We’ve all come to realize how difficult it is to market our products and services in today’s economy. Marketing budgets have been dramatically cut. Prospects are taking longer to buy. Buyers are buying less. That said, I have some recommendations for you to start the new year with a bang.
Develop a post-recession content marketing strategy based on your capabilities and risk profile. Think through your strategy carefully, but once you decide on it, stick to it and develop strong initiatives to implement it. Three possible strategies you can choose are:
- Strategy 1: Take advantage of the opportunity. It’s well documented that companies that market aggressively in a down economy can win big. Those that are in a good financial position or are willing to take some risks and put resources into content marketing have found that they can significantly increase their market share. Their competitors are too busy cutting and wondering why they’re losing business. With this strategy you’ll have a well-balanced mix of initiatives that deliver short-term results as well as position you for long-term success. As I think you can tell, this is my favorite.
- Strategy 2: Focus on short-term results. With this strategy most of your initiatives are focused on delivering results now. It’s the strategy that I see adopted most often, but it comes at the expense of long-term growth.
- Strategy 3: Minimize your losses. If you are risk-averse, or if you just don’t have the resources to invest now, this is your likely strategy. Just make sure that any cuts you make are strategic (you have a well-documented business reason for making the cuts) rather than off-the-cuff. With this strategy you’ll focus on being efficient and create initiatives that rely on effort rather than cash.
Once you’ve developed your strategy for the new year, it’s time to think about how you’ll implement it. There are three concepts you should keep in mind as you make your plans: Change, Focus, Engagement.
Recognize that buyers and markets have changed
- Really understand what your prospects and customers need. Tactics: Brainstorm with your sales force and others in your organization who touch your customers and prospects; directly interview and/or survey your customers and prospects; listen to what your customers and prospects are saying in their communities (social networks, professional meetings, etc.).
- Clarify your value proposition given the new economic environment. Tactics: Insure that you are meeting the emotional needs of your prospects and customers; offer proof points on the value that you deliver.
- Market appropriately during different stages of the buying cycle. Tactics: Insure that you have the right content for each stage: Educational and thought leadership content at the beginning stages (status quo, problem recognition, and investigation) and persuasive and technical content at the latter stages (evaluation, selection, validation, buy).
Focus on improving your current practices
- Concentrate on retaining your existing customers. Tactics: Regularly engage your customers with valuable content using newsletters; develop an online community to bring your prospects and customers together to exchange ideas.
- Review supplier relationships. Tactics: Renegotiate current contracts—look for better pricing, better terms, more value; look for new suppliers that offer better value.
- Insure that your sales and marketing functions are integrated. Tactics: Insure that the groups work as a team—marketing providing sales with appropriate content and sales providing marketing with accurate customer data; provide incentives for both groups to work together.
Actively engage with your prospects and customers
- Emphasize relationship-based strategies. Tactics: Create content that is geared towards nurturing leads, steering them through the buying cycle; actively engage in personal networking to better understand your prospects and customers and to develop trusting relationships that lead to sales.
- Make sure each customer touch is performing a marketing function. Tactics: Have content that positions your brand during sales, service, delivery, follow-up, transaction, billing; use internal communications to get all employees on the same page.
- Embrace digital technology. Tactics: It’s time to twitter (you’re already on LinkedIn and blogging, right?); use email marketing for the best ROI (and make sure you drive people to an effective landing page).