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The Case for Comprehensive Marketing Planning; and/or, Know Your Consumer—or Else

This post is part of our “Optimizing Your Arts Marketing Practice” blog salon.

I couldn’t decide on one title for this blog post, so I’m using them both. In my 20-plus years of nonprofit marketing management I can honestly say that for me, the jury is out on whether there has been significant progress made in field. But this is not because there is a lack of tools or new technology. When I started in arts marketing our tools were minimal and our resources as well. These days we have any number of tech driven solutions to help us gather data and make marketing decisions.

There are CRM solutions, analytics, database management software, social media, and so on. So no shortage of tools; still, we seem to have gone backwards despite them. Maybe that’s a bit harsh. But organizations I’ve met lately all indicate serious marketing deficiencies such as no marketing plan, no marketing budget, no brand consistency, no value propositions that track back to the organization’s business model, and little to no house expertise in marketing (side note: it’s really unfair to put a person that knows “a little social media” in charge of handling all organizational marketing).

All I am saying is, having more tools has not improved marketing because tools are not marketing—marketing is marketing. It’s a thinking process and it can happen with or without tools present.

To be more on point with the first part of my title, what we currently have in our organizations is surface level marketing compared to what we need more of: comprehensive marketing. Deeply studying the issues around marketing before implementing strategies.

I’ve watched decisions being made on the thinnest assumptions, and when it doesn’t pan out there is confusion. Therefore, I am an advocate for comprehensive marketing planning. It’s an involved process that has many steps but is so very worth the effort.

The process of comprehensive marketing planning I share in my webinars (like the one I presented on ArtsU for Americans for the Arts in September) and workshops has 10 major steps. The process, while rigorous, provides the best way forward to understanding all the issues surrounding marketing efforts. Comprehensive marketing planning also provides the foundation for the second title of this post, “knowing your consumer.” The information gained from comprehensive marketing planning leads to understanding your audience and consumer better.

There are indications that social media and other digital media methods are both becoming more expensive and having a diminshed ROI. Organizations will need to lean more heavily on traditional concepts. One such important concept is knowing your consumer. These days, knowing your consumer is even more important because with it can become a real connection to the consumer, which in all cases leads to better outcomes.

In conclusion, comprehensive marketing planning will help you know your consumers better, which will help you maintain deeper connections and relationships with them. The best tool you can ever have as a marketer is your ability to analyze data.

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