Those who win in Fantasy Football have two things in their favor: good players and luck. Picking the best players in the league does not guarantee success, because there are injuries, trades and flat-out bad seasons.
Many variables affect the outcome of the game, just as in business. Aside from luck, you want to pick the right opportunities to grow your business, just as you would want to choose the best players to improve your chances of winning.
Unfortunately, there's no crystal ball to tell you which opportunities will succeed and which will fail. Instead, you can arm yourself with information to help make the right decisions. What process or evaluation model would ensure your decisions have a better chance for success? How do you evaluate opportunities instead of relying on luck?
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This Week's Dilemma
I have a number of opportunities or alternative products/services that could expand my business. I am not sure what evaluation model or process to implement to compare the opportunities. How do I evaluate those opportunities?
Presenting one voice to different markets
My company is technology based, and over the years it has developed into three distinct business units: enterprise interoperability software products, portable device engineering services, and wireless device software products. We market to a wide range of target customers. I am sure this is a problem for many large companies. How do we create and ensure a consistent corporate message that encompasses all of our businesses?
—David Warkentin, VP Sales Marketing, Intrinsyc Software
Summary of Advice Received
David, it is difficult to ensure that a company, especially a large one, communicates as one rather than sounding like the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Readers explain how to speak with one voice to different markets:
1. Create a single corporate message.
2. Identify the primary offering.
3. Focus on the audience.
1. Create a single corporate message
The most popular advice is to create a corporate message or brand. Sending mixed messages means you may not have such a single corporate message, and it's time to create one. Barry Vusko, creative director with Firestar Communications, explains what to do once your company figures out its message:
It needs a "unifier." This unifier is most likely a high-level marketing person (VP of marketing, director of creative services, etc.) who can…oversee brand and messaging across the business units. This person works with unit heads and managers to determine how the corporate brand best combines with the business of each individual unit. This is a big job and requires the unifier to understand the business of all the units as well as the targets and their needs.
Some of the artifacts that may come out of this sort of work are a management-approved brand model; a marketing plan showing each major unit delineated as to how the brand applies most to it and its "product;" and a creative brief. This final piece is the "rulebook" for anyone who does any sort of corporate communication—and is a direct siphon from the brand model and marketing plan. Following a creative brief ensures that all communications—internally or externally—are consistent. This is clearly the short answer to a question that can elicit books.
Another reader recommends looking at this complicated situation in its simplest form. The solution lies in developing an integrated communication approach:
The key to this is synergy, delivering a clear consistent message to customers and prospective customers. First, look at how you want the organization to be perceived. What are the key values that need to be conveyed? What differentiates you from competitors? How can you follow your strategic marketing plan? Second, look at how these messages will be communicated. Although messages can differ in content, they must always coincide with the organizations' key values. All communications must be integrated and clear in order to avoid confusion or lessen impact.
Understandably, different departments will wish to communicate their own messages for their own benefits. It is important that departments are integrated and all marketing communications go through the relevant checks to ensure they contain the same underlying message. The corporate identity needs to be applied to all communications to increase effectiveness and recognition of the organization, so it's obvious from where the communication originated.
Adrian Woodliffe, director at GENISIS, poses questions to consider when dealing with this issue:
Do you have a sound brand identity guide that addresses brand "voice" both visual and verbal? If not—it might pay to get one and make sure it is well and truly embedded into all business units with a brand caretaker appointed within each to ensure consistency of "voice."
As with members of any family, the same message may be delivered, but in different styles, languages and even media. In your situation, David, I have no doubt the audiences will be different and that nuance needs to be recognized also. Celebrate those differences, but just make sure that the core message is the same.
You have also raised a typical example of what happens as companies grow. Is your brand structure/system right for the company's business strategies? Just how independent are these units growing? Are they profit centers in their own right? Do you need to recognize the evolution that is occurring and accord these units their own (sub) brands? And have you asked the units whether they truly believe that they still have the same message to deliver OR (as I suspect) that they each have their own unique message now?
2. Identify the primary offering
In addition to developing a single message, it's important to make sure everyone knows exactly what your company provides: what your primary products or services are, regardless of the markets targeted.
Donna Mellion, vice-president corporate communications with Landstar System, Inc., shares her company's experience:
We represent six operating companies and a holding company in the transportation industry. In addition to 1,200 administrative employees, our operating companies are composed of 10,000 small business owners and other third-party capacity providers strategically located throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. You might think we're selling freight transportation services and we are, but they are a secondary product. We define ourselves through the following primary products:
- We are in the small business or third-party business.
- We are in the information technology business.
- We are in the safety business.
Every marketing, recruiting or sales strategy sells these three ideas. Translated it sounds like: It's our business to help you be successful in your business. We develop and provide you with the tools necessary to be successful in your business. Our extensive safety program protects you and your business. If you're on a tight budget, as we are, the wide-shot approach might be effective. It works well for us.
Chuck Penner, director of marketing strategy at Blacksheep Strategy, suggests the corporate message transcends the product offering:
We have worked with a number of companies who have struggled to raise their sights above the product they make or the service they provide. And tech companies tend to struggle the most, often because of the jargon. The solution involves digging into the intangible benefits of the company's tangible offering. It goes deeper than the usual "features/advantages/benefits" discussion.
Starting with the overall product features, keep drilling down by reiterating, "in order to..." until you discover some key commonalities. Typically, we find that at some level, the threads come together. In your case (based solely on your product line description), it may relate to breaking down barriers or making connections.
3. Focus on the audience
Alex Nathanson, corporate marketing brand manager at Rain Bird Corporation, believes that your message depends on the audience. In some cases, a company may need one unified message, while in others it may need multiple messages:
If multiple divisions speak to the same audience, then it is vital to come up with a consistent message to avoid confusion. However, if each division has its own distinct audience with no overlap, then a single central message might not resonate at all. You might create a single message that fails equally for all divisions.
It's more important to take a step back and look at the core values and brand promise of your company. Are there any commonalities between your divisions? Are there two to three core corporate values that set your company apart? How are your divisions positioned in each market? Take a look at companies like GE with completely different divisions. They share some common branding and presentation, but each has its own message.
Create a single corporate message surrounding the key offering based on the audience, and communicate that message throughout the company.
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