Recently the head of a small agency (and an old friend) described what marketers actually do for Forbes magazine. “Great marketing,” he wrote, is “an entire ecosystem of communications and engagement with the market.” What great marketing means,” he says, “is putting the pieces together to create an infrastructure that’s perfectly meshed with a brand and its business objectives. They don’t favor one strategy or media over another but see the value of the whole constellation of tools.”
Exactly. We couldn’t have said it any better.
A solid infrastructure looks at how print, digital, social pr, advertising, experiences, etc. all work together. It organizes what you do, identifies key metrics, and increases integration. Infrastructure can ensure you aren’t wasting great content, losing key insights, or tracking the wrong data. It will help you identity what you’re good at and when it’s time to call in an independent contractor. Maybe best of all, for nonprofits and lean start-ups, it will help you budget well.
From the sign on the door, to the email you send to inquiries, to details of your brochures, videos, and tweet—it all matters for your brand, your story and your stakeholders. In the very best cases, there is synergy among every element, a synergy that animates and magnifies different aspects of your story. The total effect is far greater than that of any individual piece or activity.
In the worst cases, here is friction, confusion and even contradiction. There’s a heck of a lot of reinventing the wheel with each communication or activity you do. Your marketing becomes more about reacting and different activities end up working against each other. When messages conflict, prospective families or donors lose trust. Friction undermines you. It erodes interest and any sense of connection. Other communications then have to work a lot harder at overcoming these missteps.
When messages and experiences are well aligned and compliment (rather than repeat) each other, you’re able to nurture greater engagement. A successful infrastructure focuses on alignment, on carefully tweaking each touchpoint so that it extends the power of each communication.
We recommend a thorough review or communications audit every 5 years or so, especially whenever there is a major change in the organization. Often, an outside perspective is valuable and can infuse your marketing with new ideas.
When we conduct communications audits for our clients, we start with a clear sense of the brand that doesn’t diminish the complexity of the organization. We think about things like style, voice, personality and the nuances of the experiences people have with your institution. We talk to stakeholders to see what they think. Do your materials tap into their aspirations, needs or hopes? Do they share your vision for the future? Are your values clear, powerful and fearlessly expressed?
In college admissions, for example, we’ll study the whole stream of communications and activities from start to finish. What do you need? What do you have? What’s underperforming? How can we improve it? We look for ways to strengthen your story, differentiate you from close competitors, enhance your positioning, and deepen a sense of connection with your audience.
We consider the capacity of your organization—what can your team pull off? How can we build their skills or capacity? Great marketing doesn’t always have to be resource-dependent. Maybe we can find ways to automate some activities and repurpose some of the extraordinary content you already produce. Our aim is to remove roadblocks, streamline communications and empower your people so that your team is freed up to be more personal, productive and creative.
If you’re in charge of admissions communications at a college or independent school, this kind of synergy is critical. For most educational institutions, the decision-making cycle takes place for months, even years. That’s a lot of messaging to manage and maintain.
We’re proud of the creativity we deliver for our clients. We know creativity helps get attention, boosts connection and supports the message. But we’re just as proud of the synergy we help to create when we strengthen an organization’s marketing infrastructure. When your marketing works smarter, it always works better.
PHOTO: Peter Prehn