MARKETING TODAY - MAXIMUM IMPACT
Category: Leadership in Business Aviation
Author: David Heitman
Putting all the pieces together for maximum impact.
John ‘Hannibal’ Smith’s famous catchphrase from the television show The A-Team pretty well sums it up: "I love it when a plan comes together."
When an aviation company’s marketing is really working, it’s because a plan has been devised and implemented with precision and creativity. Without a plan and without good integration along the way, the results are less than stellar. But with thoughtful integration and careful monitoring, a company’s marketing ROI can actually outperform any other investment it makes.
Marketing integration creates a flywheel effect where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is a clear visual harmony wherein a company’s website, printed collateral, advertising and trade show booth all clearly demonstrate a professional, integrated visual brand. The key messages used in all these media are consistent and reinforce the company’s unique value proposition.
This is the kind of high-caliber marketing that earns a second look by discriminating customers in the general aviation marketplace. Today’s modern aircraft are miracles of engineering and technology. A company’s marketing should be no less precise.
So how do you get your arms around a collection of marketing tools, advertising presentations, social media and PR? The answer is to start with the end in mind, and building with intentionality through three phases of activity:
Planning • Creativity • Implementation
Change the order, and you’re asking for trouble. Apply in the right order with intentionality, and your odds of success greatly improve.
Define Success: Planning begins with a clear definition of success that is agreed upon by all the leaders in the company. Is it increased market share? Launching new products and services? Preparing a company for sale to a buyer? Only when the definition of success is clear can you ever know if you’ve achieved it. Marketing for marketing’s sake is a losing proposition. Marketing to achieve business objectives is the path to success.
Research: This can consist of everything from hiring a market research consultant to conducting customer surveys. When you take time to ask the right questions of the right people, you learn a lot about your unique opportunities in the aviation marketplace.
You’ll likely need an objective third party to do the research, as your clients may not always tell you the whole truth for fear of hurting your feelings. Good research will yield valuable insights into your company’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that ultimately impact your competitiveness.
Strategies and Tactics: If years of aviation marketing have taught me anything, it’s that effective marketing depends on the ability to articulate just a few key strategies. Take on too many new initiatives, and you’ll never accomplish any of them. It’s a matter of focus. Once articulated, it is necessary to drill down and be very detailed on the tactics to be implemented.
Ideally you’d be able to get it all down on just a few pages. A big thick marketing plan in a fancy binder makes a great paperweight, but won’t take you very far.
The Big Creative Idea:With planning complete and strategies defined, it’s time to get creative. The best creative marketing almost always revolves around one big creative idea—a compelling theme that is true to the brand and ties everything together. Without this centralizing idea, creative efforts will fall flat and look amateurish.
It’s worth the time to brainstorm and critique ideas until one great theme emerges that is true to the brand and interesting to your audience. This often requires the help of an outside creative firm that can enable you to see things from a fresh perspective.
Brand and Messaging: An exercise that is well worth the investment is to take some time out to define one’s brand. With so many aviation companies competing for the same customers, it is vitally necessary to differentiate clearly. Brands can usually only “own” one thing in the mind of an audience. Trying to be everything to everybody just creates a lot of noise.
With the brand clarified, then it’s time to fine-tune messaging, taking the effort to parsethrough the verbal intricacies of a handful of key messages that then permeate web and printed communications, press releases, social media, blogging and sales presentations. Adhering to these messages helps to maintain the consistency and reinforcement vital to marketing success.
Copywriting and Design: These are the two key disciplines of marketing communications. Language is a powerful thing, but in our less-is-more culture, it’s good to be able to write shorter, more poignant copy rather than try to communicate everything you know. (If someone asks you what time it is, don’t tell him how to build a clock.)
In general, ads, emails and literature should have fewer words and more images. You can go into more depth online, in proposals and other documentation. When it comes to design, we live in a design-savvy culture where professionalism and sophistication in marketing bespeak leadership in the aviation-related service that one provides.
Having a set of graphics standards that unite the look and feel of a company’s communications— online and in print—goes a long way toward enhancing that professionalism. Graphics standards involve guidelines for the consistent application of logo usage, color palette, typography and imagery. Making the effort to hone messaging and create graphics standards will save time and money, and lead to better marketing integration. It’s an upfront investment with big dividends down the road.
Produce and Deploy: Now it’s go-time! All the strategy and creativity go nowhere without good execution. Whether your in-house marketing team or an outside agency has the responsibility for implementation, precision in digital file preparation of print, video and online resources is a must if marketing is to be well-integrated, and the plan is to come together.
Measure for Response: The old adage “Half my marketing is working, and half isn’t…I just don’t know which half is which” doesn’t cut it any more. Email marketing, online advertising and website traffic analytics make measurability a reality. Even print media advertising can be tracked by having ads mention specific landing pages on a website, or by using a special phone number. Sure, there are a lot of intangibles in branding, and there is a certain amount of mystery in the mix of marketing efforts, but today there is more opportunity to measure what works and what doesn’t than ever before.
Adjust in Real Time: Because marketing is so measurable, it’s easy to adjust the way a company communicates in order to optimize for success. Paid search (e.g., Google AdWords) is the ultimate example of how an aviation company can fine-tune its marketing to precisely reach just the right customers for the type of aircraft or services in which it specializes.
Placing ads in specific venues and categories (e.g., AvBuyer.com) and trying out different messages and offers can tell a marketing department what’s working best and what’s not working at all. This takes time and attention to monitor, but adjustments can be made along the way in real time.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
If you’ve ever admired a company’s marketing efforts, the chances are they have maintained the discipline, spent the time and invested in the resources to develop the well-integrated brand described here. This level of success never happens by accident.
Like a pre-flight checklist, a deliberate, disciplined effort based on experience is required. Strategic planning, breakthrough creativity and expert implementation are guaranteed to optimize the return on investment of every dollar or euro a company spends on marketing. For those who “love it when a plan comes together,” marketing integration can be very rewarding.
David Heitman is a speaker, writer and consultant and serves as president of The Creative Alliance, a branding and public relations firm specializing in general aviation marketing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org