The Year Ahead: 5 Marketing Questions You Should be Asking in 2016

Happy New Year! It’s time to make those ambiguous resolutions that will most likely fade with the snow. According to University of Scranton research, only a fraction (8%) of people who set New Year’s resolutions achieve them. All too often, this is a pattern mirrored by marketing teams and businesses.

Many of us will start the new year with grand visions and good intentions, only to lose sight a few months later. It’s easy to be distracted by the latest concepts, trends, and fads, especially in marketing (QR codes, anyone?). However, it’s important to remember that without a strong foundation, your marketing efforts will fall flat. 

This year, cut through the fluff and focus on the fundamentals. The latest novel concepts and buzzwords almost always refer to the way you should be marketing. Yet, you can’t begin to market in an effective way unless you understand the who, what, why and how of your marketing strategy. You’ll see a much stronger impact if you focus on objectives and desired outcomes rather than activities. 

Your goal for 2016 should be simple: better understand your customer and business. Take the time to understand what drives your customer and how you fit into that story. Here are the five questions you should be able to answer before jumping on the latest digital fad:

1) Who are our customers?

Every solid marketing strategy starts with a strong understanding of your target audience. Target audiences are easily defined at a high level, but it’s important to take a more focused approach. Why? If you have an extremely broad target audience, you miss the opportunity to focus on the potential customers that are most likely to buy. 

For example, an online advertising publisher might define its target audience as all online retailers. This approach leads to a one-size fits all marketing approach and a unfocused sales strategy. Yet, narrowing the audience down to types of buyers, such as bloggers, coupon sites, media outlets, etc, provides the ability to uncover what matters most to those buyers and create marketing messages that will resonate with them.   

2) What do we sell?

Sounds like an easy question, right? However, many sales and marketing teams aren’t able to clearly articulate what they sell. For example, do you sell individual products or a comprehensive solution? What exactly does your product or service do? What challenge does it solve?

Ask five members on your sales and marketing teams "what do we sell?." If you receive five very different answers, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Distill your offering down to a clear and concise elevator pitch that can be consistently delivered across the company and within marketing messages.

3) Why do we do what we do?

This is an extremely important question, which many marketing teams discount. However, understanding the purpose, direction, and driving forces of the company helps align the marketing strategy with the overall organization. 

Spend some time to review your company’s mission, vision, and value statements. Draw on clear, meaningful descriptions to help motivate your team, achieve buy-in, and make decisions consistent with the direction of the company.

The more clearly you comprehend the high-level goals of the company, the more impactful, consistent, and streamlined your marketing efforts will be. 

4) What motivates our customers?

Understand the psychology behind your customers’ buying decisions. Almost every buying decision is fueled by the desire to solve a challenge. What specific challenge is your customer trying to overcome? Are they navigating new issues or simply dissatisfied with their current provider? 

Emotional factors also play an influential role in customers’ motivations. For example, does your customer have highly conservative values or are they looking to be the next trend-setter? Aligning your product benefits and features with your customers’ core motivators will drive adoption and retention.

5) How do we provide value? 

You should be able to clearly articulate the benefit and value you provide to potential and current customers. A clear understanding of how your product or service helps customers will enable you to move from a product-centric marketing approach to a customer-centric one.

Rather than asking what’s different about our product, focus on why it matters to the customer. How is it helping them overcome their challenges? How is it making them a success within their role? Rather than telling customers and prospects how your product is different, show them how you can help them be successful. 

Not only will a customer-centric approach be a more powerful selling tool, it will also help build a pipeline of customer advocates and referrals that you can leverage in future sales and marketing. 


By answering these questions early in the year, you’ll set the foundation for a successful 2016.