Six-Step Year-End Marketing Checklist

Six-Step Year-End Marketing Checklist for 2018

It’s hard to believe, but 2018 will be over in a few weeks. Before the new year arrives, it’s worth taking a step back to assess your marketing performance in order to build your marketing strategy for 2019. Let’s take a look at six steps you can take to make sure your marketing stays on track to big returns next year.

2018’s Year-End Marketing Checklist

Step 1. Assess Your Marketing ROI by Channel

Most of us keep a close eye on our marketing ROI for a particular campaign, but how often do we step back and ask whether we should even be executing a particular campaign? The best tool I’ve found to do so has been a (relatively) straightforward ROI breakout by channel. The metrics you’ll want to consider:

  • Cost per qualified lead by channel
  • Cost per sale by channel
  • Revenue generated per channel
  • Marketing spend per channel

The numbers above will give you what you need to determine your marketing ROI by channel, as well as identify any conversion hurdles that could improve that figure. As an example, if you’re heavily invested in social media but struggle to generate traffic or sales returns from that channel, it’s worth asking whether that spend could be better used on other activities.

Step 2. Audit Your Web Performance

Your web presence is one of the most critical marketing tools and customer interaction points. Which is why it’s vital to regularly take stock of your web performance metrics to identify any significant wins or serious concerns. I recommend starting with three high-level metrics:

  1. Web traffic
  2. On-site conversion rates
  3. Target keyword rankings

In each case, set your review period to cover at least the last two years in order to identify your long-term trends, and then start evaluating each metric by source and medium. You’re looking for two things:

  1. Your long-term web traffic trend: ideally it’s increasing. If it’s not, you’ve got some content marketing and web traffic generation to do.
  2. Any peaks or valleys: these spikes will show you where you’ve been successful, and where you’ve floundered. Trace your successes back to the source and replicate those activities.

Step 3: Identify Your Biggest Content Successes

Content is king (as we’ve covered in a previous content marketing blog). And in every content campaign you’ll find pieces that perform better than others. Your goal is to identify why these particular posts worked and replicate that success in the new year.

To do so, begin by reviewing your most popular social posts to see what commonalities they share. Did you stumble on a particularly compelling social media hashtag? Did you catch the eye of one or two social influencers? Or did you manage to ride the coattails of a trend to gain some exposure of your own? Your goal is to distill 2018’s social media success into 2019’s calendar, so make sure to document what worked well and have your content marketing team tailor its efforts as appropriate.

Once you’ve reviewed your social media performance, it’s time to examine your on-site marketing content. Take a look at your website’s analytics and review your most popular posts and pages. Again, you’re looking for commonalities. Did your listicles outperform everything else? Are your white papers real hits? Identify what’s working, and double-down on your content marketing.

Step 4: Refocus on Your Industry and Your Audience

Markets evolve. What your target audience may have wanted in 2018 might be old news in the new year. Take some time to browse your trade press, industry groups, message boards, and other sources for what changes might be coming so that you can make sure your value proposition remains current.

Event better, survey your customer base in order to ensure that you’re still meeting their needs. The best way to stay in business is to meet your customers’ needs better than anyone else. And the better you know them, the more confident you can feel that you’ll be putting out the right message in 2019.

Step 5: Polish Your Brand Identity

If your business slows during the holiday season, you may find that it’s an ideal time to take care of low-hanging brand identity fruit that has fallen to the back burner all year. A creative refresh, website tune-up, or asset review may be the perfect task for the slower period.

Step 6: Re-Evaluate Your Marketing Stack

The marketing software that was the perfect solution to your needs two years ago may be showing its age today. Or worse, its costs could be rising. The end of the year is a good time to get a handle on whether or not you’ll need to upgrade your marketing stack in 2019. As you do, consider these questions to help assess your marketing software:

  • What is the business need that the marketing software solves?
  • How is it priced compared to its alternatives?
  • How much employee time would be gained or lost if you switched to a different tool?
  • What functionality would be lost or gained if you switched?
  • How much additional revenue do you think you could drive if you switched?

Conclusion

I hope that our six-step year-end marketing checklist helps you refocus and drive progress in the new year. If you have any questions or would like to discuss support with any of the items above, please contact Young Marketing Consulting today.

Four Marketing Strategy Resolutions for 2017

Does your organization conduct regular evaluations of its marketing strategy?

The smartest marketing functions regularly assess their marketing performance, identify areas where they can improve, and revise or build campaigns to address these challenges. There’s no time like the beginning of a new year to set your marketing strategy resolutions, which help focus and streamline your activities to focus on those areas that will drive improved marketing ROI. Below, we’ve mapped out 4 easily achievable new year’s resolutions that will allow your business to flourish in 2017 and beyond.

Marketing resolution #1: Set SMART campaign objectives

Marketing Strategy New Year's Resolutions for 2017

How many times have you sat in a meeting and heard something to the effect of “we need to get better at this”? In those situations, it’s easy for everyone to agree on a vague goal or action like “explore revenue opportunities in adjacent markets” and leave the room feeling like progress has been made. But in reality, this kind of decision making often leads to misalignment and poor marketing performance because it’s too general to help guide your efforts.

Enter our first marketing resolution: setting SMART marketing objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based).

Specific

Being specific means you are setting specific marketing performance metrics you want to achieve. Compare “get more people to come to our site” with “Increase site traffic to our subscription page by 15%”. The second statement gives your team a much more clear idea of your goal, making it easier to track progress and focus your efforts.

Measurable

You won’t know whether or not your marketing strategy has succeeded unless you can measure your progress in some quantitative way. It can be easy to say “we want to be the best marketing company” or “we’re going to be people’s top choice for legal services,” but without any way to measure what “top” or “best” are, you’ll never know if you’ve achieved what your marketing set out to do. Make sure you’re setting measurable goals: improving social media mentions, increasing ad campaign ROI, growing the number of visitors to your website, etc.

Attainable

Nothing frustrates leadership and employees more than unrealistic goals. I recently sat in a room with a small regional college’s marketing team and heard them say that they wanted to be the first college choice for all high school seniors in the state. Given their resources and the strength of their competition, this goal was wildly unrealistic, and I could already see how it was sapping their progress toward more achievable goals. When creating marketing strategy and campaign objectives, give yourself a reality check and ask yourself if this is something you believe the business can realistically achieve.

Relevant

Your campaign objectives should be relevant to your business and how your business operates. Ask yourself why a particular marketing goal is necessary to your business or how it will help you achieve your strategic goals before proceeding. Often times, this simple test will help save thousands of dollars in wasted time and resources.

Time-Oriented

Deadlines get things done. More importantly, they bound a marketing campaign to an outcome within a particular time frame in order to assess progress toward a larger goal. Without a deadline, you might see a small sales increase in a month as a positive effect of your marketing campaign. But if you’re trying to achieve a five percent sales lift within a month, you may view your marketing campaign as underperforming due to the timeframe. If you’re working on a larger marketing campaign, create multiple milestones that build toward a larger objective in order to keep your team focused.

Marketing resolution #2: Test and measure channel ROI performance

You’ll never have all the time, budget, or staff you feel like you need to execute your marketing strategy, which is why measuring channel ROI performance is so important. Are you converting more leads from events and conferences or your website? Once those leads are converted, which are more likely to turn into customers? Evaluating your channel performance on a regular basis allows you to focus your resources on your marketing activities with the highest return, rather than trying to do everything at an equal level.

We’re currently working with a technology solutions provider to identify which of its marketing efforts lead to the greatest sales return for one of its products. We began by looking at the lead source of all of its customers, sales prospects, and new leads. In doing so, we found something interesting: the majority of its customers and sales prospects began as inbound web leads. This evaluation tells us that investing more resources in SEO and other online lead generation strategies will likely drive higher immediate returns than other channels, which will help them save marketing budget over the long run.

Marketing resolution #3: Be focused when working with limited resources

If you’re working with limited marketing resources, don’t lose hope. Two of our favorite marketing strategies below can help you make the most out of limited marketing budgets.

  • Use concentrated targeting: Concentrated targeting is an effective marketing strategy for smaller companies with limited resources. This strategy focuses on marketing to one well-defined, specific segment of a customer population in order to maximize your reach to this audience. Specific tactics could include establishing promotional relationships with associations or industry groups in your space, limiting your PPC advertising or direct mail efforts to a particular geography, or narrowing your content marketing to target a specific demographic. Although there are some disadvantages to this strategy – demand among your chose audience may fall, or you may mistarget your audience – it can create a huge competitive advantage over other companies who do not speak as directly to your chosen audience.
  • Stick to one channel: It’s always better to execute a single campaign in one channel well rather than trying to cover every possible channel where you may be likely to find customers. Take social media. While there are hundreds of potential sites you could advertise on, Facebook is near-ubiquitous, so we often recommend starting consumer-targeted campaigns on that channel first and assessing performance before expanding outreach efforts.

Marketing resolution #4: Keep your online presence active

Although it can be easy to get caught up in immediate business needs, keeping your online presence active is an essential marketing activity since the majority of customers will heavily research potential products and services online before making a purchase. In the short-term, an active presence will keep your business fresh in your target audience’s minds (which can help you create repeat customers). Longer-term, a sustained online presence will grow over time so that you can capture leads who are not aware of your company as they do their research.

Here are a few tips to keep your online presence active:

  • Blog often and consistently: Google’s algorithm prioritizes recent content, and when it comes to this content there’s nothing like blogging. In fact, websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages, every one of which will be showing in search results to a user out there somewhere.
  • Stay active on social media: The more you share relevant material that your target audience will likely engage with, the better your chances of starting conversations with individuals and companies who have a strong chance to be your customers. This activity will also show up on various search engines and help with your search indexing.
  • Monitor your reviews (and solicit them!): One of the most powerful online tools marketers have are the reviews of satisfied customers. If you don’t have any reviews, it’s time to start reaching out to your customers to ask them to help. If you aren’t monitoring your reviews, be sure to keep an eye on the major review websites and respond to any negative reviews you’ve received so that they don’t damage your reputation.

We hope that these marketing strategy resolutions have been helpful for you. If you’d like to discuss how you can evaluate or improve your marketing strategy in 2017, contact Young Marketing Consulting today.

3 Marketing Lessons from the Rio 2016 Olympics

Now that the 2016 Olympic games in Rio have come to a close, we know which brands had success with their marketing campaigns. As the chart below shows, Coca-Cola, Samsung, and Visa took the gold, silver and bronze for most brand mentions on social media, while total Olympic sponsor mentions throughout the duration of the 2016 Rio Olympic games reached almost 217,000. Clearly, each of this year’s 11 worldwide Olympic partners have been effective in creating buzz-worthy marketing campaigns, but how did they do it? Let’s take a look at some noteworthy marketing observations from Rio 2016.

Rio 2016 Olympic Marketing Observations

Source: AdWeek

1. An experiential marketing strategy creates buzz:

As an iconic brand which has been an Olympic partner for 88 years, Coca-Cola, understands how to capture every aspect of the games. Their worldwide #ThatsGold marketing campaign encouraged consumers around the globe to enjoy (and share) everyday, simple moments that create that “gold feeling”. However, the campaign wasn’t just limited to TV advertisements and social media hash tags. Coke set up mini stages in 84 villages throughout Brazil designed to bring people together while celebrating the Olympic games. With a superb experiential marketing strategy, it’s no surprise that Coca-Cola attained 344,000 social media mentions during the games this year, the most of any brand sponsor.

 

2. Engage your target audience’s emotions: 

Proctor & Gamble has been airing its “Thank you, Mom” commercials since the 2012 games. This year, P&G’s campaign featured stories from the mothers of US Olympians Simone Biles, Ashton Eaton, Alex Morgan, Allyson Felix, and Lex Gillette. These personal accounts of the role that the athletes’ mothers played in their children’s success included an emotional commercial with the tagline “It takes someone strong to make someone strong” which on its own has reached nearly 21 million views just on YouTube. The secret to the video’s success? It hones in on the ideal relationship its target audience would like to have with their children.

Samsung also brought the waterworks this year with its #DoWhatYouCant campaign, which focused on Olympic athletes who have defied barriers in their lives. The commercial “The Chant” features Margret Rumat Rumat Hassan, the first South Sudanese Olympian, beside an outpouring of overwhelming emotion and support from her country. Samsung also created a short film about other Olympic athletes who have defied barriers and become part of the 1% of athletes who qualify for the Olympics games out of the millions who train. The campaign speaks to a new generation of Samsung’s audience who are all finding their voice in the world.

 

3. Fun never fails:

Visa, with 28,500 mentions the third most-mentioned brand at the 2016 Rio Olympics, created a series of commercials that conveyed a cheerful and upbeat energy. Visa’s “Carpool to Rio” commercial features Olympic athletes carpooling as the audience rides along on the competitors’ journey to Rio. The athletes laugh and have fun with one another on their trip, showing a glimpse of their personality and the excitement made possible by Visa’s products. If there’s anything we can learn from Visa’s carpool campaign, it’s that fun never fails to engage an audience who may take a product or service’s benefits for granted.

 

Inspired by Rio to examine your marketing strategy? Why not contact Young Marketing Consulting to discuss how your brand can capture some magic of your own.

 

How to Market When You Don’t Have Time for Marketing, Part 2

Welcome to the third and final post in our series on maximizing the time you spend on marketing. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Now, it’s time to get tactical. Your goal during this stage is to structure your marketing channels so that you can “set and forget” them. In other words, build your marketing platform so that it’s always working for you in the background while you tend to sales and operations. To do that, let’s dive into the four tactics that will help you maximize the time you spend on marketing:

  1. Implement the Basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Establish a Digital Advertising/Search Engine Marketing Presence
  3. Set up Your Marketing Automation System
  4. Prepare for Inbound Lead Generation

 

1. Implement the Basics of Search Engine Optimization

“SEO is like breathing. You just need to do it, every day.”

This quote is from Frank, our head of Digital Marketing, and it sums up the essence of search engine optimization. So many SEO books have been written, and so many more blogs have been posted on various SEO tips and recommendations, that the core of SEO can be obscure for the layman. But SEO’s three pillars are much simpler than they seem:

The three phases of SEO

The three phases of SEO

  1. Optimize your website “under the hood” so that your pages have the strongest density of key terms you want to be known for in the right places in your site’s code (your URLs, your page titles, etc.)
  2. Publish regular content that includes your keywords, which will keep your site fresh in search results
  3. Get people to share your content and link to your website (ideally using your keywords in their links)

We recommend using Google’s excellent Keyword Planner tool to identify the target keywords you’ll use as the cornerstone of your search engine optimization strategy. Once you’ve got your SEO terms, review your website and make sure that those terms are reflected in the areas of your site such as your URLs, header tags, and internal links. After you’ve taken care of the basic nuts and bolts, it’s time to start creating new content. Set aside a day, write four blog posts that feature your target keywords, and then set them to publish weekly for four weeks. Repeat this process each month, track your progress using Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster Tools, and adjust your content as necessary.

 

2. Establish a Digital Advertising/Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Presence

Search engine marketing goes hand-in-hand with SEO. But whereas SEO is a more passive, “organic” channel, digital/PPC advertising lets you jump to the front of the search engine results page (SERP) line. Because of that efficacy, your pay-per-click advertising strategy should be different than your SEO strategy in one significant way:

Use SEM to target new audiences, rather than the existing terms where you rank well organically.

For example, if Young Marketing Consulting was ranking highly for, well, marketing consulting, but not as highly as a digital marketing agency, we would want to invest in PPC advertising campaign to put us in the top results for Washington DC digital marketing agencies.

SEM/PPC Ad Best Practice from Google

How do you write good PPC ad copy? Look no further than Google!

The next thing you want to do in a strong digital marketing campaign is to create an experience that will reward your leads for giving you their information. What offer will draw their interest enough to click on your ad, and once they land on your page what will give them that extra nudge to sign up?

Finally, you want to think about where (and when) your audience will be. If you’re selling breakfast food, there’s little point in advertising after 10 am or so. And if you’re only operating in the Washington DC metro area, for example, you’ll want to limit your ads as appropriate.

Once you’ve established the areas above, you’ll just need to set your budget, turn on your campaign, and let the software do the work.

 

3. Set up Your Marketing Automation System

Marketing Automation is one of our favorite aspects of digital marketing. Ultimately, what we all want is to make the process of generating and nurturing leads as pain-free as possible, which is the promise of marketing automation. There’s only one problem: setting up an automation platform requires you to invest a lot of upfront work to get up and running. Luckily, you’re working with a marketing firm with a lot of marketing automation experience.

The most important key to success for any marketing automation effort is to have your business rules clearly defined ahead of time. Think of your business rules as a series of IF/THEN statements. If a lead does X, what should happen? Keep building out these statements until you reach the end of the line. Take your ideal workflow to everyone who will be affected by your marketing automation and see if there are any outliers you aren’t covering. Once you’ve got your business rules blessed, it’s time to build your system.

One of the most common questions we get asked as a marketing consultant is to recommend a particular software suite for marketing automation. There are roughly four thousand possible choices, and the real answer is that most of them are exactly the same. They all allow you to customize your fields and workflows, create autoresponders, group and track leads and contacts, etc., so the tool you use will come down to personal taste. Pick the tool that best fits how you’d like to work and you’re off to the races.

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic

4. Drive Inbound Lead Generation through Offers

Finally, now that you’ve got your marketing automation infrastructure in place, the last step is to continually put out offers to your audience that will entice them to take action and either give you their contact information or make a purchase. These are the “carrots” that will draw potential leads to you, and there are a few tips for making them valuable. The ideal inbound lead generation content is:

  • Time-Sensitive – it’s hitting your lead at the right time, driving them to take an action within a certain window
  • Unique – it separates your offer from the others out there
  • Valuable – what you’re offering is valuable enough to drive action on your potential lead’s part
  • Personalized – something that speaks to your individual lead’s core
  • Repetitive – you’re not just doing it once and seeing what happens. You’re putting the offer out over a long enough period of time to see if it truly performs

With the above set up, you’ll be in great shape to maximize your inbound lead generation in no time!

Thanks very much for reading our series. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything related to SEO, SEM, marketing automation and inbound lead generation, please contact Young Marketing Consulting today!

 

 

How to Market When You Don’t Have Time for Marketing, Part 1

What’s the most valuable asset in your business?

I recently posed this question to a room full of business owners, and received the usual answers: people, process, intellectual property, and more. And while these suggestions weren’t necessarily wrong, I was surprised at how long it took until a member of the group volunteered what I consider to be the correct answer: time.

Time is the only resource your business can never make or buy more of, and there’s never enough.

So how can we invest in areas that maximize our time? The answer, as we’ll see, lies in harnessing the potential of modern digital marketing and automation. But we’re getting ahead ourselves.

If you’re in charge of marketing a small business, experiencing significant growth at any size organization, or maturing your marketing function, you’re probably facing a scenario where immediate operational concerns regularly overwhelm the time you feel you can devote to more long-term investments such as marketing. Last week we tackled the question of how much time you should be spending on marketing. This week, we’re going to assume you’ve referenced our handy marketing spend benchmark guide and know how much time and money you can invest in advertising and promotions. In both cases it’s probably less than you’d like, so its time to get strategic about how you’re invest.

A Four-Step Marketing Strategy When You Don’t Have Time for Marketing

Any good digital marketing effort begins with a solid strategy. Building that foundation by following the four steps below will help you maximize the effectiveness of your time spent on marketing.

 

1. Identify your target audience

Every marketing agency and consultant will trot out this chestnut, but it’s never been more true than in today’s digital marketing world. You’re about to start making decisions about where to invest your limited resources, and the easiest way to do so is by narrowing your focus on a core market. That’s why we’ve defined a target audience as follows:

Your target audience = defined demographic or psychographic segments that allow you to narrow your promotional efforts to fit your resources and generate a positive return

Demographics are the measurable areas such as income or revenue that dictate whether your customer can buy from you, while psychographics are the values and attitudes that determine whether they will. Defining both in as granular detail as possible is the starting point of any solid marketing strategy.

 

2. Build your channel strategy

Your marketing channels are those advertising paths you’ll take to reach your target audience. And while the internet gives today’s digital marketer a nearly infinite number of advertising platforms, your channel strategy should be based on those efforts that will scale with as little effort on your end as possible and are in heaviest use by your target audience. We’ll be addressing those channels more in the second part of this series, but for now here are some teasers for those who like to work ahead:

  • Searching Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM/PPC Advertising)
  • Marketing Automation
  • Inbound Lead Generation

 

3. Create your business logic

Solidifying your business logic is THE critical step to saving time in your marketing efforts, but very few companies spend time in this area. Why? Because business logic looks like this:

Marketing Automation Flowchart Example

 

It’s a tedious exercise to go through every scenario and permutation of how, for example, your organization captures and nurtures a lead, but doing so is a critical step in order to create a replicable marketing process. To ease the pain, try thinking like a computer: if X happens, then Y happens. For example, if a lead submits a web form and asks for a quote, then they’ll be routed to your sales team.

The more you codify your business logic, the more you’ll recognize inflection points and set yourself up for a strong marketing automation function when it comes time to build your system (which we’ll cover next week).

 

4. Prepare your carrots

The last element of our time-saving marketing strategy concerns your offers. At its core, digital marketing is about information exchange: your goal is to provide your target audience with something that they consider valuable enough to give you either their money or some piece of information that you can use to market to them in the future. So what are those carrots that you’ll dangle in front of your audience?

Carrots can range from discounts and special offers to exclusive deals to well-researched guides and tutorials, but you won’t necessarily know what works until you try them. So what you want to do at this stage is to sit down and develop your offers. Plan them out over the course of your campaign, and then incorporate them into your marketing channels.

What’s that you say? We haven’t gotten into the marketing channels yet? Patience, gentle reader. Part 2 of How to Market When You Don’t Have Time for Marketing is coming next week.