Want better results? Dig deep.

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Looking for better results from your marketing and branding efforts? The answer may be as simple as digging a little deeper.

Too often, we opt for the fast, easy or cheap choice, when it’s really the accurate choice that we need. As budgets are reduced, this pressure increases. When this happens, we sacrifice long-term benefits for short-term convenience.

The Horrors of Not Digging Deep

I see it happen all the time. I know of one brand manager who waited until the last minute to create his annual marketing plan. With his back against the wall, he simply added 5% to the previous year’s sales and spending assumptions, and submitted it for approval.

That’s not the scary part of the story. The scary part is that this “plan” was approved by management with a minimum of questions.

The idea of a marketing plan is that you consider the best available data, form and challenge assumptions, and create new ideas that will get you to your objectives. If you want a better marketing plan, you have to dig deep.

Another horror story: A marketing manager for a category-leading brand told me about an incident with her agency, a major player in the advertising world. She asked the agency team to develop a set of possible taglines for her brand, and to recommend one. Their recommendation, it turned out, was nearly identical to another brand’s tagline. Even worse, that brand was also in her company’s portfolio!

The agency hadn’t done even the most basic exploration before starting its tagline work. The failure to dig deep corresponded to a failure in the mission itself.

Better Results Come From Digging Deep as a Process

This is why, when I’m working with a client to build a positioning statement, the process takes months, not weeks. Visualize three overlapping circles: One labeled “company,” one labeled “competitors,” and the last labeled “consumers.” Your ideal brand positioning is found at the intersection of these three circles. And the better the information you gather within each circle, the stronger your positioning will be.

So, before we start any work on the positioning statement itself, we dig deep. We might interview company leaders, survey employees, take a tour of the client’s manufacturing facilities, analyze strategic and marketing plans, and audit client communications from the past three years. And that’s just for the “company” circle!

The other two circles receive their due diligence as well. For example, some well-conceived market research is often useful in order to determine what consumers truly think about the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Or we may identify latent consumer needs – those insights that have the potential to shake up the game and provide real differentiation.

Then we take all of that information and put it to use in the form of a “visioning session.” Here, company employees are able to create bold, tangible answers to the questions of what the brand will stand for, who it will serve, and how it will do that.

The process takes time. Clients sometimes ask if it can be done faster. And it can, but at what expense? I could hand you a positioning statement a day after meeting you, but it wouldn’t be the right one. The real value of a positioning statement is in its long-term benefits – sharper focus, smarter targeting, enhanced marketing efficiency and effectiveness. So it actually saves money to do it right.

The next time you’re thinking about cutting corners, consider the real costs. Sure, things like market research can be expensive. But if the research is well-constructed and objective-driven, it will help you to make better decisions in the future. (That’s really the only reason to field research, right?) In doing so, you minimize the potential costs of a bad decision – costs that may be incurred, even unknowingly, for years.

The big insights – the ones that change the game – aren’t just sitting there on the surface. For better results, dig deep.

A version of this post appeared in the April 3, 2009, edition of the Business Courier of Cincinnati.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2009 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

One Reply to “Want better results? Dig deep.”

  1. Love the positioning trifecta image – I have myself rushed into ventures or situations due to time restraints only to find it was the wrong move or partnership for my goals. I am currently branding my non-profit and find your insight provocative.

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