Marketing plans tend to start with a hiss and a roar, only to peter out as other more pressing business imperatives take precedence. With the current slowing down of many businesses, it's definitely a perfect time to be thinking about possible changes to your marketing strategy. But is there a way of achieving that reset without losing all of your effort to date?
An effective marketing strategy will sit on a solid foundation, which normally consists of your business goals, a definition of your market, a clear expression of your messages, a content and channel plan, and some measuring yardsticks.
If, when you look at your current plan, you find yourself throwing up your hands and saying: “this simply isn’t working”, you need to be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
So, before you start pulling down the entire marketing edifice and starting all over again, here is a good four-step marketing reset:
The first thing to do is, obviously, to try and pinpoint what exactly isn't working. It's perfectly commonplace that, though a brand's overall goals and messages are perfectly fine, their content's performance is simply being dragged down by smaller problems.
Take a look at this list of common social media mistakes, compiled by Buffer's Alfred Lua, that can seriously impact on reach and engagement. Hardly any of these problems relate to the quality of the content being produced and posted. Lua focuses instead on common marketing mistakes such as oversaturating audiences with brand content, and aiming it at an insufficiently focussed target audience.
Take a look at your business' messaging and ask yourself a few questions. Is it distinctive? Is it consistent? How does it differentiate you from the competition?
A big part of assessing how to improve your messaging should involve putting yourself in your target audience's shoes. What do you want people to think when they see the product or service that you're promoting?
This article by Hootsuite's Christina Newberry contains a number of good insights about how best to locate and communicate with your brand's ideal audience. One of her suggestions is to use “social listening” – monitoring key hashtags and conversations surrounding your industry and your audience. Through doing this, you can tailor your content not just to what is being discussed within your field, but how it is being talked out.
Simply posting content out into the aether is not going to be enough. When it comes to finding out what you can do differently, you need to assess how people are engaging with your efforts.
This is when it's time to dig into analytics tools. When you send out a newsletter, for example, find out how many people are clicking through to your website, and find out how many people are actually engaging with the email at all.
Through doing this, you can work out where your time and resources are resulting in new business and higher revenues, and where they could probably do with being reconsidered and re-allocated.
If one element of your plan has worked, ask yourself why. Look at what was so special about that particular event or piece of content and think about how you can expand on that element in the future. There is nothing wrong with paring everything back and focusing on the higher value initiatives.
Looking at what has worked in the past can even be the creative springboard that helps you to branch out into something new and outside of your usual comfort zone. Producing a podcast or trying out a paid advertisement for the first time can be a daunting prospect, but being able to back that up with something that has already worked can make it easier to embark on those first steps.
Aaron Agius, writing this article for Hubspot, provides excellent ways of repurposing previously successful content to work in new mediums. For example, if you want to expand upon a successful blog post, he suggests:
“A podcast episode, or a series of podcast episodes, allow you to expand on the information and provide examples you've pulled from the post in a conversational way...”
Sketch all of this out on a piece of paper. Ask yourself questions:
If I was starting again today, what would I change?
Where is most of my marketing effort and spend going at the moment?
Where can I make the biggest impact with the smallest effort?
Marketing is a mystery to most non-professionals. But like most specialties, it can be broken down into its core elements. A reset of your marketing strategy does not have to be a total root and branch overhaul. If the foundations are sound, it may just require a slight prune.