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?

Power in partnership

Image via WP Clipart

One of the key factors in marketing a product or service is knowing your target audience. Once you know who you’re targeting, you can take that information to seek out businesses who have a similar target audience and whose product/service complements yours, rather than competes with it. Joining forces with a complementary business can help spread awareness of your product/service to their following, while offering that business the same advantage. A partnership can also allow for assistance with planning and funding certain marketing efforts. When I say partnership, I am thinking of the following:

  • A joint promotional event that brings people face to face with both brands
  • An agreement to share and mention each other’s content and brand
  • An agreement to be each other’s ‘preferred’ brand, for example, if you are a physical trainer and you are partnering with an owner of a new gym, you could agree to bring your clients to that gym, and the gym owner could direct patrons who request personal training to you and your business

When approaching another business about a partnership consider the following:

  • Make sure the business offers a product/service of quality that you would not mind having your brand associated with
  • Make sure that your product/service is of high enough quality that another brand wouldn’t mind being associated with it
  • Set objectives for results you hope the partnership will garner
  • Establish the expectations for the partnership, for example, if you’d like the other business to mention your brand’s Twitter handle or Facebook page at least once a day, that needs to be discussed so that there is a fair and equal exchange of publicity on each brand’s part
  • Develop special coupons/promo codes for the partnered promotions as a tracking mechanism
  • Record your sales, social media following, etc before the start of the partnership and at the end to determine the effectiveness

Do you or have you partnered with another business? Were the results positive?

Friday fun facts: the crème de la crème of media buys

Check out Ad Age‘s breakdown of the most expensive TV programs for advertising spots. Can’t afford a TV commercial, period, let alone one of these costly spots? No worries, there are plenty of ways to market and advertise your product or service on a budget. In the meantime, one can hope and dream, right?

 

Image via Ad Age

Image via Ad Age

 

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.

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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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