“It’s a buyer’s market!” We seem to be hearing that everywhere these days, whether it’s for a consumer or business to business (B2B) product or service purchase, this economy has taught our customers a new way to purchase. And, with the plethora of new technology providing information sources to evaluate and compare a brand’s attributes and reputation before purchase, how we now market to our customers – both new and existing – represents a series of challenges.
As a B2B or consumer marketer in this new marketing environment, how marketing and marketing communications plans and tactics should be developed and employed is a dilemma for everyone. But it’s possible to overcome these challenges – here are four critical keys to success.
Know Your Target Audience
Knowing your target audience is a major priority. Like the management of many midsized companies, you probably think you know what your existing and potential customers want and believe about your brand. But do you really?
Before you spend your limited marketing dollars, isn’t it a better idea to use market research to determine – beyond price – what is most important to your target audience? And how they rate your product and its attributes compared to your competition?
Also, don’t forget to conduct research with your own employees and channel partners to find out how their opinions match up with your customer’s wants and needs. Employees and channel partners can be your best brand advocates, but they’ve got to be in sync with the priorities of your customers and prospects.
Investing marketing communications dollars to uncover and then promote what your customers actually want is key to improving your marketing ROI. The old adage, “Look Before You Leap”, has never been more true.
Value Both New and Traditional Media
Traditional media, such as print and broadcast advertising, events, direct mail and public relations, still remain very important marketing tools. But, becoming equally important, are blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, webinars, online videos, and a whole host of new media alternatives. All have value, and learning how to use them in concert is vital. But you must take the time to understand their relative effectiveness, not just their efficiency.
The question to address is which media mix of these marketing communications tactics to employ to keep existing customers, much less gain leads for new customers. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of these tactics with your target audience presents some interesting challenges, and you have to be able to separate the myths from the facts. For example, did you know that:
47 percent of Americans, between 50 and 64 years of age, are now actively using social media, up from 22 percent in April, 2009 (Pew Research);
Magazine readership has actually increased over the past five years, even in the 18 to 34 year old segment (MPS);
While U.S. advertising spending declined by 9 percent in 2009 to $117 billion, cable television advertising increased by 17 percent, and Spanish language television advertising increased by 32 percent (Media Reports);
Nearly two-thirds of consumers “value their direct mail”, but only 36 percent of marketers believe this – clearly a disconnect (USPS):
Retailers who post messages online have found that shorter posts (with fewer than 80 characters) receive 66 percent higher engagement that longer posts. And specific “dollars off” messages receive higher redemption than more general “percentage off”, “deal” or “bargain” phrases (Buddy Media).
Clearly, understanding the benefits of both traditional new media, especially for a midsized company with limited resources, is very important. Both are impactful, and finding the right mix for your business is another key to your success.
Participate in Content Marketing
Recently, there has been an explosion of content marketing to meet the demand for information by inquisitive buyers. Whether in the B2B or consumer marketing communities, existing and prospective customers have started looking to blogs, videos, articles, white papers and case studies to provide them with ongoing and fresh sources of information.
The depth of information now available to customers, and the speed at which it is available to them, when they want it, can raise brand awareness, improve reputation, develop qualified leads and achieve profitable sales engagement. It cannot be ignored. But there are issues. In a recent B2B Marketing Trends Survey Report from HiveFire, among nearly 400 marketing professionals:
Nearly 70 percent of content “curators” say lack of time hinders their efforts;
Two-thirds say a lack of original and quality content is a major disadvantage;
37 percent say lack of expertise to do the work is a major problem, while a like number have difficulty in measuring ROI.
But, recognizing the importance of content marketing and addressing these problems could be another key to your success.
Don’t Go It Alone
Truly understanding your audience, learning about new as well as traditional media opportunities, and developing an impactful content marketing program represent major keys to improving your marketing and marketing communications ROI. But there’s more.
Probably a lot of smart thinking has already gone into creating your business strategy, plans and tactics. But, like most midsized companies, you may be understaffed and underfunded to make the changes to take advantage of these marketing tools in today’s environment. The solution – don’t go it alone.
Consider partnering with established senior level consultants to help you and your team develop, refine and implement your programs. Above all, look for consulting groups who are “media neutral”, and aren’t selling one particular marketing discipline. And be sure they have extensive experience across industries and brands, as well as a willingness to “tell it like it is”, so candor will flourish. And, happily, finding the right consulting partner to work with you could turn out to be the fourth key to your marketing success.