Everyday, people write to the LinkedIn cloud for answers to their marketing challenges.  Very often, the typical response from the LinkedIn marketers about prospective solutions is ‘it depends on the situation – tell us more’. Marketing is more confusing today than ever, as seen in the LinkedIn exchanges.  Back in the day, media in the form of TV, radio and print were a one way street and companies mostly hired agencies to do ad campaigns, which were the dominant marketing method.  This changed when the internet brought banner advertising, then search marketing, then social media, giving business owners many more tools from which to choose. Plus, they could bring a lot of the content development and production in house. However, it also made it more challenging to select where to focus and where to spend valuable marketing dollars (and energy).  Today, marketing strategy work easily gets lost in the shuffle, especially with agency analysts and strategists out of the loop or more oriented to tactical specialties (Internet strategists, social media strategists, etc.).

The abundance of choices today can be made clearer with a good sense of the business landscape and where a company stands.  By better understanding industry trends, it’s much easier to identify a company’s strengths and new possibilities for their target markets, positioning and product alignment.  This need not be a dissertation-type process – especially for smaller organizations.  It leads to a balanced, informed view of business and prospects, and can help drive marketing in directions managers may not have previously considered.

Take a common scenario I’ve witnessed where companies focus their sales and marketing activities on Fortune 100 (or 500 or 1000) prospects driven by the assumption that bigger is better. Secondary research is very powerful if it shows competitors courting mid and small market prospects, along with market size data pointing to growth in these areas.  It can help members of Sales and Marketing step back, reconsider the current direction, and take a more diversified account approach. Then, the choices of where to focus marketing tactics can be adjusted to drive growth across all target groups, not just the favored large clients.

Ultimately, the selection of whether to use print advertising or social media or search marketing (or all of the above) are a lot easier to make once the situational analysis details are in.  The results are directive in identifying the marketing tactics that make the most sense: individual search terms, trade shows, well-targeted print advertising, specific social media content, and so on.  This approach is much sounder than the alternative, which is sometimes based on the latest trend in marketing or the experience/specialty of staff members.  Like in LinkedIn responses, the good answer depends on a sound understanding the business situation.

Next issue: what secrets lie within sales data?

Ruth Janjic is a marketing analyst and strategist and the founder of Diagonal Growth Strategies. She helps clients of all sizes get back to marketing basics and make informed decisions about their marketing options.