LOOKING BACKWARD CAN MAKE THE ROAD AHEAD EASIER TO NAVIGATE
Fourth quarter will soon be upon us, which means it is time to start reviewing the progress of the current year and making plans for the year to come. This is especially true for marketing, since preliminary fact gathering is often an hours-consuming process and effective implementation of marketing plans can sometimes take a little time. Start by looking at the last 12 months, and answering a few questions.
- How much money was actually spent?
Even if you are disciplined and specifically allocate your dollars in advance, chances are likely you’ve had a few add-on purchases throughout the year. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you haven’t blown your budget along the way. But knowing how much was invested will make evaluating and planning for the future easier.
- What worked and what didn’t?
Consider the various outlets you used to get your name out. Did all of them perform up to your expectations? Sometimes “amazing opportunities” deliver less than stellar results. This may be due to a salesperson over promising what his medium cannot deliver. Or, possibly, the channel chosen just wasn’t a good match with your target audience.
Hopefully you have employed a tracking mechanism of some sort. Most digital media provide access to analytical data. POS systems usually reflect special offers. Physical coupons can be saved and counted. Even anecdotal experience, though often flawed, is better than nothing. Use whatever data is available to generate a list of MUST DOs and DON’T REPEATs.
- What opportunities came across your desk that you weren’t prepared to maximize?
Maybe you learned about them too late, or had already spent the necessary dollars on something else. Either way, there are always new marketing avenues to consider. Research these enough to make an educated decision for the coming year and plan accordingly.
- What has changed in the last year?
Business patterns ebb and flow. Product/service offerings are modified. Goals evolve. Competitors open and close. Media outlets come and go. Understanding what has changed will help you better prepare for the months ahead.
Taking a long, objective look at your current situation. You’ll probably find some things to regret and others to celebrate. But don’t hold back. Ask yourself the hard questions and plot the route for the success you want to achieve in 2018.
Next month, look for pointers on deciding how much to spend on marketing.
ANALYTICS HAVE BECOME AN INDESPENSIBLE ASPECT OF MARKETING
Consider this: spending on marketing analytics—broadly defined as quantitative data about customer behavior and marketplace activities—is expected to skyrocket from 4.6% to 22% of marketing budgets by the year 2020. According to Forbes magazine, marketers say barely a third of available data currently drives the decision-making processes in their companies.
It’s time to learn how to crunch the numbers.
A number of factors prevent marketers from using the analytics at their disposals. The biggest issue is not having the processes or tools in place to measure success through analytics. Wrapping your head around new technologies and capabilities can be challenging. To this end, having the right mindset is key. Embrace the possibilities that come with data analytics and choose to believe they can help your business grow.
Here at Visionworks, we believe that marketing is equal parts art and science. The same could be said about evaluating data, as you need the ability to think analytically and creatively to make the most out of the information. We look at the data for many endeavors—digital newsletters and pay-per-click, to name a couple—and use the results to make modifications to content. We can track what works versus what doesn’t, which makes us more agile. In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, you need to be able to change directions quickly. Analytics help achieve that.
What do you do with your analytics?
ENTICE ONLINE ENGAGEMENT BY MAKING IT WORTH THEIR WHILE
A newsletters (ahem) can be a valuable part of an organization’s overall marketing plan. It portrays confidence, competence and relevance. But few people jump to sign up for a newsletter; the specter of repetitive contacts doesn’t build excitement. To really spur engagement, you need to lure them with something they value. You want their data. But that data isn’t free.
You can go about this a variety of ways. You could provide a white paper with “56 Industry Secrets” that can be instantly downloaded when the customer fills in their contact information. You could run a contest or giveaway that requires an email. You can tease “subscriber-only” benefits to encourage folks to sign up. Whichever direction you go, remember that the promise of a newsletter probably won’t whet many appetites. As with most relationships, you’re going to have to give before you get.
GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH ONE SIMPLE QUESTION
Does your mouth suddenly go dry at the thought of asking your clients and vendors for a—gasp!—referral? Perhaps you don’t want to be rejected after asking, or maybe you assume your connections already recommend you in their daily interactions. Truth is, no matter how highly your clients speak of you, a recommendation falls short of a solid referral. Plain and simple, you have to ask for referrals. And you have to be specific about what you’re asking for.
“Could you introduce me to a couple of people like yourself, with needs like yours, who could benefit from our services?” Chances are, you’ll need to ask more than once, as your clients and customers are constantly meeting and making connections with new folks. Again, use specifics when you ask. Which industries are you targeting? Or is there a particular business you are pursuing with whom your client has a connection? Make sure to get the name of a decision-maker. Ask them to make an email introduction or, better still, set an in-person meeting for you. People, for the most part, are hard-wired to want to help. If they believe in you and your work, they’ll likely vouch for you.
Once you get a referral from someone, make sure to thank them appropriately, and reciprocate the gesture when possible. This customer has put their name on the line to endorse and refer you, so show your appreciation.
If you want to grow your business, put a plan into place to ask every customer for referrals.
Some things in life don’t have extended expiration dates. Fresh raspberries. Taylor Swift’s romantic relationships. Websites. Yes, unfortunately, the biggest window into your business must be updated regularly and ultimately replaced every few years. It’s true—what looked great and inspired customer engagement five years ago looks archaic now. Haven’t we all seen some terribly dated websites? Be honest—they affect how we feel about the company in question.
How fresh is your website?
It’s not easy, or cheap, to build a quality website. Sitemaps, content, search-engine optimization and other factors all determine how well your site functions. If you don’t have rich, frequently updated content to lure readers to revisit your website, you will likely lose that consumer (and her wallet) to a company who does. Having a visually pleasant website is important; just as crucial is having the content to keep the customers coming back.
Visionworks Marketing Group builds and maintains the websites of several clients and has a proven track record of improving digital engagement. Enlist a trusted partner to build a fantastic website and keep it running smoothly. You’ve got enough on your plate as a business owner. Contact Top Dog Lili Vianello today to find out what’s possible with Visionworks.
Chances are, you’ve used a search engine before. Whether looking for a new pizza joint to try out or researching the best carpet installer in town, most people understand the concept of an internet search via Google, Bing, etc. But what goes on behind the scenes to make a list of websites appear on your screen in a matter of moments? The answer lies in SEO.
SEO = Search Engine Optimization
Simply put, SEO makes your website easy for search-engine robots to understand and users to find. Search engines have become increasingly sophisticated. SEO helps the engines figure out what each page is about and how it may be useful for users who are conducting a search.
If your SEO isn’t good or current and your company is listed deep in the search results, the user might not ever get to you. Worse, a website can be completely invisible to search engines if you don’t have any SEO in place—which can be tricky if you don’t know where or how to start.
Visionworks Marketing Group is well-versed in SEO and can improve your website’s functionality for less than you might think. Relax and let the professionals sweat the details. You’ve got more important tasks to tackle.
Contact Visionworker Melissa Boukezzoula today to learn more about how we can make sense of your SEO and get more eyes on your business.
What does branding really mean? Is it your logo, colors or the language you use? Is it the ad campaign you are currently running or the slogan you’ve utilized for years?
According to Rob Frankel, branding expert with Frankel & Anderson, Inc., branding is more than just your company name or logo. It’s the reason why people evangelize you. Your brand is a gut feeling, a distinct understanding of a product, service or company that exists in the mind of the consumer. A brand is the relationship between the product or service and the user. Understanding the brand in the context of the user’s life facilitates defining the essence of the brand. Frankel points out that branding is not about getting your prospects to choose you over the competition—it’s about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem.
The world has certainly changed. Instead of being a society of mass production we are a society of mass customization. Purchasing choices have multiplied and consumers are faced with many more options for the same product or service than a generation ago. Purchases are made now based on more symbolic and, sometimes, subconscious reasons, rather than by comparing features and benefits. Some consumers ask themselves, “What kind of people buy and use this product? Do I want to be associated with this group?” Apple, McDonalds®, the St. Louis Cardinals, even Pepsi are great examples of successful brands that evoke passion. A brand is about how consumers feel about themselves when they use a product or service.
Others evaluate their willingness to make a purchase based on the degree of trust they have with a company. Trust is the most direct route to a buying decision – and the foundation of successful branding. Ted Leonhardt with Leonhardt Group puts it succinctly: “A brand is the emotional shortcut between a company and its customers.”
So, a disciplined focus on the target audience is an essential element of successful brand management. How does your brand touch a basic, human need such as popularity, security, comfort, convenience, attractiveness or status? The most successful brands begin the marketing process with genuine consumer insight gained via robust customer research. Strong brands are successful because of a disciplined focus on a core customer. For many organizations, this segment represents no more than 15–20 percent of the customer base. But this segment, the core customer, represents a significant percentage of total business revenue.
Another component that needs to be part of the strategy is operations. The role of branding has shifted from a marketing function to a central organizing principle. The goal is to make sure all consumers have a consistent, positive experience. Branding is about building an organization’s capacity to deliver on its brand promises across all aspects of the organization, from the receptionist to the mailroom to the CEO. That’s what Ray Kroc accomplished when he started a little chain of hamburger restaurants called McDonald’s®.
It is also a philosophy that the Disney® Corporation keeps front and center. Paul Pressler, former president of Walt Disney Attractions, put it this way: “A great brand stays close to its customers. Strong brands keep close study of every aspect of the customer experience to ensure it is always a positive one.” And the corporation knows the value of delivering on that promise. Disney estimates the lifetime value in residual sales of a person having an outstanding first time visit to one of its properties to be $50,000. Going back to that one consumer, time and again, branding and reinforcing the Disney experience has obviously produced amazing results.