Sometimes the hardest part of developing your marketing strategy is finding the right questions to ask in order to actually get started. At the beginning, it all feels a little bit too big to even wrap your mind around. There are so many channels, so many potential buyers, so much collateral you could be producing. Especially if you’re not an experienced marketer, it can be hard to even settle on what you don’t know—the information you need to gather in order to make smart strategic decisions.
Then, once you have a start, how do you know if what you’re doing is working? What information do you require to be able to continually refine your marketing and improve over time? As you start and as you adjust, here are the questions you need to ask to set yourself on the right marketing path.
Common marketing questions
To begin, there are a few common questions you can ask yourself as you start to plan out your marketing efforts and build a strategy.
What resources do I have at my disposal?
Sometimes we get excited and skip this step, and we jump straight to designing the “perfect” strategy without considering the limitations of time, money, and human resources. This, obviously, leads to issues.
Think about why this could cause a problem in the context of building a house. If you were to walk into a building project without any sense of how much you have available to spend and when construction needs to be complete, you could create a blueprint with marble floors and winding staircases laced with gold. Okay, maybe that’s an extreme example, but you get the point. Before you do anything else, be certain about your available budget and resources. If you have the money but not the resources, this is where freelancers or marketing consultancies can come in handy.
At this time next year, what marketing results do I need?
Take note: we’re not asking what your marketing goals are here. This is more of a holistic picture of your team and what you’re building at your company. Is marketing more integrated with sales? Have you built marketing into a viable value center, rather than a cost center, for your business? What are your broad, long-term visions for your team?
Do my resources align to my vision? If they don’t, what does that mean?
Hey, we’d all love the marble floors and gold, winding staircases. But sometimes what we have a vision for and what we can do right now simply don’t align. Create alignment between your current plan and goals and your resources, and lay out a roadmap for realizing your bigger vision someday. This starts to give you clarity around your campaign-specific goals, which we’ll cover next.
Questions to ask before starting a marketing campaign
You’ve gotten clear on your overarching vision, and you’re starting to see what campaigns you need to run. When you go to design those campaigns, here are the first three things to ask yourself.
What stage of the funnel am I looking to target with this campaign?
The audience, offer, and investment level for a brand awareness campaign are very different than they would be for a conversion-focused campaign. You can’t get to a buying decision without awareness, but if all you ever do are awareness campaigns, you may not see a sales increase from your marketing efforts. Determine which part of your funnel each individual campaign will target before moving on.
Who is my audience for this campaign, and where can I find them?
Essentially this question addresses who your buyer persona is for this campaign, and the best channels to reach those buyers. If you have a younger, Gen Z audience, you will most likely be spending more time on Snapchat than if you are targeting a buyer more closely aligned to the baby boomer generation.
How am I going to measure success for this campaign?
Measurement is a requirement to play in marketing nowadays—your leadership is going to want to see it, and you’re going to need it in order to improve. Thankfully, there’s more data available than ever before—more ways to gather data, and more ways to assess it. What technologies do you have in place to measure your results? What KPIs are you focusing on measuring? Determine these before starting any campaign.
Questions to ask a marketing agency
It is certainly possible that, upon asking these questions, you might realize that you haven’t the faintest idea how to find the answers. Or perhaps you know what the answers are, but you’re not confident that you can make your vision come to life on your own. So you call up a marketing agency or consultancy and begin to explore working together. How do you know whether it is a good fit? What should you ask them while you’re in conversations with them before officially starting?
What is your team best at?
When a buyer asks me this question during a sales conversation, I know they’re thinking about the importance of fit. Not every marketing partner is right for you and your unique needs. This question helps you figure out whether you’ve found one who can address the challenge you’re trying to solve, and it also can shed light on their own level of internal clarity. If the person you’re speaking with stumbles around and cannot articulate the businesses they best serve, it is likely that they simply don’t know—and that should be a red flag for you.
Do you have any experience with problems similar to this?
Most people ask about industry experience. Here’s the challenge with that approach: a team may have plenty of experience working within your industry without having any experience with the specific challenges you face. For example, if you talk to a branding firm and they happen to have worked in consumer electronics in the past, but you’re looking for a lead generation strategy and campaign, what good does that do you? If you want experience, ask for experience solving challenges like the one you have.
How does your team structure work?
This may be a little “how the sausage is made” in nature, but the purpose of this question is to understand how knowledge flows through the organization and to gain clarity about who you’ll be working with directly. Chances are, if you’re in a long-term relationship with your partner, at some point a team member will leave. How does your marketing partner address these things? Are you going to be responsible for re-onboarding the team? This is mainly a question about institutionalizing the knowledge they gain about your business, and ensuring you have a team that’s building your marketing, not an individual contributor.
Questions your marketing partner should ask during a discovery
When you kick off any project with a marketing partner, you’re going to begin with some sort of discovery process. Call it an assessment, call it an audit, call it whatever you like. The best ones involve these questions.
What is your sales process? Where is it broken?
Remember, marketing and sales are two sides of the same coin. If sales is breaking, chances are marketing may be able to support in one way or another. This also serves the purpose of educating marketing on the types of questions and problems your business solves. If your marketing partner skips the sales process during a discovery, they’re not thinking holistically about how marketing and sales impact each other—and the business as a whole.
Historically, what are your best channels for new business?
Simply running loads of paid ads won’t necessarily help you achieve your marketing goals. Instead, you have to be sure you’re properly targeting those ads to guarantee a positive ROI. Your marketing consultancy or agency should seek to understand where business is already flowing and see if there is some low hanging fruit you can pick to really amplify the effectiveness of those channels.
How does your internal team use technology currently?
It can be extremely effective to get inside of a CRM and/or marketing automation tool in order to learn about how marketing currently functions inside of the organization. It also allows understanding of how things are measured and reported, a key ingredient to any successful marketing strategy.
This list is just a starting point—so build on it.
You can do a deeper dive into any of the questions listed above and follow the rabbit hole for quite some time. As you continue to refine your buyer personas and run more campaigns, you’ll certainly add to the list of questions, and build new lists for different campaign goals. As your vision evolves and takes shape, more questions will come up than answers. Start here, with these questions, and go from there. You’ll feel like an expert in no time.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” This advice has served Joe well as he’s worn many hats throughout his career–from college soccer player to marketing expert to Business Development Manager. He’s passionate about using big ideas to build mutually beneficial partnerships, because “to help yourself is to help others.”
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