Whenever I hear about how a great new marketing campaign was created or why it failed, I find the discussion usually revolves around at least one of three areas: What am I selling, who am I selling it to, and who am I? These three questions are what marketers must ask themselves before starting any promotion.
1. What am I selling?
You might think this is the easiest question in the world to answer. "I own a pizza place. I sell pizzas. Duh!"
There's an old saying in marketing, "You don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle." The way I interpret that is: you sell the differences between your product and everyone else's.
What makes your pizza unique?(I'll be sticking with a hypothetical pizza place for my examples) Is it cheaper than anyone else's? Is the crust the thinnest or the thickest? Do you have the freshest ingredients? Is there some gimmick? A combination of any of those?
People can get a pizza anywhere. Figure out why they would want to get one from YOU.
And if you really are the only place in town where people can get a pizza, don't get lazy. Think about why people should get your pizza instead of someone else's burger or rack of ribs.
Note: If you really have absolutely no competition and just need to get people's attention, then I guess you can skip to the next question. Congratulations on your monopoly.
2. Who am I selling to?
This is a big one. Entire industries have formed around researching customer bases and telling businesses exactly who is buying their products or services. You need to know your customer so you can know how and where to reach them.
"I'm a pizza place. I sell to everybody."
Everyone is different and likes different things. Not everyone likes pizza. You've just narrowed your target: people who like pizza.
Now narrow it further. Look back at Question 1. You are targeting people who want cheap pizza, or pizza with a very thin/thick crust, or whatever your selling point is. Let's say it's 'value.'
Okay, you're targeting people who like pizza that's a good value. And who are they? College students? Lower-income families? Bosses who want to show their employees that they are appreciated, but not that appreciated?
Once you get a good idea of the type of person you are going to be targeting with your campaign, you can ask yourself, "What else do they like?"
Video games? You could invest in a few arcade games, sponsor(or host) a video-game tournament, see what sort of joint promotion you might do with a local Gamestop.
Sports? Get some nice TVs and a comfortable area where people can watch while they eat, and maybe organize a fantasy league.
Starting to get the idea?
A word of warning, though: being too specific can really limit the number of your potential customers, and end up hurting you instead of helping. The same if you choose the wrong category. Don't target college students if there's no college around.
3. Who am I?
Once you've got those first two questions answered, you need to figure out your own identity. This will depend a lot on your answers to the first two questions.
And like the first two questions, this is more complicated than you might think.
You can't simply say, "I'm Hypothetical Pizza. We sell pizza at a decent value to college students who like sports." To really make your brand stand out and be memorable, it has to have a unique personality.
If you're selling high-quality pizza with fresh ingredients to people who appreciate that kind of thing, you will probably want to be more professional and straightforward in your messaging to reflect that quality. If you're targeting a younger, more carefree crowd, your messaging should be more relaxed and have a sense of humor.
Try to get as detailed with this as possible. It's better to know the details of your brand's character and not have to bring them up, than to not have them at all and end up seeming too generic.
For more help with this, check out some advice for writers on creating good characters for stories.
Once you have the answers to these three questions, often the rest of the campaign will simply fall into place. But if you don't have the answers, you might find yourself wracking your brain to come up with a new promotion that falls completely flat.