Marketing – all fluff and risk?

I know it’s a cliché, but for too many business owners, marketing does still feel too much like a gamble on hard to measure, subjective and expensive activities. Does it have to be like this?
True creativity does have an element of risk, and there is often some objectivity. However, we must not let this stop us building marketing plans that are well thought out, draw on best practice and are measured against critical targets.
Good marketing should be directed towards generating repeatable, affordable success, which in my book is all about sales and profit. I like to look at a marketing plan that I can confidently predict is going to provide enough good quality leads and enquiries for the sales team to deliver the agreed business growth goals. When marketing is doing this, it becomes a valued core activity rather than “the fluffy stuff that costs a lot”.
So how do we get there?
The precise path will be different for every business, but here are 5 common elements:
Objectives – someone once said “if we don’t know where we are trying to get to, the only thing we can be certain of is that we won’t get there.” It’s certainly true in marketing. Having a clear understanding of what we need marketing to do is critical.
Measurement – putting in place simple measures and tracking them so we learn what works and what doesn’t is essential.
Plan – let’s be honest, planning isn’t huge fun for most people. But it is the best way to get consistent success.
Test – there will never be a shortage of things to spend marketing money on, and some of them may be more effective than what we do now. Carefully constructed tests with clear targets and benchmarks allow us to experiment in a controlled manner and gradually improve the mix of marketing activities.
Brief – Most ‘poor marketing’ can be traced back to a poor (or non-existent) brief. As I said earlier, creativity does have an element of subjectivity and risk, but this can be controlled with a good brief. It’s not about restricting creative people, just giving them clear direction and parameters.
Could you use any or all of these approaches to remove some of the risk and fluff from your marketing?