As a kid, I never seemed to be far away from a sport of some kind. Football, basketball, baseball or soccer, it didn’t matter. I loved to compete at anything, in large part because I loved to win. It’s why this quote from Vince Lombardi resonates so strongly with me:
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-the-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.”
Winning on the field isn’t all that different from creating marketing campaigns that win for our clients. So, if winning is a habit, how do we go about creating campaigns that win consistently for our clients? Here are three things we do to develop strategies that win:
1) Clearly defining what a win looks like — and making sure everyone is on board:
As simple as it sounds, making sure the objectives of what you’re trying to accomplish are clearly outlined can be one of the most important things you can do to ensure campaign success. Goals can’t be reached if they aren’t defined and then referenced often.
The second part of the statement is equally important. In sports, a unified team working toward a common goal is more likely to win than a group of individuals who are chasing their own goals. Making sure everyone on the team — including the agency, client and any vendors engaged in the work — not only understands what the objectives are but are also brought in and aligned, can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful campaign.
2) Know all the players (the audience, the client, their competitors and the category):
It’s much easier to win as a team when everyone knows the strengths and weaknesses of who they’re up against. Identifying these mismatches can give a strong advantage. Similarly, when creating marketing campaigns, it’s important to understand who the players are, and what roles they play. A winning strategy connects these elements by highlighting the strengths of the product or service offered by the client and pairing it with a need of a consumer, in an unexpected but insightful and differentiated way.
Audience: Starting with the “who” can be an important first step. To win, these are the people you need to take immediate interest in. Taking this step is easier when you understand their needs and motivators. Some important questions to ask to reach that understanding might include:
- What does the audience look like?
- What are the needs they want met, both rational and emotional?
- Why do they have these needs?
- What are other ways they might fulfill these needs?
- Where can you find them?
Client: Understanding what the client’s product or service is, and the value it brings to the audience, is critical. Having this understanding can be used to express why your client and their product/service/offering fulfills a need for the audience better than someone else.
Competitors: In most cases, someone else is fighting for the same set of consumers that you are. Knowing what they are saying, and how and where they are saying it, can help to ensure that the work you develop resonates and differentiates in a meaningful way.
Category: Understanding what external factors in the category are taking place in the market can dramatically impact a successful strategy. These factors include anything that could affect the approach to the market. Government regulations, laws, emerging technologies and new entrants to the market are just a few of the items that could impact the category.
Combining information on the audience, category and competition from multiple sources, including secondary research, behavioral data, primary research (when needed) and even in-market live testing, can uncover key insights to shape a winning strategy. In cases where the degree of certainty needs to be higher, more time should be allocated upfront to discovery against these elements to make sure the strategy connects.
3) Execute … and then evolve:
Like sports, once the game kicks off, at times the best laid plans need to be adapted to unforeseen changes. This doesn’t mean throwing out all the practice and work that’s been done to get ready. What a win looks like won’t change. The players on your team and their strengths aren’t going to be different. How others respond and react, however, may be different than anticipated. Adjust based on live learnings with the initial strategy still in mind. Sometimes the opportunity comes up to be bold or take some risks. When these risks align with the strategy, goals and objectives, don’t be afraid to take them! Doing the same thing over and over will yield similar, if not diminishing, results over time.
Once the campaign wraps, win or lose, it’s important to regroup and walk through what worked and what didn’t and understand why. Having a well-defined and outlined strategy to refer to will lead to a more tightly defined strategy the next round, which means more (and hopefully bigger) wins. The more tightly aligned you can be with a sound strategy, the more likely you are to make winning a habit. And at the end, that’s what we strive to do for our clients.