Marketing Tips #1: Think Strategically Not Tactically

Very often when Gray Matters is asked for marketing help, the request is for what I would call “tactical” help:

  • “Our website is terrible.”
  • “We need better press coverage.”
  • “Our marketing materials look outdated.”
  • “Should we be on Twitter and Facebook?”
  • Etc.

One or two questions, however, often change the topic of the discussion to communications strategy rather than tactics.  The questions are along the lines of:

  • “Who are you trying to reach with your tactic(s)?”
  • “What message do you want them to take away?”
  • “What are you trying to get them to do?”

All too often, the people we are meeting with do not have clear, well thought out answers to these basic questions.  “Funders”, or “volunteers”, or “people who could use our service” are frequent answers.  There is, of course, nothing wrong with these answers.  They just don’t go far enough in order to start developing or improving communication tactics.

It is no secret to any of us that we live in an age of information and message overload.  Combine this with “multitasking” and MTV-driven attention spans, and anyone trying to get a message across is facing an uphill battle!  Therefore, to be effective, the message has to be clear, concise, and focused on a specific target.  It can’t be subtle, muddled, or trying to serve multiple audiences.   Most importantly, it must be very clear what action it wants the target of the message to take.  That is, it must have an explicit “call to action”.

In order to accomplish this, organizations must know exactly what their objectives are for their message, who is to receive it, and what they want the target to do as a result.  The only way I know how to achieve this is by starting with clear objectives and a strategy for achieving them.

I have visited more than one organization’s website at their request only to find after a half hour or so on the site, that I had no idea what the organization did, let alone what they wanted from me or what they were offering to do for me.  They might provide a lot of general information and photos, but really don’t say what they can do for me (as a potential user of their services).  Or they might tell me all about what good works they do, but don’t tell me how I can support their work.

All of these are signs of a lack of a communication strategy.  So, in short, before you worry about how to deliver your message, you need to be very clear on what that message is, who it is aimed at, and what action you want the message to bring about.

If you feel your organization could use our help in developing your messaging strategy or on a range of issues, find out how to get help from Gray Matters.

Posted by Rick Kendall


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