There are so many tactics available to marketers today it’s easy to lose sight of the most important thing — your marketing strategy. Are the tactics you’re choosing aligned with the goals you’ve set for your company? And, are those goals still appropriate. In other words, is your strategy stale?
How can you tell if your marketing strategy is due for an update? Evaluate it like you would items in your refrigerator:
If your strategy is older than 2-3 years it’s probably time for an update. The pace of change is exponential today so a marketing plan that’s older than 24-36 months probably doesn’t account for new developments in marketing. Content marketing, account-based marketing, programmatic buying, and customer analytics are just a few of the many newer tactics that are worthy of consideration. We recommend revisiting your strategy every 12-18 months to ensure it remains aligned with your core values and overall business strategy while allowing you to capitalize on emerging opportunities.
If your audience wants fresh and organic but you’ve only stocked processed and packaged, you may be losing ground. According to World Wide Web Size, the web currently has over 5 billion individual pages, so your customers and prospects have virtually endless options as close as the nearest smartphone or tablet. If your strategy doesn’t account for changes in your target audiences’ preferences for methods and modes of communication, they will go elsewhere.
So how to determine if your audiences’ takes have changed? Just listen. Whether it’s through a qualitative research initiative, regular voice of the customer surveys or a social listening program, there are many ways to find out about your audience’s top of mind considerations. As marketers we can get so focused on what we’re going to say that we forget to listen. Like our moms told us, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and a sound marketing strategy should be based on an understanding and addressing customers’ perceptions, preferences and pain points.
I’ve noticed that whenever I plan to bake something, I tend to buy a new bottle of vanilla extract and a dozen eggs but forget something else. If I took the time to check the recipe and create a shopping list, I’d have less waste and maybe even higher quality ingredients. The same can be true of a marketing strategy—we get so focused on the tactics (Social! Mobile! Email! SEO!) that we lose sight of how it will all work together. The best way to avoid this is to start with your business strategy and then determine the strategic marketing initiatives that will get you there. Once that’s done, then you can determine which tactics and channels will most effectively reach your target customers. Despite the myriad of tools available to us, any one of them is only as useful as it’s appropriate deployment.
Another way this issue manifests is through a siloed approach with each area operating according its own parameters and without coordination of message, timing or goals. To make every marketing dollar work at its maximum value it’s critical that all activities are working toward a shared picture of success. Your team will appreciate the clarity and you’ll reap the rewards of their concerted efforts.
As noted in Clark Kokich’s book Do or Die, it’s no longer enough to just turn up the volume—you need to turn up the value. One of the best ways to do this is to integrate a content marketing plan into your strategy. Despite the all-you-can-eat buffet of information available online, customers are starving for knowledge. Every successful organization has a unique knowledge base and point of view. Demonstrating yours through blogs, articles, whitepapers, webinars, events, and a host of other methods can establish you as a thought leader in your field and attract more qualified prospects. A content plan should guide prospects through your sales funnel and help your business development team to find, define and convert leads into named prospects.
As your business and markets have evolved, have you re-evaluated how you’re allocating marketing dollars? Is one segment showing more growth potential than another? Do you have room in your budget to be innovative and try something new? Are your tried-and-true tactics no longer helping you to stand out? It may be time to evaluate your marketing spend through the lens of what-we-need versus what-we’ve-always done. Your budget level may be sufficient to address your markets; it just needs to be reallocated. Our experience has shown that this exercise is often easier done with the assistance of a third-party who can take an impartial view.
If any of the above rings true for your company, it may mean it’s time to take a step back and reassess your marketing strategy. Start with your business goals for the next 4-8 quarters in terms of sales volume and target customers. Then map out the tactics and communications channels that will help to accomplish your objectives. If you find it difficult to “read the label from inside the bottle,” give us a call. We can help bring clarity and alignment around your goals and establish an integrated plan for measurable success.
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