How often do you go to market without a solid business strategy? Probably never, right?
The reality is that if you’re like most organizations, then you’re doing this right now — and you don’t even know it.
That’s because most organizations do not have a well-thought-out marketing strategy. Instead, most are doing what somebody told them they should do. This includes creating a mobile website, engaging in social media and advertising.
All of these are “smart” marketing initiatives. But if they’re done in a vacuum, there’s no way to measure what results those initiatives are intended to accomplish. Worse, you’re chasing tactics instead of delivering results.
There is a significant difference between marketing tactics and marketing strategy. Marketing tactics are ways to bring channels to life. This could be a new website or a mobile-optimized version of your site. Or it could be creating new sales collateral. Tactics should be used to bring your brand message and value proposition to life.
Unfortunately, if they’re not tied to a cohesive strategy, you will not achieve the results you desire.
A marketing strategy, however, allows you to understand the results you should achieve. It also keeps everyone aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish and where you are in the process.
As an example, there are three main reasons for a website: to verify your organization’s brand message to potential customers, to deliver your value proposition and conversion.
Conversion can mean different things for different industries. In retail, it might mean picking out a product, putting it in your shopping cart and making the purchase. In business-to-business, conversion might mean picking up the phone to contact the company, providing a name, email and phone number, or signing up to receive a newsletter.
Without understanding how consumers behave, you may be selling your marketing efforts short. You might not be providing enough information to clearly articulate your brand message or value proposition or you might not be offering users an easy experience that allows for conversion. So how do you ensure that a consistent brand message, value proposition and the ability to target customers converts across all marketing channels?
First, understand who the target consumer is and their needs, attitudes and behaviors. This can be discovered through research, including focus groups or through industry-based segmentation.
Then, conduct a deep dive to understand your business goals and objectives. In retail, this might be the number of sales you want to drive. In B2B, it could be increasing the numbers of prospects in your pipeline.
Finally, evaluate your company’s existing marketing tactics — your website, marketing collateral and overall brand message.
Only then will you be well-equipped to evaluate your overall tactics and compare them to marketing best practices and the competitive landscape. This results in recommendations that include expected business results and return on investment.
Prioritize these by measuring the highest impact against investment levels, and then create a timeline to implement them over a one- to two-year period. Share this strategy throughout the entire organization so everyone understands what will be accomplished and what the expected results are.
Without strategy, and an understanding of everything that goes into it, any money you pour into tactics tends to be money poorly spent. Done correctly, your marketing strategy suddenly becomes your organization’s key driver and leads to tangible and measurable business results.
Dave Fazekas is director of digital marketing for Smart Business Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.
Online, mobile, digital — everyone’s talking about digital marketing. But is your business or organization using it?
“Marketers have more opportunities than ever to access prospects and customers,” says Wes Phillips, agency principal at Orange Label Art + Advertising. But until you understand how these tools specifically work for your company, don’t run and put all of your advertising budget into digital. You need to take the time to learn how the digital channel of communication is going to work for your business — how it’s going to fit into your existing marketing strategy.”
“Digital should be viewed as part of an integrated plan. Do your research first and have an appropriate strategic approach,” adds Rochelle Reiter, also an agency principal with Orange Label Art + Advertising. “You need to understand your customers’ mindset — how they are accessing information. Then you can adjust your messaging and develop distinct campaigns for both online and mobile platforms.”
Smart Business asked Phillips and Reiter how businesses can be sure they’re taking the right approach when moving forward with digital marketing.
What recent advancements and/or tools in online marketing and advertising should businesses be aware of?
Today, in addition to traditional websites viewed on desktops, consumers are seeking information about businesses via mobile devices (smart phones and tablets). Both desktop and mobile bring new opportunities to marketers through the use of social media, apps, and online video — just a few of the many vehicles available to help businesses connect with customers and prospects. The advertising models have also evolved with digital and mobile to include the Pay-Per-Click (PPC) method (versus impression) so that you are paying only for the people who are seeking out what you offer. This has proven to be very effective for direct response advertisers. Also, there are measurability tools, such as Google Analytics, so an advertiser can understand which strategies are working and which ones aren’t.
How is the increase in mobile devices affecting marketing and advertising?
Approximately 60 percent of mobile phones today are smart phones. Mobile isn’t replacing the desktop, it’s providing another way to connect to prospects and customers. By the end of 2011, 25 percent of all searches will be mobile. When someone reaches out for information on their mobile device, they should be able to access information easily and find the most pertinent information about your business. This holds particular importance with local businesses such as restaurants, and is extremely effective for retail advertisers. Having a powerful mobile strategy entails ensuring that your website is mobile friendly, that your messaging is tailored to the mobile device and that you have specific ad campaigns targeted at the mobile user.
How can a business determine what digital marketing strategies are right for them?
It all begins with understanding your customers and how they access information. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. When you understand your customers’ behavior patterns, it will lead you to the answers. Do research to a) know who your prospects and customers are, b) find out how they intellectually and emotionally perceive your product or service and c) make sure that you’re using the appropriate media vehicles to connect with them. A simple way to gather this information is to take a sample group of prospects and customers and ask them these questions, along with inquiring about how they would like to receive your information. Then, an integrated plan can be developed with a customer-centric focus.
Who handles the actual work involved with digital?
It is very easy to get sucked into do-it-yourself digital. Every business owner is bright enough to do their own income tax return; the same holds true with digital. Yet, the more prudent approach would be to have someone experienced on staff to manage the initiative or to hire a freelancer or another outside resource with expertise in both digital marketing and marketing strategy.
When you are unfamiliar with all the terminologies and how the media channels can be used, it’s easy to be swayed. Just because someone understands the technology doesn’t mean he or she will understand your marketing objectives and how your prospects are persuaded, motivated and moved to action — and how to combine all of that to create messages that will produce results in the digital realm.
What special considerations should a business take into account?
From a digital perspective, you have an audience’s attention far longer than with other forms of media. When online, the prospect or customer is already searching, so transparency is critical. Make sure all of your digital information is current, accurate and relevant.
For many businesses, the ongoing investment in the website component can be quantified as the expense of an additional full-time, low-cost employee. For about $10 an hour, this ‘digital employee’ will work for you every day, every hour. And if you care for it through SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and back end support and ensure the website is relevant (regular updates and enhancements) it will perform not like an entry level employee, but as a 24/7 VP of marketing to a) attract more prospects and b) generate sales at higher margins. It’s a modest investment that will pay a big return.
WES PHILLIPS and ROCHELLE REITER are the agency principals of Orange Label Art + Advertising. Reach them at (949) 631-9900 or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.