Pre-marketing: the groundwork for success

Pre-marketing: the groundwork for success

Many businesses I work with have done some or all of the “right” marketing things and still haven’t seen results—or at least, not lasting results. Marketing is generally done to achieve some combination of three results: acquire new customers; retain customers; and grow business through referrals. Any of these needs can be temporarily met with a directed marketing effort. But what’s needed for lasting results?

Pre-marketing lays the groundwork for a successful long-term marketing structure. I conduct pre-marketing (a service I call Essential Story) by focusing on connecting three critical elements: a company/brand, the target market/customer, and the company’s leadership.

Pre-marketing connects these three dots—I call it alignment.

A disconnect between any of these points nearly guarantees failure (or only temporary success) in marketing strategies and campaigns, no matter how well planned or executed those efforts are.

Consider common marketing “fails” like these:

  • A search engine optimization (SEO) effort increases website traffic but doesn’t generate qualified leads, or generates the wrong leads
  • A digital marketing campaign increases calls and leads, but doesn’t result in a high enough close rate to justify the campaign cost
  • A direct email campaign (still, today one of the top three marketing ROIs) results in high engagement—but not new orders
  • A live event generates a ton of online buzz and interest but not enough bums in seats to justify the cost and effort

Why (great) marketing fails

When great marketing fails, it’s time to look at the foundation underpinning it. I’m using “great marketing” to refer to marketing campaigns and strategies that are well thought out and well executed, following best practices.

Great marketing fails because of fundamental misalignment. For example:

If a company’s leadership and the brand are disconnected, the BUSINESS MODEL likely needs to be rethought.
For example, MailChimp’s leadership began to envision the brand as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, but the established brand is focused on (and named for) being an email marketing platform.

When the leadership misunderstands the target market or customers, they’ll attract the wrong CUSTOMER TYPE.
For example, a holistic medicine clinic is structured around fertility treatment, but the target customers desire a long-term relationship with the clinic and support for a broader range of health concerns.

When it’s difficult to generate and/or CLOSE LEADS, there’s likely a disconnect between the target market and the brand/offering.
For example, a SaaS (software as a service) brand attracts a good volume of free trials that don’t turn into paying clients because the software solves only a minor inconvenience, not a burning problem.

Turning it around through alignment

The Essential Story process has been tested and honed over more than a decade across a wide range of businesses. Its focus is aligning—connecting the dots between—leadership, brands, and customers.

My clients usually call it “magic” but magic isn’t repeatable or predictable, and the Essential Story process is both.

I’ll tell you exactly how I do it:

  1. I “read” the brand in its environmental context. This part of the process is distinguished from the market research, competitive analysis, and SWOT activities that most organizations think about and have likely already conducted. Instead, I reveal the story that the brand currently tells, as it is experienced by the target market.
  2. I deeply understand the leadership. Here, my coach brain comes into play as I ask questions and listen deeply to gauge what the leadership team desires and what it is unknowingly blocking itself from achieving. Blocks reveal themselves in the form of stories that the leadership tells about why the company/brand is experiencing the challenges it is.
  3. I conduct high-yield interviews with clients/customers, partners, and employees. These are not customer surveys and I do not ask obvious questions. I ask questions that the company itself cannot ask. This step teases out themes, beliefs, trends, and a whole different set of stories that my client has likely never heard or considered.
  4. Finally, I put it all together in an Essential Story that pulls together and aligns all three storylines: the brand, the leadership, and the customer. This includes concrete recommendations about what may need to shift in the brand itself, or the business model, or how products and services are presented.

If you’ve experienced frustration about your brand or your marketing’s perceived lack of success despite doing things “by the book”, please contact me for an initial conversation about what might be going on.