Marketing programs cover a lot of ground. These programs are widely variable in such qualities as:
- Expense range
- Time to execution
- Labor intensiveness
- Ability to be tied to ROI
- Skill set required
- And many more.
It can get pretty complex. Therefore to facilitate planning and organization of our thinking about marketing programs, I use the framework I call the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Marketing Departments. This framework captures and organizes the most basic marketing program types in use by high tech companies today. It’s meant to be an aid to thinking, not a proscriptive, dogmatic requirements document. In other words, it may be that for the specifics of your marketing program you choose not to do one or more of these habits (or that your business has something special that doesn’t sit on this list). However, the bulk of high tech companies are covering this entire framework and doing little that falls outside it. Therefore, it’s a good tool for anyone who is creating a marketing plan or who is thinking critically about the program mix with an eye to improving it.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Marketing Departments are:
- Direct mail
- Public relations
- Collateral and sales tools
- Channel marketing
Not necessarily in that order, depending on the specifics of your business. I’m expecting to get into a great deal more depth on all seven of these topics in the months and years to come, but for today I’ll just define the categories.
Advertising. Advertising includes all paid placements for your marketing messages in media or venues that someone else controls. Advertising can be purely direct-driven, with a call to action that may even be asking for a sale, or purely brand-driven, or anything in between. Advertising includes print, online, broadcast, outdoor, in-product, or others. If you have a newsletter and I buy a blurb at the bottom of it, that’s advertising. If I sponsor Masterpiece Theater on the local PBS station and I get a five-second bumper before the show, that’s advertising. If I negotiate with a software vendor to build a link into its product that promotes my after-market add-on, that’s advertising.
Direct mail. Direct mail is any marketing program whereby I push my message out in mass to targeted lists that meet specific criteria I set out. Direct mail can be physical “junk” mail, or direct e-mail, or communications using other mechanisms such as RSS subscriber lists. Most direct mail is call-to-action oriented and intended to drive ROI, but that’s an accident of what direct mail tends to be good at, not a requirement of the program type. If you send renewal notices by e-mail to your service subscribers, that’s direct mail. If you send gift baskets to your large accounts every holiday season with no call to action at all, that’s also direct mail.
Events. Events are timely. Events are run by the company or its partner during a specific time period for a specific target audience with a specific end in mind. Events tend to be a little less direct-response oriented, but they don’t need to be. Events include trade shows, webinars, limited-time feel-good offers, and parties. If you get a booth at CES, that’s an event. If you create and run your own trade show, that’s an event. If you take customers or prospects out to a hockey game, that’s an event.
Public relations. Most marketing programs are what we call controlled communications, meaning the company chooses exactly what will be said. If you create an ad or make booth signage or write a sales script, that’s a controlled communication. Public relations encompasses all activities seeking to influence uncontrolled communications that are generally visible to the interested public. Public relations includes press relations, investor relations, analyst relations, social marketing, and word-of-mouth marketing. If you do a press tour and call on the New York Times, that’s public relations. If you run a Twitter feed, that’s public relations. If you comment on someone’s blog, that’s public relations, too.
Note that I have a strong personal habit of using the abbreviation PR. In the high tech marketing world PR can sometimes mean public relations in the broad sense and sometimes mean press relations in the narrow sense. I, too, use it contextually. I’ll be sensitive to being clear about which usage I mean at which time.
Web. At this late date in history all technology sold to the public depends on the web, at least for distribution of marketing messages and typically for lead generation, support, and often actual order taking and fulfillment. Web includes static site content, knowledge bases, SEO/SEM, and web analytics. Companies can have multiple sites based on different geographies, brands, customer bases, and uses of the site.
Collateral and sales tools. These are the marketing assets you create, either for direct customer consumption or to enable your sales team. Data sheets, white papers, slide decks, and videos are all collateral or sales tools. ROI calculators and product selection wizards are sales tools. But so is a sales script or a few bullets or a key stats document. Sales tools and collateral don’t have to be fancy. They just have to be effective.
Oftentimes I and others refer to the deliverables in this category as assets.
Channel marketing. Channel marketing refers to a your reseller channel, if you have one. Channel marketing can encompass all of the above categories. In other words, you may need assets for your channel or a web site for them or you may direct market to your channel. What’s specific to this category is that it doesn’t encompass programs aimed at the end customer. Rather, channel marketing is aimed at your resellers and seeks to make them more effective. Sales training modules for your own team are sales tools, but the same modules for your resellers are channel marketing.