For the moment, the economy is chugging along, financial markets are recovering, and summer vacations are about to start and, hopefully, your B2C, B2B or nonprofit brand is growing. What could be better? Perhaps, your outlook for the future.
You’ve worked very hard to sustain your brand through the recent economic challenges, so perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate your situation, and focus on improving your marketing communications for the road ahead.
While competitors may be taking a breather, now may be the time for you to be aggressive and take a fresh look at your plans for the future, both short and long term. Here are five tips to keep in mind as you do so.
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Knowledge of Your Target Audience Trumps Opinion
Often, middle market brands believe they fully understand the wants and needs of their customers or constituents. However, consider employing market research to uncover their awareness of your brand, and how they really feel about you and your competition on various key attributes.
Doesn’t investing in research make sense before you spend your limited marketing communication budget? The good news is that research might confirm what you already know; the better news is that you might learn something new about how your audience really feels, and then be able to employ communications to correct what’s bothering them or highlight what’s important.
Understanding – rather than guessing – the wants and needs of your customers and prospects (as well as, perhaps, your own employees) can go a long way toward improving your marketing ROI.
Marketing Communications Audits Provide Real Value
If you haven’t recently (or ever) conducted a marketing communications audit, now is the ideal time to consider this tactic. Done properly, it will help you determine when, where and how to invest your time and money. At its core, you’ll be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your existing program as a whole, as well as how effective each tactic is in communicating your objectives.
The results of this type of audit will provide you with an actionable and coordinated road map of message delivery and spending allocation, across traditional and new media, events, content marketing, promotion and employee knowledge – and, like a financial audit, a tool for improving your profitability.
Promote Your Brand’s Anniversary
If your brand has an anniversary milestone coming up in the next two years, start planning for it now. It presents a unique opportunity to create a significant, fully integrated 12 to 18 month program, allowing you to focus on and energize your various constituents in a way that can’t be matched by your competitors. But recognize that, to be successful, you can’t just develop a new anniversary logo or throw a celebratory party. Like any other marketing tool, it must be grounded in meaningful and consistent messages.
Your corporate past is often the best criterion for your customers, prospects, employees and other audiences to judge your future performance. And, your 10th or 35th anniversary can be used to tell your story as effectively as a traditional 50th or 75th milestone.
Be Neutral When Evaluating Traditional And New Media
Don’t get caught up in all the excitement about the latest new media tactic you read about. New media does offer exciting potential and will continue to grow in importance. But don’t forget to consider traditional media. You might be surprised to know that, despite the advertising windfall generated by the Olympics and political advertising in 2012, total U/S. advertising dollars increased by only 0.9 percent in 2013. And, according to Kantar Media Audiences.
While network television and local newspapers decreased by only 3.4 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2013;
Cable television increased by 7.3 percent; consumer magazines increased by 2.6 percent; outdoor increased by 4.4 percent; free standing inserts increased by 3.4 percent; and, Spanish television increased by 2.9 percent.
Without question, digital media and content marketing increased dramatically during this time. However, you must remember that there are many options to consider. While efficiency is important, more important is maintaining your neutrality to understand and evaluate the relative effectiveness of each alternative in achieving your strategic goals.
Marketing Communications Consultants Add Value
Whether you’re a B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer, your own resources are probably already stretched to the limit. Unfortunately, you may not be able to allocate the physical or intellectual capital to the short or long term tasks at hand.
So don’t go it alone. Consider partnering with established, senior level consultants to help you and your team develops, refine and implement your plans.
Look for consultants who aren’t selling one particular discipline or a boilerplate “one size fits all” solution. Importantly, any consultant you consider should have extensive experience across industries and brands, both large and small. And be sure they’re willing to “tell it like it is”, so candor will flourish. Apolitical, fresh eyes can be an efficient use of your resources, and can provide objectivity to the decisions you need to make.
Improving marketing communications ROI is a constant challenge. It may seem like a daunting task but, as Mark Twain said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”