Marketing Resolutions: Hold your horses!

The start of a new year often sends people into a frenzy of accomplishing a slew of goals and resolutions. The same often goes for companies at the start of a new quarter. From a total refresh of the brand to more “simple” marketing initiatives, companies often set numerous goals for their marketing efforts that they want to achieve sooner than later. While productivity and moving forward are great things, trying to do everything at one time can end up being counterproductive if you’re not careful. Here are a few things to consider before diving headfirst into changes in your marketing.

Why are you doing what you are doing?
So you have your goals and your strategy all set. Make sure you know why you’ve planned the changes/updates that you have in mind for your marketing. It’s important to be sure you and the rest of your team are aware of what the light at the end of the tunnel is for your brand. This will help to put things in perspective as you set out to tackle your goals.

What are your priorities?
There may be ten things that you want to accomplish in a year; however, in reality only three of them may be able to be done and done well. Figure out what your priorities are. This way you can give those things the attention and resources that they need to be done well. The other things don’t have to be put on hold completely, but they shouldn’t be tackled as aggressively as your main priorities.  This will also help you establish the look/feel/tone for your most important projects so that your smaller projects can follow suit. It will also help avoid total confusion from your team about what the REAL priority is. Just remember, if you overbook, you’ll never be able to fully commit and execute to the best of your ability.

What do you have resources for?
Take a good look at your manpower, your financial situation and any other resources that you may need to accomplish your marketing goals. Maybe something that you thought was a priority isn’t financially feasible. Before you go for broke, analyze your entire situation to be sure you are making the best decisions for your company. Perhaps you can push that more expensive goal back and instead work towards accomplishing three more affordable ones.

What makes the most sense?
Maybe this new initiative is cool, but doesn’t necessarily make sense for your brand at that moment, or maybe it doesn’t make sense at all. Look at your goals and determine what makes the most sense, that way you don’t mistakenly put off another priority or waste resources.

What is your strategy?
How exactly do you plan to institute your new initiatives? What is your timeline and how will you handle transitional phases? These are important things to consider. For example, if you will be getting a new logo, what promotional pieces will you update first? If you have labels, when will you be due to print your next run? Will the new logo be ready by then? If labels still have old logos, will other direct product-related items continue to carry the old logo until the new logo is used?

Is everyone in the know?
Are all of your team members aware of your company’s goals and the ones that are being prioritized? Will these new goals dictate changes in individuals’ workload or in the focus of their day-to-day? Make sure everyone knows the overall goals, the why, the priorities, the resources that each is to be allocated, and the method in which these new initiatives will be realized in the company. This is absolutely crucial for consistency and for a true company-wide effort to push your brand forward.

Everyone gets excited about achieving new goals and beginning new initiatives; however, make sure you think things through thoroughly to avoid as many fires as possible and to create as seamless an experience as possible for your end-user.

Do you have goals for the new year or the new fiscal year? How do you approach tackling them? Please share in the comments!


Keep your marketing fresh in the New Year

With the New Year approaching, many companies will soon begin their “New Year, new _____” promotions. While that is totally season-appropriate marketing, maybe it’s time to deliver the same message internally. Start-ups have the benefit of having a clean slate with regard to their brand’s identity, values and approach to marketing. Seasoned businesses, which often have seasoned members of the company and decision-making positions, don’t have that benefit. For those businesses, the threat of growing stale or stagnant with regard to their marketing grows larger with each passing day.

Has your business been around for a while? What are you doing to keep things fresh? I drew several parallels between marketing and dating and this is one that I neglected to mention. Just like you have to keep your relationships fresh in order to prevent them from dulling out, you have keep your marketing/engagement with your consumers fresh as well. While the identity and essence of your brand should essentially remain the same, if fresh ideologies don’t present themselves, it’s very possible that your company’s marketing will start to speak to only the people in your company. Here are some suggestions for ways to keep your company’s marketing fresh.

Bring in new talent
I agree with promoting from within and rewarding those who have stuck with your company and performed well; however, it is important to have a team with a diverse background so that you can get a wide variety of ideas and concepts. Look at JC Penny. The department store retailer brought in an Apple exec to take over the reigns as CEO. The company soon after instituted the ‘shops’ concept , which is modeled after the worldwide electronic and software corporation, Apple. The new concept brought in by a person from a completely different retail background has proved to be innovative and successful for the department store, and even competitors, like Macy’s are taking note.

Get external trend and market reports
If you have a larger company, I’m sure you already have a person or team in place to do research on trends, consumer behavior, etc; however, who’s to say that your internal research personnel isn’t relying on the same data, day after day, month after month, and year after year. Consulting with an outside agency could allow your business to tap into new resources from which to assess and plan your marketing strategy.

Get feedback on your marketing materials
Whether you gather your own focus groups or call on the marketing and advertising departments of universities, get your ads and campaigns in front of people to see what they think about them. Do they find them boring? Do they leave a lasting impression? This type of feedback can be helpful information to help you move forward in a positive direction. You could also consider emailing your consumers a survey with incentive, say, maybe 10% their next purchase. The survey could ask questions that gather information about the best place and approach to presenting your marketing efforts.

What do you do to make sure you keep your marketing fresh? Do you agree with my suggestions above? Do you have any of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Commit to your marketing strategy

Whenever you set out to do something important, one of the first things you need to do is to decide what and how much you are willing to commit to it. Marketing is no different. Once you have a marketing strategy set, you need to decide exactly how much time and money you are willing to commit to it and you need to stick with those commitments. I have witnessed companies set strategies in place and then decide to jump ship in reaction to a competitor’s strategy, or they are not impressed with the sales a couple of weeks into the strategy and so they bail. The result? A rushed and ill-planned alternative route that likely everyone is not onboard with or aware of. The result of that? Inconsistencies in the way that the company speaks to consumers.

While some marketing strategies yield immediate sales, some efforts are most effective with leaving an impression with the consumer and nurturing relationships that may result in brand ambassadors (super-loyal consumers who spread the word about your brand just because). So don’t get so caught up in whether or not your numbers are shooting through the roof after you initiate a strategy. You have to give it time to run its course, especially if you haven’t even gotten any metrics on your efforts. That’s why you should set a minimum time commitment and stick to it. Don’t bombard your audience with messages because you change your strategy on a whim. Trying to keep up with the Jones’ and lacking dedication to your strategy can hurt you tremendously in the long run.

If you work at a larger company, jumping ship from strategy to strategy can be really discouraging, frustrating and confusing for your team and the company. When people spend so much time and energy to produce work for a given strategy, only to see aborted, the damage to their morale can be huge, especially if it happens often. You can’t expect your team members to get excited about working and ready to give their all if they have been shown that their work won’t live long or be given the shine they thought that it would receive.

I realize that sometimes things happen and you have no choice but to change up your strategy. Situations that involve legal issues or situations that unknowingly alienate or insult a significant group of your consumers are examples of times where changing your strategy may be necessary. However, reactions to the competitive environment or lackluster sales are not reasons to abort strategies that you and your team have worked hard to develop and implement. Plain and simple, commit to your strategy.

What can your business do during disaster?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and some major fails by companies like Gap and American Apparel who tried to capitalize off of the natural disaster with promotions and pushing people to do some online shopping, I felt like a post was in order. So if you you’re kinda confused on what direction to take with your brand and marketing when the world/nation/state/community/what-have-you is facing disastrous/devastating events, here are some things to consider.

Humanize your brand and show some consideration! This is one of those “duh” things. I’m sure that you as a person are concerned with the terrible happenings, so show that concern through your brand. In this day in age, people are responding to brands that are humanized, so what better way than connect on a basic human level, than to show concern about human issues. Even if you have a start up and can’t afford to make huge donations, encourage others to do so through a national, non-profit like American Red Cross. Don’t feel comfortable with encouraging donations? Push out any other helpful information that you may come across. For example, in the case of a hurricane, tweet/post/etc any shelters that you’re aware of. If you can’t afford monetary donations, but you can afford to donate some of whatever your product or service is, then that works just as well. For example, if you own a bakery, consider sending treats to victims in shelters.

Make your products or services that benefit victims of the devastating event more accessible. For example, in the case of Gap and American Apparel, they could have simply adjusted their website categorization/rules so that items like rain boots and rain coats with free express shipping (shipping, given the circumstances may be unrealistic or nonsensical, but this is just an example) appeared at the top of the pages. There’s a difference between being helpful and being pushy, insensitive and ‘salesy.’

Connect with the community. If you are a small business owner in a place that gets affected by a disastrous event, use social media as a way to connect with your community and to let them know you feel the impact of the event as well. Encourage camaraderie and support at the local level. If you have a larger business with just one presence per social media platform, consider taking the time to connect to the community that houses your headquarters. Another thing that larger companies can do is to reach out to their employees at different locations and have them all submit images and words of encouragement specific to various areas, then the national social media platforms can show personal attention to each of those communities. 

Be engaging. Ask people to tell you their stories. Show genuine interest. During disasters, everyone is impacted in one way or another. Give people the opportunity to share their stories by using social media as a way to listen. When using social media in these instances, have your social media managers leave their names in the posts so the public knows exactly who they’re talking to. Maybe even consider making a video and sharing what the folks at your company are experiencing due to the disaster and then follow with encouraging words and a note that your company is there to listen and help.

I get it, you have a business, annnd when it’s possible to capitalize, you’d like to. Just don’t make that the driving force behind your actions for your brand during a catastrophic event. A simple picture of someone working on behalf of your brand can go a long way to draw positive attention and maybe even get some good press. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook offer excellent platforms to post compelling images, and could eventually lead to a viral success.The bottom line is give your brand a heart. Snap a few pics of you doing something good in the midst of disaster, share it, and encourage others to do the same. And don’t forget that the lives and wellbeing of human beings are at stake. So make your brand sincere, and make it human,

I’ve discussed the importance of establishing a cause for your brand. But you must also know how to adapt and make your brand at the very least sensitive to devastating events. Did you find this helpful? How does your brand handle catastrophic events?

Managing your brand’s credibility

Image via Incredible Adventures

No matter how large your marketing budget may be, and regardless of how cool your packaging is, and even if your social media efforts are out of this world, CREDIBILITY will always be one of the very most important assets your brand has. In this very social world, consumers seek the opinions of their friends and their online social communities. They also rely heavily on ratings and reviews to make final decisions about making purchases.

What does this mean for brands?

It is absolutely imperative that you be aware of conversations taking place that involve your brand. If the conversation is a negative one, you can take a number of steps.

  • Put yourself in the conversation and find out why your brand is being viewed negatively.
  • Be gracious about the feedback.
  • If the conversation is held away from your platform (for example if a complaint was discussed in a tweet, but your brand wasn’t mentioned directly in the tweet), encourage the issue to be reported to a platform that you control, like email, and respond in a speedy manner
  • Let the person know that their feedback will be taken into consideration.
  • Always pay attention to your reviews and star ratings and respond to negative ones. While a bad review can send a bad first impression for a first-time consumer, a thoughtful, sensible response on behalf of the brand may convince a newcomer to for try to form their own opinion.

Put your positive feedback, reviews and results in a place that is highly-visible to the consumer.

  • Don’t bury great product reviews and star ratings in the product detail pages. Bring those great assets to forefront and flaunt them! A simple “5-star rating!” callout can intrigue a customer and make them want to find out what others consider to be so great.
  • Make it easier for consumers to find the top-rated or most-preferred items that you offer – even if it means putting gold star or a thumbs up beside the item to call attention to it. Always be prepared to discuss your best sellers.
  • Showcase testimonials that consumers send in and share via social media in an attention-grabbing manner. Take the time to have a graphical treatment used to make the best ones stand out (display via banner advertisements, wall photos on Facebook, Instagram images, etc) and always give credit to the person who provided the testimonial. Not only will this allow you to leverage your credibility, but it will also encourage others to send in their thoughts as well.

Credibility is crucial. Address those issues that threaten your credibility quickly and effectively and leverage the positive feedback that you receive in a tasteful manner that will help take some of the guesswork out of purchase decisions for your consumers.


Update: Case studies can help tremendously with credibility. Check out this article I came across and learn how you can use them: 3 Methods to Use Case Studies to Attract More Clients

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