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Marchand--Assessing Parts, Developing Programs

May 1998
Here's an idea for a marketing activity so obvious, it's easy to overlook. So basic, it works for all kinds of graphic arts operations.

Most companies define their programs as the sum of their marketing activities. Asked about programs, more than a few marketing and sales executives respond with a list: a company brochure, several mailed pieces, a Web site, a newsletter, lead generation activities and an annual open house—programs found at many companies. Do these add up to a marketing program? Maybe so, maybe not.

It's not the items on the list that determine whether the activities constitute a program. The activities are tactics. What they add up to is seldom articulated and frequently unclear.

Much Ado About Nothing
For example, someone makes the case that heightened visibility would be a good thing for the company. Who could disagree? A publicist gets coverage for the company in trade and business publications read by its customers. A good thing, we all agree. But toward what end? How do we use the coverage and how exactly do we evaluate the outcome?

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, sums are not inevitably greater than their parts. In fact, they may add up to less. Much ado about very little (if not nothing).

Building a program is about more than piling up activities. It requires the articulation of a strategy. What are the company's objectives? What are the goals that can serve as mileposts—measurable accomplishments, previously agreed upon steps—on the road toward realizing our objectives?

Examining Activities
However valuable our marketing activities may be, they have much less value than they might if we don't ask these questions. Answering them is the first step. Next comes the central element of the audit process: a review of existing activities. This entails the asking of second-level questions, specific to the activities. Here are seven questions you might ask about your company's marketing activities.

1. Is our brochure more than a vanity piece? A company brochure is a strategic piece, so we should ask what objectives it accomplishes. Specifically! What are the intended audiences? Does it speak to them in their language; does it define value to them? (These last two questions are also relevant to numbers two and four, below.)

2. Does the newsletter address particular goals (stimulate demand for use of an FTP site, for example, or increase use of mailing capabilities)? Do we get more than complimentary feedback from the newsletter? Does it contain a response mechanism that allows us to evaluate its effectiveness?



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