Another year is ending, and economic uncertainty and Washington’s gridlock continue to plague consumers, companies and brands.
That said, life must go on. And whether you’re a business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), or nonprofit organization, the question remains as to what marketing and marketing communications investments, strategies and tactics should you employ in the year ahead. My thoughts on achieving profitable sales growth are as follows. Some may surprise you.
It’s Time to Increase Marketing Communications Spending
You probably haven’t heard many pundits talk about increasing marketing communications investments in 2014. However, you probably haven’t heard much about what Congress is considering in this area either. Did you know that Congress is now reviewing a reduction of the current 100 percent deductibility of advertising spending?
The current discussions center on permitting a deduction of only 50 percent of the costs in the year the advertising runs, and then amortizing the remaining 50 percent over the subsequent five or ten year period. In reality, a new tax on advertising.
Both parties are pushing this, and while it is doubtful that anything will make it into law in 2014, once the process has started it’s very difficult to get it stopped. So, consider the significant opportunity that exists – for at least a year – to use increased spending to profitably build your brand in 2014.
Employ Market Research to Further Understand Your Customer
Many B2C and B2B marketers believe they understand everything that is important to their customers and prospects. But do they really?
Rather than “thinking” you understand what’s really important to them, and how they perceive your brand versus competition, doesn’t it make good sense to conduct market research to uncover the real truth?
In today’s fast changing world, your target audience has multiple ways of evaluating your product or service well before entering a store, placing an online order, or speaking with a sales person. And unless you constantly monitor their conversations on social media, you’ll never know, for sure, their attitudes and perceptions (or, perhaps more importantly, their misperceptions).
Before you invest your precious marketing and marketing communications money and time, make it a priority to invest in fully understanding your target audience. Look before you leap!
Improve Your Brand’s ROI with a Marketing Communications Audit
Consider conducting a marketing communications audit to determine when, where and how to invest your time and money. An audit can provide you with an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your existing program as a whole, as well how each marketing tactic does or does not meet your objectives.
A marketing communications audit will help you determine:
What subject matter should be emphasized (or de-emphasized);
How to improve your budget allocation and media mix;
The fit of existing or planned theming, graphics, and tone and manner of all messaging;
A roadmap of how messages should be delivered across all media, both traditional and “new”
Integrating your marketing communications in a holistic manner (with messaging that is important to your audience) before you commit marketing dollars can provide a significant opportunity to improve ROI.
Recognize the Importance of the Creative Product
With all of the focus over the past few years on the efficiency of media delivery, some marketers have forgotten that the creative product itself has been – and always will be – the key to effective marketing communications.
If the creative product doesn’t break through the clutter and increase awareness, and if it doesn’t improve your image and convince your customers and prospects to buy, the delivery system you employ really won’t matter.
This is true in all aspects of your communications – the website, content marketing communications, advertising, social media, public relations, direct mail, collateral materials, and even that latest cure all, “native advertising”.
As Tom Bradley, head of marketing at Nestle once said, “the best source of marketing communications leverage is the quality of message. It’s not the media vehicle, new or traditional, that does or does not deliver.”
And don’t settle for unproven creative practitioners or cut corners because of cost. Good creative work is priceless, so nurture the creative professionals you have to constantly deliver impactful messages that your audience can relate to and be engaged by. Make sure someone in your organization has the expertise to not only encourage brilliant creative work, but also to recognize it when he sees it. As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for”.
Marketing and Marketing Communications Consultants Can Improve ROI
There will be challenges in the year ahead. Consumers are more demanding and knowledgeable, and along with businesses, have learned to purchase in new ways. Rapid changes in technology have created an “always on” media environment. A recent study by Forrester reports that 34 percent of marketers currently feel overwhelmed by change.
If this hits home with you, now may be the time to tap into established, experienced, media neutral consultants. It’s an efficient use of your resources and can provide much needed objectivity to the choices you have to make.
In this uncertain economic landscape, B2C and B2B marketers are already stretched to the limit. Many will benefit from candid and apolitical “fresh eyes” who are willing to tell it like it is.
Above all, search for consultants with broad scope and senior level experience across industries and brands. This diversity of experience and their network of like-minded professionals can expand your horizons while keeping you on budget.
Success in the Year Ahead
There will be many other factors for marketers to consider in 2014 – recognizing a rapidly growing older population, the importance of the Latino community, globalization, the effectiveness of various content marketing tactics-to name a few. Hopefully, the five major considerations discussed above will challenge you to even deeper thinking for a more profitable year.