The hardest pill for any marketer to swallow is realizing that your strategy has stalled. While it’s a terrible, stressful feeling, start with a little perspective. It happens to the managers of the biggest brands in the world. Market conditions change. World events can affect buying habits and make certain types of messaging seem tone deaf. A dozen other factors can influence a downturn in marketing return on investment as well, so the trick is to not worry about why you need to change your tactics, but how you’re going to do it. Here are seven suggestions to help your turn things around and get back on track.
Conduct Your Own Focus Group
Why not start by asking your customers what they think? In the age of social media and blogging, people are certainly not afraid to weigh in with everything from glowing le-vel thrive reviews to scathing comments on unpleasant dining experiences. While true market research and focus groups have always come with a heavy price tag, informal surveys, questionnaires or open-ended social media posts can easily help you track what your followers think of your product or service. It’s important, however, to use email survey services or keep the social responses in private groups. While you can’t control if customers share them with others, you can and should mitigate the public’s ability to see these wires exposed.
Review Your Brand Strategy with Key Decision Makers
Let’s take a step back and look at the basic bones of your marketing strategy. It’s rare for a plan to be developed, reviewed, and approved solely by the marketing department. When you crafted this approach, you likely involved high level officers like the CEO, Director of Sales, and Production Manager. If your strategy is falling flat, bring them back together for an objective, constructive, and most importantly, blameless evaluation of what is and isn’t working. Pointing fingers won’t get you very far, but candidly reviewing why you’ve done the things you’ve done is very helpful. If the plan seems irredeemable, this is the time to put all these minds together to answer the questions you need to form a new strategy: “Who are we?” “Do our customers see us this way?” “What do we need to accomplish to achieve our nearest goal,” and “What steps can we take to make that happen?” If you can agree on simple, measurable, and realistic answers to those questions, more than half the battle of crafting a new strategy is done.
Expand Your Digital Presence
Using the right channels to deploy your campaigns is as important a part of your strategy as the messaging itself. Most marketers know this, but some have remained resistant to “new media.” This is understandable; if you’ve spent years or decades cultivating marketing and media buying strategies with traditional media, you are skeptical of platforms that have just entered the conversation. That said, marketing has always been a fluid concept requiring flexibility. In the early days of high-speed internet, marketers had a hard time grasping how they could monetize and capitalize on this new digital medium. That was then. Now, some 20 years later, there are clear maps and playbooks to follow for successful digital marketing. It is the most direct and targeted way to reach customers. The root cause of many sagging marketing campaigns is ignorance or indifference towards retargeting, OTT, social advertising, and web pre-rolls. Each of these are valuable tools and put to work together to expand reach and frequencies to a level unimaginable 20 years ago.
Leverage Your Traditional Media Mix
Let’s look back at radio, television, and print. Are these traditional channels still useful? Absolutely. The question is how you build your media mix in the digital age. You may be hesitant to cut your budgets with some of your traditional media partners. After all, you’ve spent years cultivating relationships with your reps, earning bonus weight and favors. Still, you need to have a conversation about whether your marketing budget is going to the most effective place for you. This doesn’t have to be hostile; explain that you’re exploring diverting some traditional media money to digital, but if they can give you a good reason not to, they’ll keep their portion of the buy. Many television and radio stations owned by national companies offer digital components to supplement their traditional offerings. Depending on what they pitch, you may end up with a one-stop shop for their medium and an array of digital products. You won’t know if you don’t ask, though!
Study Your Analytics
We can cover this quickly, but it’s vital to your success if your marketing isn’t delivering results. Look at the analytics you receive from your paid digital advertising. If you buy social media ads (not boosted posts, actual ads), you will have data about their reach, click-through rates, and, in the case of video, how many people have watched your ad all the way through. If you buy PPC ads on search engines, you’ll be able to see where visitors have come from and where they go when they leave. Even if you’re only buying traditional media, ask for ratings, impressions, or post-buy as-run reports that show how your ad performed.
Reach Out to Influencers and Recruit Brand Ambassadors
In this new world of social media trends, influencers and brand ambassadors have emerged as powerful forces in non-traditional marketing. If you can court them, provide them with samples and discounts in exchange for mentions on their platforms. Be sure to have airtight contracts that stipulate what they can and cannot say about your company as well as the ability to cut ties if they conduct themselves in questionable behavior.
Engage and Keep an Open Mind
Let’s end by going back to polling your customers. Even when times are good and marketing is working, you should engage your followers. Reply to their comments, answer their questions, and address their concerns. Perhaps more importantly, though, you need to read between the lines and see what their posts reflect about your business and take it back to your team to consider for future marketing tactics.
No-one believes that marketing is an easy, exact craft. Sometimes course changes are necessary. Use these tips as a compass when your strategy seems to be veering off-course.