When a brand isn't really a brand, it is just a company that sells things. But being brand-less has some apparent perks: the company can run an ad here, a promotion over there. It doesn't matter. There's no governing idea behind any of it when you're just a company that sells things.

The result? Random acts of marketing. And it sucks the life (and dollars) out of your company.

All too often, good money, time and thinking are wasted on knee-jerk reactions to perceived threats or opportunities…usually with poor results:

“We have to get sales NOW! Let’s do a mailer.”
“We have a trade show in a few weeks and need a give-away…”
“Know what we need? A billboard.”
“My boss likes this radio station…”

There’s a lot of activity going on. Nonetheless, many manufacturers continue to question why specific marketing activities don't seem worth their time and energy. They wonder, “Why didn't that speech I gave at the industry association produce new business for me? Why didn't our booth at the trade show attract qualified prospects? Why hasn't our new brochure demonstrated a return on our marketing investment?”

The ultimate evaluation of specific marketing activities depends on more than how well designed and executed those events are. It also depends on how well aligned they are with a larger, tightly focused marketing strategy. Activities that are well executed but that don't align with your key messages and your key audiences can confuse the marketplace about who you are and what you want to be known for.

Marketing based on hunches, upcoming events and random requests leaves you reinventing the wheel and risking confusing your staff and customers every time you go to market.

How to recognize a RAM when one is proposed:

1. Not funded

2. Not tied to business goals

3. Not integrated across marketing

4. No defined metrics for success

RAMs cost more.

A common error is to think completing a RAM or two will save money over some other strategy. “If we make this YouTube video and distribute it, we won’t need to attend all the scheduled trade shows.” But if one of your primary goals is to build an industry reputation, or to foster personal connections with major prospects who attend those shows every year, that video may not do it for you.

RAMs tend to be off-message and unfocused in their approach, oftentimes lacking in appropriate branding or conflicting with another concurrent campaign.

And while some measures may seem like prudent budget adjustments, costs can escalate if you have to go back and update, fix errors or integrate with other parts of the overall marketing plan.

Before considering any new marketing strategy, ask yourself:

• Can you define your target market and buyer personas?

• What are your company’s growth targets within that target market?

• Did you set goals and objectives for marketing to match those plans?

• What does success look like, and how will you measure it?

• Point out that ANY new marketing strategy has to be reviewed through these filters.

Establishing your vision, mission, position and marketing plan ensures a much firmer foundation from which to build and leverage key resources for the long-term.

In any case, start saying “no” to random acts of marketing. Instead:

• Plan — Start early, and put it all in writing. Begin with your goals and intended results in mind. Define your brand, key audiences, expected actions and key messaging. Think things through. For a start, consider our 11 Questions to help outline your plan.

• Research — Find out what your audience’s mindset is, where you stack up against the competition, and what key factors will get them to pay attention.

• Integrate — With the plan in hand, look at every possible touchpoint and message vehicle your audience will have with your company. Decide what role each will play in telling your story to the customer.

• Align — Make sure all those touchpoints and messages build on each other and are cohesive. Be careful that they line up with your goal, vision, mission and position. And above all, make sure your staff (those who have to deliver on the message) fully understands what’s being said and how they are expected to deliver on it.

• Experience — Walk through the intended experience you want for the customer. Use all your senses. Think of how you want them to feel at each step along the way. Those feelings are what will keep them coming back…far greater than simply best price or quality claims.

• Test — Find out how it plays in the market…on a small sample first, if possible. Then tinker and adjust until it’s working right. But be sure to pay attention to your intended audience…not the many voices that surround you which may lead to confusion and mis-focus.

Sounds like a lot of work? It is…especially the first time through as you’re building your plan. But it’s worth it, and will save you time, money, and frustrations in the future. It even becomes OK to experiment at that point and have some fun with new ideas…just make sure they line up with the plan and your objectives. And when those random opportunities or requests come along, you can react with greater confidence and ease.