5 Question Marketing Alignment

by Dan Walsh

I struggled when I first became a marketer. I was kind of thrown into the position and told to perform. No one else in the organization really knew what marketing was (I can’t blame them!), so I was on my own. Without a personal mentor I turned to the next best thing: books. There are thousands of excellent marketing books out there, but as I sifted through the good ones I found my head filling up with lots of techniques, but very little overarching strategy. None of the books gave me a framework on which to hang these neat little tactics. I was confused and without a map.

I recognized this same confusion in my former marketing students. They were working on their final projects and pulled in too many directions at once. Every channel and every technique called to them for attention. It’s impossible to cram everything into one marketing strategy – nor do they need to – but they didn’t know why a particular method should be included or excluded. Should they push market or pull market? Should they use SEO or SEM? Email or Content?


I asked them five questions when we met to review their projects. Based on the progress between then and their final presentations, it seemed to align their thoughts. These five questions are the map I wish I had when I first became a marketer.

1. What Is Your Goal?

There’s no need to market unless there’s an objective. Otherwise it’s just marketing for marketing’s sake and will only waste time and money. This goal should be a clearly defined business objective. Even better if it’s tied directly to revenue.

Crappy Goal:

“More pageviews”

Better Goal:

“1000 new email subscribers”

Great Goal:

“By end of quarter, $1000 in additional monthly revenue from email subscribers.”

These goals should be like a new year’s resolution: clearly defined so that anyone else can look at the situation and answer a definitive yes or no.

Crappy New Year’s Resolution:

“Read more!”

Great New Year’s Resolution:

“Read one book per week.”

2. Who Cares?

You care, obviously. But who else cares? If your objective is to sell 1000 zebra-print towels, who would potentially want to buy them? Surfers? Sun bathers? Ironic vegans? This is fundamental marketing. Who gives-a-donkey about your product or service and why? If this is unclear, then it’s time to do dig into market research and figure it out.

3. Where Are They?

Answering this question requires elbow grease. You have to find where your target audience lives. Forums, websites, twitter… If 60+ year-old Floridian retirees are jonesing for a hit of your zebra-print towel, then you need to get in front of them. Where are they? Digital marketing wants to know where they are online. Traditional marketing wants to know where they are offline.

4. How Do You Talk To Them?

Once you find your audience, you need to figure out how to talk to them. This goes back to why they care. What’s in it for them? They’re giving you money (or time), what do they get in return? This is almost always emotional, even if you’re selling something utilitarian like a hammer: they buy the hammer to feel capable.

This question also needs an answer that’s channel specific. Depending on where the audience lives, your message will change shape. Is your channel an email or an ad on a bus stop bench? The message will need to change to fit the medium. You can get away with a couple paragraphs of text in an email, but you can’t cram that all onto a bench. Plan accordingly.

5. How Do You Measure Your Success?

Which metrics are indicative of success? It’s easy to cop-out and say something like “pageviews” or “Twitter followers,” but how does that actually related to your goal? There should be a clear connection between the goal and success metrics. 1000 extra Twitter followers doesn’t necessarily help me sell more zebra towels.

Based on these metrics, which tools will you use? You don’t need to know how to use every single marketing analytics platform out there, just the ones that are relevant to your goals.

If you have a hard time figuring out how to measure success, it might mean your marketing objective was too vague. Consider revisiting your goals.