13 questions that will help align communication and marketing efforts

A little bit of communication can help you get your ducks in a row

I recently ran into a former business-line partner who is an outstanding digital marketer. Sadly, we went at it tooth and nail back then and both of us expressed frustration about the other person to co-workers.

We now agree that the problems between us were due to poorly defined roles between Marketing and Corporate Communications and that those issues may have gotten in the way of doing some really great work.

We’re all at our best when we can crystallize messages and share them consistently across platforms. Communicators play a critical role in getting the right customers and keeping them, in building a loyal and trusting customer. So If we’re not aligning our communications goals with sales, marketing, and customer experience goals and finding and telling great stories, we’re missing the boat.

As Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose point out in their new book, Killing Marketing, we should be striving to create the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of behavior change in our customers. In short, we all need to be creating content that is valuable, useful, compelling, and different.

As you start to think about your 2018 goals and priorities, consider bringing together your Marketing and Communications Partners (and other business areas you support) and asking a few questions. This process will create the foundation for an integrated communications plan that includes great content; outcome and performance metrics; and the right platforms for your target audiences.  When it comes down to it, eyeballs don’t necessarily move the needle (and the numbers can’t always be trusted). It’s about engagement, and great stories DO move the needle.

Here are some questions that I’ve collected over the years from people like Chris Brogan and Tim Ferriss that may help with this discussion:

  1. What metrics matter to you?
    • Outcome: What do you want to achieve?
    • Performance: What will we do in 2018 (e.g., launch X service or product by Y)?
    • Process: How can we help you hit those performance metrics?
  2. How can we help improve the customer (or prospective customer) experience?
    • Alignment: How will visitors or readers know they belong with us?
    • Service: What do we offer that will help prospective and existing customers the most?
    • Empowerment: How can we help our visitors be the hero of their story?
  3. What’s the theme of our story? This is more than defining key benefits; it’s about understanding what we want and why so we can make a stronger connection with the reader/viewer/customer.
  4. What are the 10 most common questions that customers ask us? How can we make it easier for them to find answers? It might also be helpful to ask for copies of customer correspondence – both praise and complaints.
  5. What are our points of difference? The answers tend to center on ownership and process. In my experience, “turf wars” often result in partners forgetting about finding the optimal outcome for the customer.
  6. What is your most strongly held belief about our business and how we’re communicating our strengths internally and externally? Make a case that that’s NOT the case.
  7. What is our Shared Objective (the ONE thing we’re holding onto to get to the future)?
  8. What’s going to change about our business over the next year? The next three years? What’s NOT going to change? Jeff Bezos of Amazon gets asked the first two questions more often, but he says the “what’s not going to change” question helps you keep your eyes on the fundamentals.
  9. What’s the benefit of inaction? In many cases, good ideas get tossed because “this isn’t the process” or “that’s not something we do.” If we ask ourselves the question the other way around (i.e., what do we gain from not doing it), we might arrive at a different outcome.
  10. Are we hunting antelope or field mice? Put another way, are we focusing on communicating things that really don’t matter all that much to our customers or that take way more energy than they’re worth)?
  11. If we look ahead 12-24 months, what will be our biggest wins (the things that move the sales or profit needle)? What can Communications do to make those wins even bigger?
  12. If we look ahead 12-24 months, what is our biggest risk? Are there things that Communications can do to mitigate that risk?
  13. What are the two or three product features or services that have (or will have) the biggest impact on our business? Why do those things “matter” to customers? Walk it back from the feature and keep asking that question (“Why does that matter?”) until we end up with the core essence of the product.

And if you don’t always get along with your business partner, you might also consider asking, “If two complete strangers were put in our seats, what would they do?” This could help take the personalities and baggage out of the mix and lead to some great work!

What other questions might help strengthen the relationship between you and your business partners?

Please feel free to share!

About the Author

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: