Marketing job is probably the most exciting job you can have in a company (I know I am biased). In this turbulent period with a lot of new changes (societal, technological, environmental,…), it is not so easy to know what to do. I have developed a process that, at least, helps me to take these decisions and you might be interested to discover it. This is the humble idea behind this ebook.
These last years, the environment where we are working is facing an acceleration of changes and complexity. The good news is that we are also discovering new ways of working. Design Thinking is really a fantastic methodology for customer discovery, more agile, more collaborative and faster. Strategy is now strongly influenced by Design Thinking thanks to the fantastic work Alex Osterwalder did with his Business Model Canvas. Execution is accelerated thanks to Digital tools and emerging technologies.
By combining research, personal experience, customer feedback and emerging trends, I created this Marketing Canvas. It is designed as a dynamic framework to help business leaders assess, compare and improve their marketing strategy.
Through a dynamic analysis of 28 dimensions of your business and using a simple colour coding process, you will be clear about where and how you will innovate and lead your business, therefore massively increase your odds of success.
Start from an ambition. You should always start the Marketing Canvas process with a clear and articulated ambition and work backward. Why should you have a strategy if it is not for achieving an intended goal? Larry Keeley, in his seminal book The ten types of innovation, said: “Declare Intent, by being clear about where and how you will innovate, you massively increase your odds of success”. This is completely true and fully applicable to your Marketing Strategy.
Set the scene. You should as first step define the environment where you will compete. You can do that by defining the 3 following parameters (More on [STEP 2 - CONTEXT]):
The industry/category where you will play;`
The personas that represent your ideal buyers (consumers or clients) in your chosen industry or category;
The next best alternatives for these personas in terms of offer (competition).
Assess your ambition readiness. Alone or with your team, go through the 28 dimensions of the Marketing Canvas and assess if these dimensions are CURRENTLY playing in favour of your ambition (accelerators) or against it (brakes).
Ideate. How can you reach your ambition? Ho to remove your brakes and leverage on your accelerators? Brainstorm and generate as much as possible ideas! As inspiration, you can use the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create model.
Roadmap for execution. It is time to prioritise all these ideas and come with a roadmap for execution. Some ideas are certainly more urgent than others, some more valuable!
As said by Philip Kotler: “Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit”. While the first part for the definition remains true in essence, the world has evolved and challenges of the past are no more the challenges of today. Therefore one of the question we can have is: How can we explore, create and deliver value today in a digital world? Or differently said: “Which process should we follow for exploring, creating and delivering value today?”.
When working on classical existing framework like 4P, SAVE model or even the Business Model Canvas, I was struggling between the simplicity of use of these models (limited number of dimension, easy to understand and use) AND the need of more detailed elements for defining relevant and operational actions. I therefore decided to keep have 7 meta-dimension and create 28 micro-dimensions (4 per meta) for having a better description of the analysis. Let’s see what are these dimensions!
Today, we should become customer-centric instead of product centric. In this context, it is important to revisit the marketing metrics when doing your strategy. As identified by Rust & al: “once companies make the shift from marketing products to cultivating customers, they will need new metrics to gauge the strategy’s effectiveness”. An accepted metric for replacing sales (revenue ) is the customer lifetime value (CLV) which nicely helps to connect financial goals (which is why we do a marketing plan) with strategy and actions. 3 natural dimensions behind the CLV formula are: User, Usage or ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) and Lifetime. I add a 4th one which is Market which gives the notion of the market potential.
The Service Design and UX theories (Alan Cooper) convinced me that we should talk about HUMAN and put the human in the center of the plan. This meta-dimension can be split into 4 attributes: Job to be done, Aspirations, Pains/Gains and Engagement.
While Kotler (with his 7P) is not considering the BRAND has one key dimension but more as a tool, I believe it should be clearly mentioned as a meta-dimension. A brand starts from its purpose (Sinek), should be clear about its positioning, defines its values and have a congruent identity.
I think the concept of VALUE PROPOSITION as described in the Business Model Canvas (Osterwalder) is perfectly doing the job. Let’s keep it as such. Key dimensions of a Value Proposition are: Features (functions that address job to be done), Emotions, Prices and Proofs.
Instead of talking of Channels or Place, let’s embrace the Customer JOURNEY revolution and use Journey as it covers interactions, touchpoints, micro and macro moments and omnichannel. To describe this journey, I have identified 4 dimensions: Moments, SLA, Channels and Moments of Truth
Advertising, Promotion or even Education (as in the SAVE model) are for me missing the point: we should talk about CONVERSATIONS. How much unpaid conversations do you have, how long are your conversations? Is it a monologue or a dialogue? I have identified 4 dimensions are: Listening, Content & Stories, Media and Fans
Finally, your BUDGET which are all the money you spent for your Marketing to make this happen. This budget can be split into 4 dimensions: People, Fees, Knowledge and Capability.
These 7 meta-dimensions (Human, Brand, Value Proposition, Journey, Conversation, Budget and CLV) help you to observe your business in a simple way.
The Marketing Canvas Process starts with an ambition, a declaration of the objective/goal you would like to achieve (an intent). This is a very important of the process because it links the marketing strategy you will design with a clear and measurable objective. This process is applying the backward thinking approach: defining an ambitious goal and working backward to achieve it. The ambition should:
Link with your financials. A good ambition is based on an objective expressed in terms of revenue.
For a defined period. As we are working on a Marketing Strategy, I suggest to define the objective for the next 12 months for the next year.
Finally, I suggest you add a description of the biggest danger your company will face during this year (top fear).
Formulate your ambition as a statement.
While in the past we were used to a S.M.A.R.T. defintion of our business goals (Specific, Measurable….), Sull & Sull recommend, based on their research, that Goals should be FAST (Frequently discussed, Ambitious, Specific and Transparent).
We can definitely applied this to define our ambition using the marketing canvas. The process is by design forcing discussion frequently as we start from the goal and we discuss it during The Marketing Canvas Process how much the marketing strategy helps (or not) to achieve this ambition. Afterwards, potential solutions for achieving this ambition are also discussed.
Our Ambition is by definition ambitious and specific as we asked people to define it from financial metrics and finally it is Transparent by design because we use it during all our discussions. Let’s then be FAST!
Understanding the industry is essential because it clarifies where your company is active and who are your competitors. It gives a clear reference for your future action. Your definition will determine who your competitors are and the size and scope of of your market analysis.
In the Marketing Canvas process, it is essential to be clear about the 3 following elements:
Understand the mega-trends that will influence your marketing strategy. It is also a fantastic opportunity for discussing with your teams or self-reflect on these trends and identify which ones could have a real impact on your activity. Questions like what are the risks of disruption with new, emerging players that also solve your customer’s problems? Who they are? Where they could come from and dimension your risk?
What is your ideal buyer? Persona is also an important concept. HubSpot defines persona as: “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”. You should define 1 to 3 personas that represent buyer in your industry. Yes, you can create much more than that but 3 should be sufficient as long as they represent your core market. (More on persona: HubSpot; Alan Cooper). My suggestion is to define a first ideal customer (persona) and assess the market potential. If this is sufficient for achieving your ambition, you can focus on this persona only, otherwise you will have to add a new persona and do the same assessment.
What is the next best alternative for the ideal buyer? Finally, in an industry, you compete against others for attracting buyers. These next best alternatives for your personas are important to understand if you want to be the final persona’s choice. To identify them, I use a very simple yet important question: if it is not you, who will be chosen by the consumer/client for solving its problem?
Then, you have to start your Marketing Strategic exercise.
A list of questions (28) will help you during the assessment of your marketing strategy with the Marketing Canvas. How does it work? You take the Canvas and go through all dimensions asking all questions. You can have 2 potential answers for each question:
I don't know or No then it is playing against your ambition. It is a Brake and the colour is RED. This is something you should improve or change if you want to achieve your ambition.
Yes then it is playing in favour of your ambition. It is an Accelerator and the colour is GREEN. This is something you can leverage for achieving your ambition.
Questions: Is (this dimension) CURRENTLY playing in favour of your ambition (accelerators) or against it (brakes)
More on How to assess your Marketing Situation: read our article
You have in your hand 28 cards (Brakes and Accelerators) and for each dimension an explanation of why you have decided to attribute Brake or Accelerator to each dimension (strong evidence/weak evidence, why?).
Group should discuss how they can reduce brakes or leverage accelerators. I suggest to use the following framework to manage this discussion:
Look at all cards and identify patterns/correlations and causality amongst the dimension. You can group cards as you want (creating/capturing value, per brakes, per accelerators, …)
For each group of cards, ideate and discuss potential actions you could do for reaching your ambition. What should you eliminate, reduce, raise or create? List all actions and write a brief description of why you should do it. Attach each of these actions to each group
IDENTIFY PAIN POINTS AND DISCUSS WHY YOU MIGHT HAVE IT
IDENTIFY STRONG POINTS AND DISCUSS WHY YOU HAVE IT
CONNECT THE DOTS AND DISCUSS CAUSALITY & CORRELATIONS
At the end of this step, you will have a list of actions that you believe will help you to reach your ambition (reducing brakes and leverage accelerators) and a description why these actions will help you reaching your ambition.
Afterwards, when you have assessed what is the right Marketing Problem, you can start ideate on potential changes you should do on your Brand, Value Proposition, Journey or Conversation.
Finally, after the ideation process, you can decide what are the right changes
You have now a list of actions that should help you achieving your ambition. You should prioritise them. You can use different models, here below we propose 2 different models to do this.
After this step, you have a list of actions prioritised with a group consensus about what you marketing strategy is. It is important to say that the content of these actions should be based on best practices and you need internal/external expertises for crafting them. Yet you have now a global and aligned understanding of what your strategy should be.