Skipping To Tactics

Marketing problems can be complex, puzzling and filled with a sense of urgency. There is often a desire to skip quickly to tactics before you have agreement on what problem you are trying to solve. Marketing teams in big consumer brands or small start-ups suffer from the same syndrome. They are action-oriented and want to solve problems because it makes them feel productive as if they are doing something. Sorry, this is a mistake. 

Experience shows that as marketing professionals, we are quick to jump to being creative. How about a new direct mail campaign, what if we sponsor the industry trade show event, let's get someone else to make a product for us so we can sell more to our customers. 

Slowly our "to do" lists grow like bacteria in a petri dish.

We want to come up with solutions before we really understand the problem at hand. This is a BIG mistake and requires a little marketing mindfulness. That is the art of stepping back, taking a few deep breathes and realizing that you are acting before you understand why. 

Tactics must follow strategy. 

The Problem Describing Meeting 
Too often businesses hold meetings to try and do two things – define a problem and solve it. I think this is an impossible expectation. Say hello to the problem describing meeting

The organizer sends out a one page description of the situation as they understand it. The agenda for the meeting is to discuss a proposed statement that crisply articulates the problem you face. You don’t jump into solving the problem but instead drill deep into the situation to understand the contours and layers of the situation. And then you publish that problem statement and get everyone to sign the piece of paper where you agree what problem you are solving. 

No one gets creative with solutions until you have a clearly defined problem. This takes a lot of discipline but is so productive to focus efforts on solving an agreed upon problem that is exceptionally well-defined. When this is achieved, the tactics and creative solutions can flow. It allows you to focus not flail because you aren’t all over the place. You align on the pain point. Everyone is clear.

Solutions searching for a problem 
I do some consulting work on weekends and evenings through Clarity. People can pick my brain and their fee is donated to charity: water.  It’s my form of pro bono work where I can give back some money through marketing consultation.

About two weeks ago, someone connected with me and spent an hour explaining to me about 5 different tactics she wanted to use to market a new product. When she stopped speaking, I asked a two-part question: What problem are you trying to solve and why will they care about you?

After about 2 minutes of silence, she said that she didn't know the answer to my question and realized that she was getting ahead of herself. She thought that since the tactics were so creative, that they would work. Unfortunately, she was unclear what precise problem she was working on. I helped to slow her down so she could think first, and than act. 

By the way, I am guilty of this sin too. Through years of mistakes and failures, I have learned that I do better if I write down the problem and get others in agreement before taking action. Like a marketing brief, the problem describing meeting gets a cross-functional team agreeing on the problem. This might shock you but sometimes marketing and sales people don't agree which problem to solve. 

Deep breath
Maybe your brand or business is running around doing stuff without a really clear understanding of why they are doing those activities. Perhaps in the rush to check things off the list, you have gotten lost in action. Maybe you need to slow things down a bit. 

If your company or brand has all piled into the car for a road trip, and no one every decided where you are heading, how will you know you arrived? Questions are powerful marketing tools that force you to define situations. Spend more time upfront defining the problem you are going to solve before you engage a team and resources taking action. Slow things down. 

Now, do you have any questions or are you planning to skip ahead? 


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