If I asked you to close your eyes and imagine what needs to be aboard your sailing ship, you’d be able to come up with most of it: a sturdy mast, sails, lots of rope, food, cannonballs, dry powder, a straight anchor, and a few other things.
It might take you a while to name it all, and you might forget something- oil for lamps, or candles, for instance. The exercise is useful, though. Applied to other processes, it’s a great way to see the larger story.
How to Equip Your Ship
When creating a marketing strategy that incorporates social media, this exercise comes in handy. What follows is a sample of an idea. You can do this exercise yourself. It’s basically the first line of the post: close your eyes and think up everything required to build a project including social tools.
What will come from the experience is a process that resembles this:
Listing, Extracting Themes into Frameworks, Revising
First, you’ll list out elements you believe should be aboard your ship (or those things you need to accomplish to execute your strategy). Second, you’ll note common themes within them and pull those back to build a framework of inputs and outputs to those processes. Finally, you’ll revise your efforts until you have a “plug in, plug out” ability to test your efforts.
Here’s a sample:
Project: Improve Event Attendance/Sales
Using the idea of closing my ideas and thinking through the efforts, here’s what I come up with:
- Build email marketing databases.
- Grow the list by offering promotional content and other “free prize” offerings.
- Segment the list for better relationship management.
- Add metadata around accounts to better understand variables of each person (consider using BatchBook).
- Promote via blogs, via Twitter, via Facebook event page, via Upcoming.org, Eventful.com.
- Seek media partners like Mashable, who fits our event’s demographic. (You’d think about other organizations.)
- And let’s stop here.
So far, what you see is just tactics laid out as they came to me. But this is useful. Because once I get more of this down, I realize there are a few larger themes: promotion, understanding my audience, content creation and distribution, relationship management, outreach, more.
Extract that. Build that into a frame, and then go at it again, only this time, make the headings those themes (or the strategies you’ve picked for your goals), and then put tactics beneath them.
Continuing then with my project, only slightly revised after the first pass:
Project: Improve Event Attendance/Sales
Strategy: List Building
- Build email marketing platform.
- Determine content to trade for potential list growth.
- Decide on qualifiers for prospecting.
- Etc, etc.
Strategy: Content as List Building
And so on.
The Purpose of the Exercise
When it’s all said and done, the goal is a simple visualization effort that ties things down to a mappable frame. What you can do with that frame is add, subtract, multiply, and divide all your efforts, your experiments, your strategic tie-ins, and understand whether it all lines up.
For instance, what if we use the same process above for the same sample strategy effort, and we decide to put up a blog where we talk about the event. If the blog is sitting there just dumping content out for anyone to see, does that, in and of itself constitute a structural tie-in to your overall goal of improving attendance? Not without a call to action. Does it muddy other strategic goals? Maybe.
The point is this: once you start equipping your ship, you’ll see pieces that are necessary. Once you work backwards from that list to figure out the frameworks required, you’ll see how to plug in and plug out various pieces of the model.
As a planning method, it’s simple, and yet effective. Now, ask yourself this: what are your goals that you’re hoping to apply social media and online marketing to accomplish, and can you list out all the pieces you’ll need to make those goals successful? With that list, can you extract themes and build a framework? With that framework, can you plug in and plug out various aspects of your efforts for testing and improving?
Once you’ve done this exercise a few times, and after you’ve run it through that third phase of plugging in and out various components of your plan, the next phase is to understand where your framework can be productized and applied against other opportunities.
Did we miss anything in this method? Any questions? How can you extrapolate these ideas and use them differently?
This is part of a series that started with While Others Paint the Trim. There are two more left in the series. If you don’t want to miss them, please consider subscribe for free, and you’ll receive them. When it’s all said and done, there will be a free ebook for you to take with you.
Photo credit Chuck the Photographer