Saturday, May 12, 2007

How to Ask Naked Questions - Marketing Smarts

Naked Questions. It sounds a bit risque, but it's not. Marketers must always ask the 'naked questions' when formulating marketing strategy if they want to achieve solid marketing ROI. The term comes from Aesop fable in which the emperor wore no clothes. Remember the child who calls out "The emporor isn't wearing any clothes."? For marketers, defining sales and marketing strategies means asking the core questions about the business drivers without making assumptions that management already knows the answers. Often, the business has built a set of assumptions that define the way it operates. Those assumptions become so ingrained that senior management assumes the assumptions are fact based. Marketing ROI cannot be achieved if strategy is based on unproved assumptions. A "Naked Question" asks a fundamental question about the business that exposes management assumptions.

What are some of the "Naked Questions" that marketing strategy should ask? The basics might include: How does the company make money? How does the company generate positive cash flow? Who are the key stakeholders in the business and what defines their success?

My favorite is to ask what business the compnay is really in. Traditional banks and credit unions are in the financial services business, but today many will tell you they are in retail. Are the airlines in the transportation business or are they in a customer experience business? Dell may be in the computer hardware business, but they thrive on being a retail service business. Ad agencies are traditionally in the business of creating advertising and placing the advertising in the media (and earning repeated income from the ad based on promoting higher media spending). That model is largely a dinosaur. Ad agencies (who still call themselves that) are in the marketing strategy business and increasingly focus on adding value by helping clients define marketing strategies will deliver sales and marketing ROI. (Note that in the old model the ad agencies didn't focus on sales measurement so much as they focused on media spend levels to drive cash flow).

So....always look for and ask the Naked Questions. It's fun, and you might learn something about the business.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Great site. I like most of these questions too. I can definitely think of a number of questions that fit this criteria.