“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If it can’t be done well, it’s not worth doing at all.” -Proverb
Imagine placing fifty cents into millions of vending machines, all of which require a dollar before you can get anything out of them. In the end, you’ve spent a fortune and absolutely nothing to show for it. You wouldn’t do anything this foolish with your money- right?
But in business, we’re all guilty of doing just that. We spend countless hours writing marketing plans and brainstorming tactics, sometimes even coming up with something both original and brilliant. That original and brilliant idea then goes into the plan with all of the other brilliant initiatives the budget is spread out across all of these smart things we think we need to do.
The problem is that none of these initiatives has any chance of reaching critical mass.
Why? Imagine a line that moves through time. Above this imaginary line you capture your audience’s attention, below this line you don’t. It really can be this absolute, since there is no such thing as almost getting noticed. I always preferred to run well below the line for most of the year, which allowed me to focus my resources and take at least one really strong leap above the line annually.
Limited opportunity for attention means that you need to take each of your tactics or marketing initiatives and prioritize them based on such criteria as strategic importance, marketplace impact and expected cost efficiency. Next, calculate the ‘cost of success’ Â for each of these initiatives. The ‘cost of success’ should be a real, honest assessment of what it will take for this initiative to work in the marketplace. It’s easy to underestimate how much it takes to get attention from real people out in the real world.
Now, determine how many of your priorities you can afford before you budget runs out. These should be the only projects that get the green light. Do it to effect or don’t do it at all needs to be your guiding philosophy. Once again, be absolutely ruthless with your priority setting. You’ll end up doing less, but you’ll do better.
All of this is just common sense. So why is it so hard to do?
Answer: politics and organizational structure. Different groups want their slice of the budget and it’s hard to say no. A leading retailer with whom I worked with many years ago had a marketing budget in excess of $500 million. Lots of potential for critical mass there. But by the time it was divided amongst every department, critical mass was nowhere to be found.
This is exactly the wrong approach, because for all that money spent, no single initiative ever rose above that invisible attention-getting line. Had the company focused the budget on a smaller number of high priority marketing programs, it could have had a huge marketplace impact throughout the year.
The task, then, is to create critical mass, somehow, somewhere, sometime. This may seem like a dream to some marketers, but that’s an error of perspective. It’s far better to get noticed by one person than to get almost noticed by thousands. Should we be content to forever fall short? It’s the CFO’s fault- right?
So how do you actively create critical mass?
-Believe in what you’ve just read here and apply it ruthlessly
-Limit your core audience
-Limit your geography
-Limit the time frame
-Limit the media mix
-Limit the vehicles used within the selected medium, even if it means advertising in a single television program. (But own that show!)
In other words, always own a slice of a communications channel- and therefore of your prospect’s attention- no matter how thin that slice might be. Then use success on that narrow front to gain a bigger budget and thicker slice.
Meanwhile, it’s good practice to test a few of the proposed initiatives that didn’t make the cut. Test them in a limited geography, time frame or against a limited audience. Once you have a sense of their positive potential, flag those initiatives for next year’s critical mass priority.
Tune in next week when Austin lures us back into the proverbial ‘box’ and gets your brand back on strategy.