The hardest part of marketing

The hardest part of marketing that I faced in the many years that I practiced it in business settings was gaining approval from senior management on the final version prior to production.  Managers do funny things at final approval stage.  Some lose sight of everything that was approved at the kick off, some insert idiosyncratic preferences, or suddenly become paranoid or fearful that someone in the external audience will make a comment that causes someone internally (like their boss) to question their wisdom or judgment.  Vice Presidents in particular are up tight at the approval stage.

Trust in the people drives successful programs

Companies are so political.  Some managers are more controlling, less trustworthy and/or more insecure than others.  The best work that I (along with writers and designers) developed came from good clients who trusted their marketing communications contact (like me), rather than those managers who thought they had all the answers, or otherwise reacted without working as a team in the whole process.

Anybody interested in a GOSPA?

The freelance writers and designers and I worked quickly, often six or seven weeks from concept through to completion. It was the marketing and creative strategy document produced at the onset and signed off by management prior to copywriting and design that helped so often in receiving prompt sign off or approvals.  This two or three page strategy document was called a “GOSPA” (Goals – Objectives – Strategy – Plan – Activities).  It demonstrated to senior management (depending on the nature of the project it may have been Product Marketing, VP Sales or even the CEO or President) that the project was well-conceived and was not simply creative or designed for design sake.  Clients were getting a deliverable that addressed the situation; it was money well spent.  Writers and designers with whom I worked with loved the GOSPA as well.  It gave direction and set parameters for them to follow.  It was the plan for construction of the deliverable, like a contractor’s construction plans for a new home.  This was particularly important when it comes to direct marketing because it was results – responses based on dramatic offers – that defined the project’s success or failure, and set the stage for subsequent programs.  At Cisco Systems, I was an Offer Manager; it was my job to develop offers that drove response.  Offers were never price promotions or discounts.  Sometimes it was aligning Cisco product or services with other branded content that mirrored m staging and positioning.

The GOSPA defined the expectations and terms for approval.  It prevented a manager from changing course (at approvals time) on a whim, or without very good reason.  Dramatic changes at sign off changed timelines and deadline dates, and effected costs too; this was spelled out in the GOSPA for all to see and understand.

Two decades ago management had two or maybe three chances for review and approvals of content and design.  The GOSPA was laid out the agreed prioritized messaging, positioning, target audience/profile, concept, along with timeline based on assumptions and expectations.  Review should have been pretty easy.  At Progress Software, my GOSPAs were recognized as exemplary.

Review Cycles increase in the Internet Age

But in the last decade review cycles increased at least for me, at the firms that I worked at.  Why this occurred I’m not entirely sure.  It was either my ineffectiveness to manage my manager(s), or changes in review expectations, or a result of a different pace in business, or new technology.  I worked in a number of start ups and market conditions changed so quickly; one day during development all was good, and then it all changed.  In my last position, it was not unusual to have five or even six rounds of approval for a simple two-sided data sheet.  This was unnecessary.  It took away the joy of the marketing imagination and cost the company more money because of the amount of time incurred.

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

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