Marketing Communications – The Cornerstone of a Growing Business

Successful businesses today must be extremely aware of their marketing communications. Reaching your customers is the most important step in growing your business, and in today’s 24/7 information society there are more marketing options available than ever before.

From television and radio commercials, to e-mails and banner ads, to product reviews and sponsorships, public relations is just as much about what medium you use to spread your message as it is about the message itself. A good strategic marketing plan should begin with an analysis of the best ways to reach your potential customers, and will end with a successful marketing campaign. For some businesses, the internet is the bread and butter of their strategic communications plan.

Many businesses have found that direct email campaigns to qualified leads is the most effective form of marketing communication for them. Potential customers receive an e-mail about a product, service or event that may interest them and they react positively. Other businesses may find that having their business or product promoted on another website is the most strategic marketing campaign for their customers.

Having someone else sing your company’s praises is often more enticing to a potential customer than praising yourself would be. Still other companies have found that simply advertising on popular websites is enough to generate additional business. Public relations firms specialize in determining what the most strategic marketing communications plan is for their clients. They know that in order to promote their client’s business, they must find the best way to reach their client’s potential customers.

A good firm will do extensive market research and determine what mediums their client’s competitors are using to reach potential customers. They will then develop a strategic communications plan that is custom tailored to their client. This plan may include running print ads in publications that their client’s potential customers are likely to read or buying advertising slots on TV or radio programs that the competition is currently appearing on or some combination of these different approaches.

Whatever the medium used is, the goal of marketing communications is always the same. To get your company’s name in front of your potential customers and to cultivate a public image that will help to turn all of that potential into reality. With a good strategic communications plan in place, your business will grow. Maintaining that growth requires constantly perfecting your marketing communication plan and managing your public relations every day.

Small And Midsized Company Marketing And Marketing Communications – Actionable Forecasts For 2018

You’ve probably been inundated recently with macro forecasts on the growth of digital media, artificial intelligence, mobile communications, videos, drones and more. But, as a small or midsize B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer, what forecasts should you actually pay attention to, and which might be used to improve your profitability and ROI?

I believe 2018 will be a bumpy ride and hope that my forecasts will smooth out the journey for you. Here goes:

Improving Marketing And Marketing Communications By Paying Attention to These

1. Considerable thought and time will be spent creating new website language to meet the explosive use of voice activated Internet searches. Voice activated searches, using “personal assistants”, accounted for twenty percent of searches in 2016 (ComScore) and are projected to reach fifty percent in 2020. Your website pages need to understand and reflect how people actually speak.

2. Greater attention to brand transparency, complete truth and face-to-face interaction with customers and prospects will take center stage. Cybersecurity breaches, as well as eroding trust in media and institutions, has led to a significant and wide spread quest for truth. Events and interactions at the point-of-purchase provide opportunities to build (or re-build) brand trust.

3. Reducing merchandise returns by e-commerce consumers will receive increased focus and require new strategies. While online sales are growing at about three times the rate of those for brick and mortar stores (in part, because of free shipping), almost one-third of e-purchases are sent back (versus nine percent for stores). As shipping is twenty to sixty-five percent of an e-retailers cost of goods (UPS), it’s all hands on deck to reduce this cost.

4. While digital marketing will continue to grow, there will have to be significant improvements made for its continued development. Consider the following:

– P&G has challenged Google, Facebook, YouTube and others to adapt safeguards against the existing fraudulent traffic reporting and inappropriate content by the end of 2017 or they will stop advertising with them; P&G has already pulled $140 million from them in 2017.

– Walmart is also no longer advertising on YouTube.

– Facebook claims it can potentially reach 101 million 18 to 34-year olds, but the Census Bureau counts only 76 million of this demographic.

– The ANA is attempting to start a six-month, $50 million pilot study with 35 marketers in a test of 30 premium online publishers to determine their actual value.

– Added to these, there have been accusations of social media kickbacks, while over 600 million consumers worldwide have ad blockers installed.

It is clear dramatic improvements must be made and made quickly.

5. As another outgrowth of the mistrust in the marketplace, employees, reps and distributors will become the new marketing communications “influencers”. Of necessity, these people will become “the brand”, and management will recognize the importance of an engaged workforce. In their quest to develop brand champions at every level, savvy leaders will foster authentic and open internal communications.

6. Although it might seem to be a throwback, direct mail will receive renewed emphasis. According to Compu-Mail, average response rates for direct mail (5.1%) is far higher than for email (0.6%), paid searches (0.6%), social media (0.4%), or online display ads (0.2%). In fact, direct mail is even stronger among millennials, with response rates of 12.4% among those aged 18 – 24. Data also suggests that direct mail is better than email for generating longer term customer engagement.

7. Bloggers will continue to be a factor, but writing longer posts, spending more time crafting them, and publishing less frequently (Orbit Media). Specifically, posts went from 808 words in 2014 to 1,142 words in 2017, with the average post taking nearly 3 ½ hours to create. The current regimen shows 3 percent posing daily, 22 percent posting weekly and the majority posting only several times a month or less often.

Changing Your Strategy, Planning And Tactics

1. Marketers will recognize that – in the face of a changing marketplace – the most important aspect of profitable growth and improved ROI is developing a meaningful marketing and marketing communications strategy. Having experimented in recent years with a vast variety of tactical resources (in large part because they’re easy to grasp), marketers have learned that, without any realistic measurement of their worth, these efforts may have been counterproductive. Putting tactics before strategy never works… “ready, fire, aim” comes to mind.

2. Marketers, in fact, will spend much more time determining whether their marketing communications tactics are working. Admitting that clicks don’t inherently lead to increased profitable revenue, they will establish strict measurement and ROI of digital marketing the same way they do with traditional marketing.

3. Beyond a focus on the efficiency of an advertising medium, considerably more thought will be built into selecting a specific medium based on consumer trust of the medium. A recent study of 1,030 consumers by Clutch showed television/broadcast video as the advertising medium most trusted (61%) and social media and online mediums as the least trusted (38% and 41%, respectively). Trust of all mediums is strongest among millennials and weakest among baby boomers.

4. There will be a focus on transitioning from a marketing specialist environment, to generalists who can integrate and lead these specialists into an ROI driven team (Korn Ferry). This will be challenging as there is a shortage of marketing talent with broad experience, leadership and capability that can gain the trust of specialists who work together for the brand and not their specialty.

Using Consultants For Improving Marketing And Marketing Communications ROI

Most probably you’ve already put a lot of hard work into developing your 2018 plan. But perhaps these forecasts have raised some questions and concerns that you may not have thought of, and perhaps you don’t have the experience, time or staff to address them. If you’re concerned about marketing, you’re not alone. In fact, Infusionsoft surveyed 1,000 small business owners and found that nearly two-thirds feel that they “don’t know if their marketing strategies work” or “know that their strategies aren’t working”. So, what can you do?

Consider tapping into an established, media neutral consultancy or person, with broad experience across industries, companies and nonprofits, both large and small, who are also willing to “tell it like it is”. Don’t settle for someone selling you one particular marketing discipline or experience in just your niche or industry. What is needed in these complicated times is not a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality, but rather a broad view of your business and opportunities.

Like trained accountants and lawyers, a marketing professional will bring you fresh eyes, apolitical candor and a disciplined approach to today’s uncertain and untrusting marketing environment. Trust is the new black, and a knowledgeable consultant can help you build a meaningful and profitable business.

But remember, “Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who put them into action are priceless.”

Small Company Marketing And Marketing Communications – Optimizing Planning And ROI In The Short Term

Starting any B2B or B2C business isn’t easy. While small and midsized enterprises account for over 95 percent of all businesses, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 50 percent of small businesses survive for more than four years.

Why is that? We have observed three major factors that can be fatal:

1. Managers often face too many “important” or “urgent” situations, and find themselves with too little time and skill to evaluate and execute the correct decisions;

2. Even when they know what they want to do, businesses often lack the resources, including funding and appropriate staff, to act in the short, and often long term;

3. Frequently, newer organizations lack the knowledge and expertise to profitably develop the marketing and marketing communications strategies, plans and executions necessary for their growth.

Add to this the current explosion of digital marketing choices; for a beginning business, what used to be a fairly straightforward marketing process has turned into a complex web of choices. Limited resources also means increased importance on understanding and determining the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing dollars, much less how to improve it.

A recent survey by Forrester Research found that sixty percent of buyers are now making their purchase decisions without interacting with a sales person, or even standing in front of the actual product. The implication for all organizations is that all marketing programs must be focused and crystal clear, and this is especially true for newer organizations.

Optimizing Marketing And Marketing Communications Planning

Navigating through today’s rapidly changing demographic, economic, technical and political landscape can be overwhelming for any company (or nonprofit, for that matter). Marketing strategies, plans and executions must be developed and executed with intelligence. And businesses must understand and have confidence in what results to expect.

Most strategies, plans and executions aren’t perfect, no matter how solid you and your staff think your assumptions have been. Ask yourself, “Is here anything more that can be done to ensure the success of your program?”

Actually, there is. Engage a marketing and marketing communications professional, for two to three months, to evaluate your plan and make recommendations on how to improve it before you commit your capital and other resources to it. Choose someone who has the ability to see the entire picture of your business, including customers, prospects, employees, competitors; someone who understands new and traditional media; and, someone who is passionate about improving your ROI.

Does this sound like a lot of work, time and money which you can’t afford? Frankly, often you can’t afford not to take this step. An investment with the right professional should more than pay for itself, and should profitably improve sales in both the short and long term. Apolitical, fresh eyes and candor can go a long way toward improving ROI, and should also help you, your employees and other stake holders eliminate some of the stress about the future.

What Exactly Will A Marketing Consultant Do?

During this two to three month engagement (perhaps more, depending on the situation), a marketing professional will:

1. Learn all aspects of your business, including interviews with your key constituents;

2. Evaluate the existing marketing and marketing communications strategy (target audience, category, brand benefit/point of difference, reason to believe), plan, spending, and specific creative executions and media selection;

3. Recommend specific changes to the overall program where necessary, and bring in other professionals if needed because of their specific areas of expertise;

4. Provide a procedure for measuring and evaluating the new program and the objectives of the agreed upon plan. Benchmarking and on-going analysis are key elements of successful programs, allowing for change or refinement as you proceed;

5. Inform and discuss the reasoning behind the completed plan so that the organization fully understands the rationale behind it.

The end goal of this outsourcing is to improve your ROI by using professional expertise and leadership to provide an integrated and holistic plan with meaningful tactical executions. And, importantly, doing so before committing time, money and resources to a new and lengthy plan. In other words, “Look Before You Leap.”

Selecting A Marketing Consultant

Ideally, you should look for an established, media neutral B2B and B2C consultant, with brand experience across industries, companies and nonprofits, both large and small, who is willing to tell it like it is so candor will flourish. Don’t settle for a consultant with experience in only your niche or industry, or someone selling only one particular discipline. One size fits all often means nothing fits! And be sure your selection is analytically driven, and willing to test their recommendations in the real world.

The often hectic, early years of your developing company may, in fact, be the perfect time to undertake a long range professional review of your business and opportunities, avoiding the dangerous practice of relying on “this is the way we’ve always done it” as a business plan.

Hopefully, some of these thoughts will help, but as Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”