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Engage Your Target Audience in Brand Planning

by Todd Kasenberg

Many organizations undertake brand planning - often with a great deal of internal fanfare and hours of expended effort by a broad range of staff.  Usually, a brand planning exercise involves reviewing past plans (where they exist), reviewing and drawing conclusions from market research (or even insights generated by the sales force), working with quotas or sales targets from "above", and considering how to move forward with marketing and sales tactics that will support a strategy which includes positioning by market segment, key messages and critical success factors. 

Coming off a spate of recent advisory boards that involved input from my clients' clients, it is interesting to report that as part of two meetings, direct input into the "brand plan" was sought through exercises at these meetings with target audiences.  What was stimulating was that when an appropriate set of questions, focusing on the elements of brand planning where there may be some "internal" confusion, was posed in a written format, remarkably good input that validated strategy was received.  In all of this, advisors did not find themselves uncertain of what to do because of their relative lack of a "marketing skill set" - this may, of course, be a function of questions well worded and stripped of marketing jargon, or it may be related to the natural insight into the market which the advisors themselves, as customers, actually have.

In exercises that last merely 30 minutes, and with explicit instructions and guided forms, marketers can, through an advisory board, get members of their target audience to lay out a strategic framework for a brand.  Should they wish to take this further, marketers may also conduct one or more workshops, of less than 90 minutes in duration, which will address bright tactical ideas that will support delivery of key brand messages and moving the needle on addressing brand critical success factors.  (In some cases, I've even run workshop groups where advisors have been provided with scissors, glue, paper, staplers, rulers and crayons, and urged to create the "ultimate marketing piece" with outstanding results.)  And in the end, these exercises may validate hunches about strategy, may confirm or demote various tactics planned for the coming year, and in some cases, may shed remarkable and new insight into what's needed in the marketplace. 

"My Brand Plans" - a great addition to advisory board technologies that gain insight.


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