Act like a marketing doctor: 5 questions to ask “patients” before prescribing tactics

Whenever someone asks me or my team, “can you write me a blog post? can you put this on social?” I say, “♫ hold up, wait a minute, let me put some strat up in it. ♫” No Dr. Dre fans out there? Oh well. Rap lyrics aside, before I can diagnose your tactical marketing needs, I’ll need to better understand your underlying goals.

What’s a marketing MD?

If you’re in any agency capacity–like a content team, or a social media team–you’re often playing the role of doctor. For example: You have patients (aka: clients) come to you and say, I need you to give me Vicodin (aka: a video), Antibiotics (aka: a blog post), and Xanax (aka: social ads).

Well, as a doctor (aka: expert in your field) it’s not wise to just say, “Sure, here’s an RX based on the things you googled, have fun at Walgreens.” You want to diagnose the ailment, and then use your years of schoolin’, experience, and wisdom to make an expert recommendation around the right remedies.

So, how do you diagnose?

Ask your patients questions to get to the root of their problem. Here are a 5 exploratory questions you can ask your next client to help you get to the right Marketing RX:

1. What’s your goal? And, what does success look like?

It’s so simple. But, seriously, I’d be a rich woman (likely living beach-side with limited internet access) if I had a dollar every time someone came to me looking for marketing support, and didn’t have a clearly defined end game in mind.

Spend time with your client and help them articulate what their goals are. By having a clear end game in sight, you’ll be sure to pick tactics that align, and focus your energies on efforts that are valuable.

Here’s a framework that I use:

  • THINK: What do you want targets to think about our brand/product after they encounter this campaign? For example: “I want them to think that this feature is going to make blogging on LinkedIn easier.”
  • FEEL: What should targets feel after they encounter this campaign? For example: “I want them to feel like we really understand how hard it is to be a LinkedIn blogger, so they trust us.”
  • DO: What action should targets take after they encounter this campaign? For example: “I want them to click to our website, and sign up for a trial.”

You can assign metrics to each of these bullets as well. Once you’ve aligned with your stakeholder, you’ll be able to make suggestions that map to shared goals.

I also ask my stakeholders to explain in a sentence or two, what would crushing it look like at the end of the campaign. It forces them to explain the dream state, and you can cross-check that your goals map to it.

Bonus: You can also clarify non-goals. This helps prevent scope creep, and ensures that any peripheral stakeholders don’t try to insert their goals into the mix. For example: “my goal is to drive new signups. My non-goal is driving engagement with existing users.” Focus, focus, focus.

2. Who’s the target audience?

Be specific. “The world” is not an acceptable answer. Force specific answers to some of these q’s:

  • What demographics?
  • What job titles?
  • What target/customer email lists?
  • What lookalike audiences?
  • What keywords?
  • Languages, geos?

Knowing who you’re talking to will allow you to customize messaging and tactics.

3.How much money do you have?

SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!! Knowing how much budget is available for ads will help you set the right metrics benchmarks. For example: your organic social posts may reach an average of 50k impressions. If you throw a couple shekels towards those posts, you could easily quadruple that reach for under $5k, just with some thoughtful targeting.

Before you get started building your campaign, you should finalize a budget and intended use so you can set the right objectives.

4. What assets and support do we have? And, who’s leading the charge?

  • Assets: Is there a video already created? A landing page? Or, are we building everything from scratch? Are there any expectations of deliverables?
  • Support and cross functional teams: Are we using agencies? Design team? Product team? Project managers?
  • DRI: Who’s the directly responsible individual who’s project managing this campaign? Where are we coordinating work somewhere (central doc? email? project management app? Editor’s note: At Dropbox we use Dropbox Paper to coordinate work. Obviously I’m 100% biased because I work here, but I really like using Paper for planning and collaborating on marketing campaigns. In no small part because I can embed gifs…and gifs are critical for effective communication 😁 )

5. What’s the timeline?

What are the milestone dates for planning? How long is the campaign expected to run? And when do you need to show results?

Conclusion: Using the answers for diagnoses

Now you know:

  • The target audience(s)
  • What you want those audiences to think/feel/do
  • How much money you have to reach your goals
  • Who you’re working with, and how to work with them
  • Your timeline

This info should make it much easier to take a step back, formulate a campaign that integrates your expertise, and move from being a pill pusher to a strategist (aka: Marketer MD).

…and my mom thought she would never have a doctor in the family