If you’re in the process of developing, or have recently developed, your marketing and marketing communications plan and budget for next year, you’re probably concerned, as are many of the Chief Executive Officers and Chief Marketing Officers with whom I’ve been speaking, about the economic uncertainty facing your organization in the coming year. Small, medium and large companies, and nonprofits as well, are all wrestling with identical questions regarding their marketing programs.
The questions I keep hearing are the same. How do we drive profitable sales or donations in this environment? How do we know that our marketing and marketing communications mix is right in these turbulent times? Whom do we trust to give us straight answers to these questions? And where do we start?
CEOs and CMOs everywhere are trying to address these questions, as well as the strategic issue of when to aggressively invest marketing dollars to grow the top line and gain market share. And then there’s the increasingly prevalent tactical issue of understanding new vs. traditional media and their roles in today’s marketing mix.
Marketing Tips To Think About When Planning
First and foremost, start with market research. Whether you’re a business-to-business, business-to-consumer, or nonprofit marketer, you’re pretty sure you know what your customers want, what’s important to them, how they regard you, and how they rate you on various attributes versus your competition.
But, deep down, do you really know your existing and prospective customers or donors? Are you willing to spend those precious marketing dollars on what you think you know, and what your marketing suppliers are telling you? It might be a lot smarter to eliminate some of the risk up front by learning from your customers what they think you should improve upon or add to your stable of benefits. (And, by the way, customers do want benefits, not “features”.)
And, while you’re thinking about where to start on this process, don’t forget about your employees. Conduct research with them too, and see how their opinions match up with customer opinions (and with yours). They are your true (and first) brand advocates and should know a lot about what’s going on day to day.
Getting the research, of course, isn’t enough. Once you’ve gotten a verifiable handle on your existing and potential customers, consider getting some fresh eyes to evaluate your existing plans, and listen to what they would do with your marketing dollars. Your existing suppliers may have a vested interest in the status quo, or in promoting a particular tactic or discipline (e.g., events, advertising, direct mail, the Internet, social media, newsletters, trade shows, public relations, etc.). So think about the benefit of finding an established media neutral marketing communications consulting company to give you an objective evaluation.
Look for marketing consultants with experience across industries and types of organizations. Outside, senior level consultants know what to look for, regardless of industry, and can be candid with you without being caught up in internal politics or culture wars.
You also should expect these consultants to not only provide you with an honest evaluation but also to inform you about today’s fragmented marketing landscape and the marketing tactics that would work best for you. For example, did you know:
* 47 percent of Americans, between 50 and 64 years of age, are now actively using social media networks, up from 22 percent in April, 2009 (Pew Research)
* Magazine readership has actually increased over the past five years, even in the 18 – 34 year old segment (MPA)
* The average consumer receives 14 to 15 emails a day from companies or brands, while the average household receives 2 to 3 pieces of advertising related direct mail (USPS)
New and traditional media can work together. It’s just a question of understanding which to use, when, and how often, in order to profitably sell to your customers.
Don’t Go It Alone
Trust is the critical element when you look for someone to help you understand the changing dynamics affecting all marketers. It’s okay to be concerned and unsure about what’s the best path to growth. Your sales people may not trust the leads coming from marketing, and your marketing people may not trust that sales people really follow up. And all of your employees may even be more productive than they have been in the past because they’re frightened about losing their jobs. But you know this is not a sustainable model. Among other things going on in the marketplace, your customers or donors have learned to spend their money in an entirely different manner.
Investing in marketing and marketing communications becomes an especially important tactic in this environment. Just make sure – when you’re developing and executing your marketing program – that you’re getting trustworthy advice from experienced professionals.