Documentation and Profitability – Together Forever: Part VIIb.
Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? You’ve had a successful run with your target demographic. But, sales are slipping; the current program is just not as effective as it once was. So, you’re thinking of changing your aim.
Of course, that raises the question of changing from what to what. And that’s where documentation difficulties can rear their ugly heads.
Do you have an audit trail for the existing campaign? That is, did you research your strategy, plan your tactics, write your ads to fit your plan, and market the product to fully exploit your research and planning? If so, great. You have a solid base to work from.
If not – if some of the history, the planning, and the research is not available – your job has just become harder. After all, it is a truism that you can’t plan a journey unless you know where you are and where you want to go. And you really don’t know where you are and how you got there if you don’t have the map you used. For example, why did you select your theme? What research pointed you at your target demographic? Why did you structure your ads that way?
Sure, you may think that you don’t need a history lesson to figure out why the marketing campaign is no longer effective. But, knowing the story behind the original campaign will give you a BIG heads up in your analysis. With it you can study the original campaign’s origins, and the assumptions and projections that were used in its design. And, you can put its results on a time line. One you’ve done that, you can overlay the reality of today’s market, isolate the problem areas, and design a campaign that returns profitability to your target level. Furthermore, your knowledge of past problems, present problems, and strengths will help you design a campaign that can adjust to the inevitable changes in your target demographic and the world around it.
Suppose you don’t have the history of the original campaign and you design a new marketing program using only the results that have disappointed you. You’ll have to make some assumptions before you can go ahead and say that X isn’t working so I’ll try Y. That carries a risk because you won’t know if a flaw in the original analysis or some other reason caused X’s failure. That sort of unknown could cause a flawed analysis to carry over into the new campaign, condemning you to repeat the mistakes of the past.
On the other hand, you might luck out and design a program that succeeds magnificently. But, will it be a repeatable success? Will you be able to come up with an equally good program when this one finally has run its course if you’re basically shooting from the hip? Inadequate or missing documentation seriously erodes repeatability. Sooner or later you’ll crash.
Another point. How will you know that the program you’ve designed without the aid of the previous campaign’s history is a success? Obviously you’ll know after it has run for a while. By then though, it’ll too late to call it back if it’s less than successful. What if you had the history and it pointed out that a similar program was less than successful. Wouldn’t it be handy to have a campaign’s history to help you avoid the cost and embarrassment of launching a program only to see it sputter along or crash? Wouldn’t you rather have the history and use it as a tutorial to avoid likely problems and increase the likelihood that your program will be a success?
It’s not that hard to organize and maintain a database that includes such information as research, analysis, assumptions, emails, web sites/pages, cold calling scripts, banner ads, newspaper inserts, white papers, case studies, etc. You might even consider it a profit center as it accumulates more and more useful information and returns increasingly successful campaigns.
Next week we’ll talk about refreshing a campaign.
(c) 2011 Richard H. Gregory