Aiming Better: A Strategist’s Approach

Ready…. Fire…. Aim!

Unfortunately this happens all too often in the marketing and advertising industry. We’re asked to write copy without knowing the audience, create a digital campaign without knowing the placement, or start any project without knowing the ultimate goal—is it a website click or an app download or maybe just to educate customers.

In our industry, we’ve all been there—under pressure to demonstrate fast results, we jump in without taking the time to fully think through what we’re trying to achieve and how it will work. We’ll save time by figuring it out as we go, right?

We feel like we’re making progress. But then new information comes. Unknown stakeholders provide input. New segments or timelines appear seemingly out of thin air. It all leads to revisions, versions, cycles. In the worst cases, the budget is already spent, the deadlines have long passed, and both the clients and the team are frustrated.

To help avoid these pitfalls, our strategy team developed four sets of questions that should be answered before we write a line of copy or start the design. That’s right: aiming before the team fires.

Answer these questions to aim your project before you fire:

1. Objective
What are you trying to achieve?
  • What are you trying to achieve for the customer or for the business?
  • Why do you want to achieve the objective? For example, does it address a customer pain point or is it tied to business objectives?
2. Audience
Who are you trying to reach?
  • What segment or target market are you trying to reach?
  • Within each target market, who specifically are you trying to reach?
    1. What’s their role, skill level, industry, etc.?
    2. What’s important to know about that person?
    3. What are their unmet needs (relative to your objective)?
3. Desired action
What does the audience need to do to help you achieve your objective?
  • What do you want your audience to think, feel, or do?
  • What are the potential moments and milestones along the way?
  • What challenges, frustrations, or blockers may prevent them from taking the action?
4. Solution design
What are the necessary deliverables, stakeholder buy-ins, and systems requirements?
  • What are you going to do to achieve your objective?
    1. If the plan will be rolled out in phases, what’s included in each phase?
    2. What’s the timing, frequency, and sequencing for each touch point?
    3. What deliverables and assets are required?
  • What data, technical, systems, and operational requirements or dependencies exist?
  • Who are the key stakeholders for the program? Do we have their support?
  • Whose resources are needed to create the program? Are they available?

We’re not saying you need six months of strategy before you start. But answering these questions can set up the project for success. Try this: On your next project, instead of saying you’ll get started right away, send along these questions or answer them yourself as best you can. See what happens when everyone aims first.