Green lighting a project means to approve it to proceed either to the next level or to completion. You can green light a company to give you a bid or green light an agency to produce your next print campaign. But before you get heady with the sense of impending completion, closure, and other dreams of the medical marketer, you need to make a few key decisions.
One of those best-selling “how-to-do-it” authors said that you should begin with the end in mind. That’s just another way of saying you need to have an objective, a goal, or a destination. Before you green light your project:
- What is your best-case scenario for this project?
- How will you know if you achieve it?
- How will you measure it?
- How can you make course corrections if you see that you might undershoot your goal?
Many medical marketing projects are carried out because somebody wants them done or there is money in the budget or it was written down somewhere that the marketing group was supposed to do X or Y or Z by the end of the year, and now it’s July. Before you green light a project, you must have an objective. Even if you inherited the project, you must correct any flaw of omission at the outset. What is the purpose of this project? Purposes can be grandiose or modest, of course. Your purpose can be to increase sales, raise awareness, promote a message, drive traffic to a website, get people to make a phone call, or just annoy the competition. You can have multiple goals, if you’d like, but it helps to prioritize them and it helps if there is only one big main goal.
Then you have to figure out metrics. Marketers know that all marketing metrics are imperfect, something that annoys engineers and clinical types. However, you will not find a perfect metric for your marketing project. That does not mean you will not find useful metrics. You can measure things like:
- Circulation of journal, hits on a website
- If you ask people to do something in the ad that would not normally be done (such as to call a unique phone number or to visit a specific web page), you can track that
- You can also measure general call or website volumes and see if there were blips during the time the campaign was active
- Sales is a great measure, in fact it may be the only real measure, but it is very tricky to associate sales with a specific campaign
Sales should be tracked all along. If sales spike upward for some reason, you will discover that success has a thousand fathers. Everybody will claim victory–the sales rep, the marketer, the clinical guy, and the educator. If sales are flat or fall, then the marketing guy stands alone. This sometimes scares marketers away from the whole concept of metrics, but it should not. We need, as marketers, to recognize that success and failure in sales figures are diffuse entities. Many things contribute to sales success including the quality of the product or service relative to other offerings, price, sales representation, sales support, reputation, history of the brand among customers, and general market conditions.
You also need to decide what you are going to do if you get partway down the path and find out it is not working. For small projects, this step is not necessary, but what if you are redoing a major website or launching a year-long direct-to-consumer TV campaign? You need to measure as you go along and figure out what you can do.
- Pick the interim metrics you are going to use (you can even use softer metrics like a focus group)
- Measure and report, measure and report, measure and report
- Organize your creative efforts so that you can go back to the drawing board partway through, if you need to, for instance, to create a new TV spot
- Don’t be afraid to re-tool; Magellan didn’t circumnavigate the globe because he mapped out a route and stuck to it diligently–he circumnavigated the globe because he mapped out a plan and adjusted it as he went along
Last but not least, before you push that green light button, it pays big dividends to review what you’ve learned over the years. These can be company-specific lessons or career lessons.
- Do you see anything in this project that raises a red flag? Anything look fishy? Overpriced? Not well thought through?
- What kinds of things have worked best in the past (remember, what things brought in the best results for what you are measuring here)?
- Where have you done similar things that crashed and burned? Why?
- Can you learn anything here from your competitors about what works and what does not?