Let me start by setting the record straight: This article is not about making excuses, making sure you don’t get caught, or deflecting blame if something you planned goes wrong. In short, it’s not about covering your rear end. What I’m talking about instead is making sure your business is prepared to properly execute the back end of your next marketing campaign – when prospects and customers actually start responding to your marketing efforts.
If you’re like most companies, you put significant thought into planning your marketing campaigns. Frequently this work starts months before the campaign goes live, often when the budget for the year is finalized. After budgeting there are circulation plans, concept development, creative meetings, copywriting, layout and design, rounds (and rounds and rounds) of corrections, changes, and tweaks, and then the final production of the marketing pieces, whether printed (brochures, catalogs, letters, or postcards) or not (email and web sites). The above creative process can be stimulating and frustrating, sometimes at the same time. It gets those creative juices flowing. In short it’s FUN. It also takes months.
What I see happening all too often, is that during those months of planning, nobody is asking “What happens once the campaign launches? How do we fill the demand we’re expecting?”
Filling that demand is what I call the “back end” of the campaign. And the sooner you start thinking about it, the better. We plan for the back end right at the start of every campaign, allowing us to take a holistic view of all the work that needs to be done to be successful.
Items we look at include:
The goal of most marketing campaigns is two-fold: 1) generate leads to add to your database, and/or 2) generate direct sales. If you’re in lead generation mode, what are you going to offer that causes a prospect to raise her hand? Whether it’s a free catalog, a white paper, a discount coupon, or a free custom quote, you need fulfillment materials on hand. Those catalogs and white papers need to be designed and printed. Your postage machine needs to be topped off. You need letterhead, business cards, and envelopes. Get the picture? You need to have enough materials on-hand to satisfy the initial requests you’re going to receive.
If you expect direct sales from your campaign, make sure you have sufficient product inventory on hand to satisfy expected demand. Make sure your store is promoting the right products with end caps and signage (ditto for your web site). Have your suppliers standing by in case you need a rush delivery of an item that sells faster than expected. Heck, if you’re certain that a product you’re going to promote will become a big seller, you might even be able to convince suppliers ahead of time to give you a volume discount.
Communications and training
Nothing is more embarrassing than when the first would be customer calls to buy, they get a sales rep on the phone who is clueless about the campaign that just launched. Make sure everyone on your team with customer contact – receptionists, sales staff, customer service, managers – knows about the campaign that’s launching. Give them a document with the critical facts: when the campaign is launching, what it means for pricing, new products, marketing materials that need to be sent; how many requests (or purchases) are likely. Make sure you have phones and stores sufficiently staffed. And I’m sure your mailroom staff who has to fulfill all those white paper requests would also appreciate a heads up.
Communications and training only go so far. Once you go live it’s critical to monitor your team’s performance. Managers on the floor can evaluate how well your front line staff is addressing customer needs. In a telephone environment, phone monitoring can provide critical information on how well your staff is prepared. And all the monitoring in the world isn’t worth anything if it’s not combined with instant feedback. Your staff deserves proper training, and monitoring will tell you what additional training they need.
The final piece of every campaign is gauging its success. After all, how will you know if your hard-earned marketing dollars got a positive ROI? When you plan your campaign it’s imperative to put means into place to track your results. There are many easy ways to do this, including:
- add a campaign-specific source code on your marketing piece.
- send responders to a unique landing page of your web site.
- register a unique toll free number for your campaign.
- train your telephone staff to ask “how did you find out about us?”
None of the above are expensive, and all allow you to track how someone got to your web site, visited your store, or called your business. Of course, you’ll need a database to capture all that information, and some simple tools to analyze your data.
You want to track how many leads you got, how many customers bought, what your revenues were, and what your marketing campaign cost. Once you know the above you can calculate your cost per lead, cost per order, and, most importantly, whether your campaign was successful.
Your marketing campaign is not complete until you’ve executed both the front end and the back end of your campaign. The areas above are all simple and affordable to execute for small businesses. Start modestly, but make sure you start. Remember that your campaign isn’t over until the last customer has bought something.
Tony van Veen is the President of Disc Makers. He is a recovering drummer, former owner of an independent record label, and is currently so busy making and selling discs and downloads for artists and filmmakers that his music jones has to remain firmly suppressed for the time being.