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It worked for them. Will it work for me?

During a recent meeting, I was asked about an early viral video campaign I developed way back in 2006. My client loved what we had accomplished and asked whether he should do the same thing. My answer: “Maybe, maybe not. You’re asking the wrong question.”

Marketing discussions should never┬ástart with execution. Is mobile marketing a good idea? A new TV commercial? Twitter campaign? All are useful tools if used in service of the correct objective. But there’s the rub: unless tactics are designed in service of a specific goal, a great tactic may lead you in the wrong direction. “What’s the objective?” should always┬ábe the first question of any marketing discussion.

Successful marketers start planning at the highest level. What are we trying to accomplish with the business? How will we measure results? Whom do we need to influence to move the metrics? What are their needs and objections, and what do they need to experience to change their beliefs or behavior? Is this an ownable strategy? How does it improve our ability to win in the marketplace?

Until we have addressed these questions, it is meaningless to discuss campaigns. A good idea for one business is a terrible one for another. For example, a couple of years ago when everyone was first creating their Facebook pages, one of my clients learned painfully that his target audience – Fortune 500 CEOs – at that time thought of Facebook as fluff; by promoting his page, he was undermining his credibility with the very people he was trying to impress. At the same time, of course, Facebook was proving to be a very successful tool for other businesses. It was right for them, but wrong for him.

It’s always fine to test new ideas and tactics. That’s where progress begins. All I’m saying is that before you commit major resources to something new, start with strategy. Start with insights. Only when you have clarity about how your tactic will impact your overall marketing mix and contribute to your overall success should you bet the farm.

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