Is your marketing & PR program like seven year olds playing soccer?

On the speaking circuit and via my blog, I am often asked to critique marketing programs, Web sites, and blogs. My typical response, "What’s the goal?" often throws people off. It is amazing that so many marketers' and PR people's goals don’t mesh with organizational goals.

An effective web marketing and PR strategy that delivers compelling content to buyers gets them to take action. Companies that understand the new rules of marketing and PR have a clearly defined business goal—to sell products, to generate contributions, or to get people to vote or join. These successful organizations aren’t focused on the wrong goals, things like press clips and advertising awards.

This lack of clear goals and real measurement reminds me of seven-year-olds playing soccer. If you've ever seen little children on the soccer field, you know that they operate as one huge organism packed together, chasing the ball around the field. On the sidelines are helpful coaches yelling, "Pass!" or "Go to the goal!" Yet as the coaches and parents know, this effort is futile: no matter what the coach says or how many times the kids practice, the children still focus on the wrong thing—the ball—instead of the goal.

That's exactly what we marketers and PR people do. We fill our epic "to-do lists" with balls and lose sight of the goal. But do you know what's even worse? Our coaches (the management team at our companies) actually encourage us to focus on balls (like sales leads or press clips or Web site traffic statistics) instead of real objective goals. The sales vice presidents and CEOs of companies happily provide incentives based on leads for the marketing department and on clips for the PR team.

What marketers and PR people need to do is align our departmental objectives with those of the company. For most corporations, the most important goal is profitable revenue growth. In newer companies and those built around emerging technologies, this usually means generating new customers, but in mature businesses, the management team may need to be more focused on keeping the customers that they already have. Of course, nonprofits have the goal of raising money; politicians, to get out the vote; and universities, to get student applications.

Working from the perspective of the company's desire for revenue growth and customer retention (the goals), rather than focusing on made-up metrics for things like leads and press clips and Web site traffic, yields surprising changes in the typical marketing plan and organization of Web content. Web site traffic doesn't matter if your goal is revenue (however, the traffic may lead to the goal). Being ranked number one on Google for a phrase isn't important (although if your buyers care about that phrase, it can lead to the goal).

Ultimately, when marketers focus on the same goals as the rest of the organization, we develop marketing and PR programs that really deliver action and begin to contribute to the bottom line and command respect. Rather than meeting rolled eyes and snide comments about the slackers or failed salespeople in the marketing department, we're seen as part of a strategic unit that positions itself to pass the ball to get it in the goal efficiently.

David Meerman Scott

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