Have you heard the allegory about the boiling frog?
A frog is put into a pot of water and happily swims around, oblivious to any peril. Then the heat gets turned on. The water in the pot gets warmer, and then a little bit warmer, and even warmer, but it happens so slowly that the frog barely even notices. Eventually, though, the water and the frog both boil. The short fable is meant as a lesson that not all dangers pose a sudden or immediate threat, some come on gradually.
But there’s another moral to the story worth considering:
The frog was actually a goner the moment it was delivered to the pot and everybody else knew it except for the frog. In that respect, it wasn’t the hot water that killed the frog, it was the naive decision that sitting in a pot on top of a stove was a reasonable and safe place to be. Business leaders, unfortunately, tend to learn a similar (though less harsh) lesson through their marketing efforts.
Often, executives invest in marketing tactics — search engine optimization, direct mail, radio advertising, social media, etc. — without really asking if, or considering how, those efforts are likely to produce the outcomes they want. Then they end up disappointed four, six, or nine months later.
From one perspective, that failure came on so gradually that it was hard to notice at first, until finally it was too late: the money was lost, no tangible results were produced, and the marketing firm or individual that was hired to do the work was either put on notice or fired outright.
On the other hand, though — like the frog — that marketing plan was dead the moment the CEO signed off on it, and it would have been apparent to all from day one if there was only some awareness about how the chosen tactics were (or, more aptly, were not) designed to produce the desired results.
Good marketing tactics are chosen based on four points of alignment:
- The results the tactics are likely to produce should be aligned with company objectives as a business. For example, an investment in billboards is likely to create awareness for your brand but you are likely to be disappointed if your desired outcome from buying billboards is a significant increase in topline revenue and not just awareness.
- The cost to invest in those tactics (and invest appropriately) should be aligned with your budget. For example, a business executive may aspire to run a Super Bowl ad, but relatively few have the budget to do it and do it well.
- The tactics you choose need to align with the behavioral patterns of the people you are marketing to. For example, an investment in Facebook advertising is likely to fall flat if your audience is primarily Generation Z, who believe that Facebook is a platform for their parents.
- The tactics you choose need to align with the portion of the sales process that you want to influence. For example, if you believe that customer retention is the biggest weakness in your sales and marketing process, investing in efforts likely to influence new customer acquisition, like search engine ads, will likely not help.
More thought and planning early on, along with a better understanding of your surroundings as you prepare to invest, can help your marketing efforts avoid the fate of the frog. You actually don’t need to sit in the pot and wait nervously to see if the water starts boiling or not — it’s actually possible to avoid the danger on day one.
No one wants to be the frog.