Author: Claire Riggs, Managing Partner

Ghosting is a relatively new term to pop up in the digital space. It’s a sudden disconnection in a relationship: the disappearance of a connection on your favorite social app or your newest employee is a no show after a costly search. 

Ghost stories pop up all too frequently in marketing communication efforts. You create a direct mail or email campaign and no one responds. You launch a website or new Facebook page and no one clicks. Perhaps it’s time for a GOSTE (or ghost buster) plan.

GOSTE to Reach Your Destination

The Strategic Thinking Institute’s founder and CEO Rich Horwath developed the GOST framework (goals, objectives, strategies and tactics) to help clients plan for success.  In my Strategic Communication Overview course at Rowan University, we add the “E” for evaluation. Like your car’s GPS, continuous evaluation helps you make timely course adjustments to reach your desired destination. 

Planning follows Research and Insights

You’re probably ready to break out of our year-long isolation. Perhaps you’re considering a long road trip. Where do you start? If it’s someplace new you’re looking for, you’ll likely start with researching destinations. You’ll make a short list of the most desirable spots, then research some more. You’ll look at the pluses and minuses in online reviews, weather conditions, and (at this point) local COVID reports.

One of our employees recently took a long trip to Illinois by car. As part of her planning, she got her car checked, mapped her routes, and confirmed overnight stops and visits with friends and family along the way. As with a GOSTE plan, she:

  • set a goal (arrive in Illinois and spend quality time with family)
  • established measurable objectives (overnight stops in Pennsylvania and in Ohio on the way with time to visit friends and a similar course on the return trip)
  • developed strategies (listening to audio books)
  • selected appropriate tactics (knitting hostess gifts, allocating funds for gas, packing seasonal gear, and purchasing snacks). 

More About Strategic Communication Plans and Destinations

In our employee’s case, the long road trip included both the challenge of driving 1100 miles to visit her family and the opportunity to reunite with college roommates, distant cousins, and friends along the way. No ghouls or goblins deterred her. She had a ghost-busting GOSTE plan.

Your marketing communication also starts with an accounting for the a challenges and opportunities you’ll encounter.  You may need to refresh your website content and improve search engine optimization. You may need to create a brochure to promote your new maintenance program. Each piece requires a plan, with a goal, objectives, carefully developed strategies and informed tactics. And, of course, ongoing evaluation to keep the project on track. 

You can read more about strategic communication destination concepts in these blog articles: listening, secondary research, primary research, and design thinking.

Follow Your Inner GPS

Before you can take any steps, you need to know your overarching goal. It’s the address you enter into your inner GPS. Where are you going? Consider these familiar marketing goals:

  • Introduce a new product to solve a customer problem. 
  • Launch services in (fill in the blank) region to grow the company’s footprint.
  • Expand the company’s digital presence to reach prospective customers.

Why are you going? 

  • What’s the benefit?
  • Why is it important? 

This “why” is your goal. It’s simply stated, just like the relaxation, family connection, and adventure you plan to have on your vacation. 

Objectives and Way Points

Long trips include rest stops, pit stops, layovers, overnights — even side trips. To get to your marcom destination, you plan measurable objectives that point the way to way points and your end point. 

  • In launching a new product, you may need to achieve a 10 percent coupon redemption rate in the first two weeks of your brand trial period.  
  • In introducing your product in a new region, you may need to increase brand awareness by 25 percent by the end of the third quarter 2021.
  • In growing your digital presence in residential and commercial markets, you may need to double Instagram and LinkedIn following by year end 2021.

You get the picture. What specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) objectives will get you where you want to be. In our employee’s excursion, one of her objectives was reach to the midpoint (50 percent) of her destination in four days. Her midpoint was a strategy to keep her on track and committed, and it took the stress out the journey. 

Strategies Are Your Motivational Messages

Your research helps you differentiate yourself from your competition. The insights you gain through your design thinking process guides you on how to position your company in the marketplace. This is the starting point of your journey. Just as our employee chose audio books to keep her alert on her long, solo journey, the strategies you put in play will move you forward.  

Strategies are your messages. They’re your approaches to achieving your objectives. When you set your GPS for a destination, you have options. Do you want the fastest route? Usually, the toll road or Interstate highway awaits you. Do you want to enjoy the scenery? It will take longer but will be more interesting and avoid the tolls. What path will you take to achieve your marketing communication goal?

  • For that new product launch, your strategy may be to showcase how easy the product is to use or how it makes the user feel: you take the Youtube video route.
  • For entering a new marketplace, your strategy may be to incentivize early adopters: you take the special offer highway and route visitors to your website.
  • For growing your digital presence: you do the multi-city and engage audiences with a social media contest customized for each destination. 

Tasks and Timeline

With a plan in place and car packed, you’re ready to make some miles. Your tactics are your activities (methods, channels, schedule and budget). They’re all the details and  tasks that support your strategy.

This includes creating, selecting and securing your owned, earned and shared media assets; managing the details of each related project (graphic design, web development, social media content, video scripts) and the timeline from concept to final approvals. Oversight of your tasks, timeline, tolls, and other necessities not only keeps you from the torment of delays and cost overruns, it sets you up to successfully meet your objective(s).

When “Recalculating Route” Gets You Back to “You Have Arrived”

You don’t want to hear those “r” words on a road trip, especially a long detour. But, it’s a help we wouldn’t want to be without. Just as you don’t want to be without continuous evaluation to guide your marketing campaign. It’s the ultimate ghost-buster. 

  • Analytics can tell you when you need to shift media to get a better return on your advertising investment.
  • It can alert you to a sudden change in the market that requires a shift in your strategy.
  • You’ll immediately see that strong response to an offer that says “keep it going.”. 

Driving a marketing campaign requires as much focus and attention as taking the wheel. Evaluate. Make adjustments. Stay on course and reach that point where your team says, “we have arrived!”