same. When we get down into the details these two expressions of the tactic have little in common. Not just from the effort and ease of collection but from the kind of feedback received. Still, what works in one case may produce nothing short of opposite results in another. Even the way the tactic is delivered to the market has a massive difference in how it is perceived and the results it produces, and thus its value.
When we expand to look across different segments, different markets, and different industries you can see how this becomes even more convoluted.
Best tactic is the one that works
Thus my answer “my favorite is the one that fits into my strategy and works”.
The gentleman is asking this question was clearly still not satisfied. So I turned the question back to him. “What is your favorite marketing tactic?” He quickly replied that his all-time favorite was purchasing leads.
“How successful is that?” I asked
“Not bad, conversion is low but the cost low too”
“So what happens when the lead supplier goes out of business?” I countered
“What?” he stammered
I asked him what he would do if that lead supplier no longer supplied leads, how would he guarantee that same level of lead generation into his business. I further pressed him for an answer to how low the conversion rate to price ratio had to drop before it would not be his favorite anymore.
He did not have an answer to that. Not that I expected he would. He clearly had not thought about it.
So the reason I don’t have favorites is because every tactic, technique, technology and strategy has to pull its own weight.
No idea gets a free ride when success is on the line.