by Wendy O’Donovan Phillips


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A swell, or long-term strategic marketing plan, is a series of relatively same-sized waves created by a storm or wind. The waves, or quarterly marketing actions, break in a rhythmic pattern once the swell reaches shallow water. Swells happen naturally. They occur frequently. They are already in motion. Our job as marketers is to notice the swell and to ride it well.

What exactly does ride it well mean? To find out, let’s explore the three areas of each wave in the marketing swell: Awareness, Consideration, Decision.

Awareness: The swimmer (your marketing team) drops into the top of a wave and pops up on the board. The beachgoers (your target audience) are suddenly aware of your organization. Awareness marketing is typically amplified in strategies like brand, website, SEO, blogs, eBooks and social media, all of which always include a clear call to action appropriate at this place in the wave. Calls to action at the awareness phase may include “visit our website” or “like and share.” Now, if the swimmer stops short at the top of the wave, neglecting to drop further in, the wave will break and the swimmer will wipe out without having gained the beachgoers’ loyalty.

Consideration: By contrast, when the swimmer maintains focus and drops into the middle of the wave, the beachgoers take further notice, moving into consideration of your organization. Consideration marketing is typically shared via consistent thought leadership or influencer marketing, recruitment marketing and event marketing, all of which always include a clear call to action appropriate at this place in the wave. Calls to action at the consideration phase may include “read more” or “follow us.”  It is possible to gain the beachgoer’s loyalty at this place on the wave, but dropping further in is advised to support the beachgoers in deciding to join you and become loyal to your offering.

Decision: Once the swimmer reaches the bottom of the wave, all sorts of options open: duck into the barrel to impress the most beachgoers, enjoy a long ride to keep the hard-earned attention of a few beachgoers, or do a some turns and tricks to entice the most engaged beachgoers to revel in what you are doing. Decision marketing typically takes the form of digital ads, case studies and promotional campaigns, all of which always include a clear call to action appropriate at this place in the wave. Calls to action at the decision phase may include “schedule an appointment” or “call for details.”

As the wave nears the shore break, the swimmer gracefully exits the wave. Remember, a swell is a series of waves. There is an equally powerful wave right behind the one just ridden.

Get the next installment in this series: Get More Consistent Marketing Results: Swells Come in Sets.

Since 2007, Big Buzz® has helped Stage II to Stage III organizations systemize marketing to achieve growth goals. Founder and CEO Wendy O’Donovan Phillips is the author of two books available on Amazon, Kaboom and Flourish, multiple data-driven eBooks, has been published in McKnight’s, in Forbes, and has been quoted in The Washington Post, ABC News, and Chicago Tribune. She has lectured for the American Dental Association, Argentum, several chapters of LeadingAge, and dozens of other organizations in front of audiences ranging in size from 25 to 3,000. She has been honored by the American Marketing Association for excellence in her field and has been named a Gold Key Award Winner by the Business Marketing Association. In her two-decades-long career, she has consulted with hundreds of organizations globally to support improved marketing clarity, strategies, and outcomes. Get details: visit and follow Wendy

by Wendy O’Donovan Phillips



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