Ask this question and prevent marketing campaigns from failing to meet expectations

Many years ago, I managed a large media relations campaign for a destination marketing organization. They asked my team at the time to generate media hits. So, the team began pitching stories and ended up earning a few large hits with outlets such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

We couldn’t wait to report the hits to the client and let them know we came in just under their approved budget.

I still remember how rainy and overcast it was on the day we met to show the client the coverage and report our success. We spread the hits across a conference room table and the room went silent. Each of the client’s representatives had a perplexed look on their faces. I was thinking, “What could possibly be wrong? These are huge hits.”

My first thought was they were not happy with the photos. My second was there must be incorrect information or typos we didn’t see.

The silence went on for a few minutes when I took a deep breath and asked what the group thought. They looked at each other in silence somehow understanding what the other was thinking without talking. The marketing team leader looked at me and asked, “Where’s the rest of it?”

Never assume you know what a client, your boss or stakeholders want to accomplish

The reason why our client was unhappy was because we didn’t obtain the media coverage they were expecting. There was no debate on the value in the media hits from the larger outlets, but what I failed to understand was what success looked like to the client.

After further discussion, we then understood the client wanted a larger number of media clips even if those were from smaller daily and weekly newspapers in their target markets. Success to them was the total number of clips not the quality of the clips.

While I may disagree with their definition for success, I failed them by not asking a valuable question. To this day, I always begin a project with asking the client, “What does success look like to you?”

From a meeting to any type of marketing campaign, knowing what success looks like helps you focus your efforts and resources

When you kick off every project by asking, “What does success look like to you?” you have a clear understanding of what the client expects. You know who they want to target, what action they want the target audience to take and how to measure properly for evaluation.

Clients are human, and humans often do not communicate what they are thinking. If success for them is gaining new followers and page likes on their social media channels, you need to collect the necessary data to show that increase. Tracking engagement is meaningful data, but it might not meet their current needs or match the goal of the project.

This is also a simple solution to prevent meetings that drone on for an hour or longer and end with no actionable items. Just ask the meeting group what success for the meeting looks like, and it will surprise you how the discussion will stay on topic better. You will leave with actionable items while reducing the time spent in meetings.

Make success a standard by asking the right questions

I encourage you to use the outcome from this lesson I learned after 20 years of professional marketing experience. Use it, adapt it to your needs and let me know how it is working for you.

Photo by Nick Cowie from FreeImages

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