Marketing leaders are stuck. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the planning season is filled with the pressure to pump out more and yet do so with shrinking budgets needed to get there. Not to mention the new mandates hitting our plates such as digital transformation and growing accounts, as our recent research shows. As means to an end, we often fall back on trusty activities we’ve always done. Simultaneously, we throw in some new-to-us tactics just because we feel like we need to in order to keep up with our peers. Tradeshows? Check. Personalization? Check. Web refresh? Check.
However, we often fail to take the time to assess the true efficacy of these activities against our objectives. It’s very likely it has been years since we really thought about (or even measured!) how much impact tradeshows have on our top line priorities, or whether there’s going to be a return on 1:1 personalization. Times change and we’re getting busier, so we need to get smarter about how we’re planning. That way, we can feel more confident that we’re using our dollars and time in the best possible way to drive impact.
How can we get smarter about planning and build confidence? Well, our peers over at Vitamix have a truly effective and simple framework for thinking strategically about the tactics and initiatives they know they need to be successful in the coming year. With it, they can narrow down the scope of their efforts and build a business case for those bigger initiatives.
The Ideation Framework
This framework is one that can help us take on some of today’s biggest marketing challenges. Through a series of brainstorm – gut check – prioritize exercises, teams using this framework can think critically about closing gaps by asking themselves a few key questions:
- What are we trying to do? – Our end goal and how we will measure success
- Who should we be focusing on and what do we want them to do? – The target segment and behavior are we trying to drive
- What’s keeping these stakeholders from doing it? – The barriers those stakeholders face in behaving in the way we need them to
- What can we do about it? – The solution can we put into place to mitigate or overcome those barriers
- What will that look like in action? – The tactic that will make that solution possible
With these questions, we kick off a strategic thinking process that makes sure we’re setting our objectives before identifying a tactic – instead of the classic ‘ready – fire – aim’ approach. So, as we move forward with our mandate to be commercial partners – for example, to help drive growth across small business accounts, what would our most effective initiative be to help us get there?
For this framework to be effective, we must be ready to do the following:
- Be honest – What do we really need to do (not just what we want to do) and how might we even be the problem? Be wary of trying to reverse engineer and end state.
- Brainstorm – Throw spaghetti at the wall and be exhaustive in all the barriers and solutions. Feel free to turn this into a team-wide exercise to leverage diverse creative and strategic thinking
- Be realistic – Not all barriers can be solved at once, and not all solutions are feasible (or worth the effort).
- Validate – Your guesses for barriers (and relevant solutions) could be great, but without validation by critical stakeholders, you could be following a dead end. Speak to your stakeholders (customers, internal peers, consumers, etc) and gut check your barriers before moving forward.
- Prioritize – Don’t feel like this has to be done for every initiative on your plate. Pick the most critical to achieve, or where you’ve got the most to gain from achieving it.
- Build the muscle – overtime this will become a habitual thought process, and brainstorming gets easier. If you struggle through the first, or even second rounds, keep going – it will become muscle memory.
As you settle into planning season and think about how to optimize your initiatives, consider working through this framework. This process the critical framework components:
Think strategically about what your team is doing, and why. To be better able to drive the impact you need within your organization, the effort is well worth it. If you’d like walk through how to bring this to your own team and how your peers have leveraged this framework, reach out to schedule an inquiry – we’re always happy to help.