I’m not a ‘new year, new me’ kind of guy, but I do like to spend some time in January taking stock of what I’ve learned over the past 12 months.
In this post I wanted to do just that, and share some of the things I’ve noticed marketers doing on a regular basis that could negatively affect the success of their marketing strategies.
So, let’s get stuck straight in. In my opinion, here are the three most fundamental errors marketers need to avoid in 2017…
1) Only setting long-term objectives
Objectives are extremely important because, without them, how will we know if our marketing strategies are successful? What will we tell our board of directors if we don’t know what we’re trying to achieve in the first place? Without objectives, all a marketing report says is “some stuff happened”. That’s not going to get you bigger budgets and the credit you desire.
But you need to be careful what kind of objectives you’re setting.
Picture the scene. You’re six months into a campaign that you said would drive more revenue through your website and you feel it’s going pretty well. After all, search visibility was really low when you started. Now, organic traffic has been picking up nicely over the last few months, which can obviously take a while. Revenue has increased a bit but the next step is to really work on the conversion rate of the site, because the user experience isn’t particularly good. Then, you expect, the money will come flying in.
Boss/client: “So is the website driving more revenue?”
You: “Well, yes, a little bit, but the main thi-”
Boss/client: “You said this campaign would lead to more revenue”
You: “It will, but first we need t-”
Boss/client: “You haven’t met your objective, and now you want more budget?”
You: “Search visibility has gone up, which is really important to see and now we need to focus on-”
You: “Erm, yes, but revenue won’t just go up on its-.”
Boss/client: “I don’t think I made myself clear. Money.”
A little dramatic, perhaps. But marketers are at risk of this happening to them.
As you said yourself in the fictional conversation above, revenue doesn’t just go up on its own; just as bands don’t reach number one without anyone hearing their song. Most of the time, certain things need to happen before that final result can be achieved - certain dominoes need to be lined up and knocked over before the final one falls. And they could all be different from project to project.
If you only talk about the final domino, people will start to think that’s the only one that matters. But the preceding dominoes in the chain are fundamentally important to the end result. Think that goes without saying? Well perhaps for us, but our bosses and clients don’t always know that. Often all it takes to avoid conversations like that is to be transparent and explicit about how you expect things to play out, and set multiple short-term objectives that need to be met before we can achieve our long-term objectives.
- More year-on-year revenue driven by the website in the calendar year
Short-term objectives required to achieve long-term objective:
- Improve the website’s backlink profile
- Improve user engagement on the website
- Improve search visibility of the website
- Improve site-wide conversion rate
The next step is to make sure your objectives are all measurable. That will ensure your objectives are SMART (specific, measurable, agreed upon [or achievable, or action-oriented, depending on, realistic, time-based). Ensure each objective has associated metrics and KPIs that you will use to track performance.
For example, I imagine most of you will have, at some point, aimed to increase brand awareness. An admirable and important aim for any marketer. And a fine objective. But only if you have thought about the metrics to look for to tell you if you’ve succeeded, such as:
- Direct visits to your website
- Social media reach
- Branded searches
- Inbound links
By setting short and long-term objectives with associated metrics, you can significantly improve your relationship with clients and managers, who will be more engaged and knowledgeable about what you’re trying to achieve than ever before.
2) Not creating personas for different stages of the customer journey
One-size-fits-all marketing strategies need to go in the bin. It’s my opinion that too many of us create marketing strategies that are laden with lazy assumptions about our target audiences.
I often refer to this quote from Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute, because I think it sums up very nicely what we’re trying to do as marketers (and not just content marketers, I might add).
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.”
Most of us would agree that marketing won’t work particularly well unless you understand your target audience and its needs. And I think we do understand our target audiences to a certain extent. But not enough.
As marketers we mustn’t forget to think about the different stages our audience will go through when deciding whether or not to buy or invest in something - the different stages of the buying cycle, funnel, customer journey, decision-making process, whatever you prefer to call it.
When was the last time you bought something of value and went from not knowing what the product was to absolutely being sure you wanted to buy it? It might happen on the odd occasion, but I wouldn’t say regularly.
At I-COM we make use of Avinash Kaushik’s See, Think, Do, Care marketing framework. This helps us ensure we can identify the needs of a target audience at different stages of the decision-making process and give them what they need to move to the next stage, closer to the point of purchase.
In brief, the framework identifies the following four consideration stages of a customer journey:
- See - all people who could need your product
- Think - all people who are thinking about buying the product you sell
- Do - all people who have decided to buy the product you sell, but need to decide where to buy it from
- Care - all people who have already bought from you
Think about your own business. Where are the gaps in your marketing?
It may be that you have a great conversion rate, but your problem is topping up the sales pipeline. In that case, you need to focus on the See stage and on making sure more potential customers have heard of you in the first place.
Or perhaps you just can’t convert prospects into customers at all? Focus on the Do stage and leave no stone unturned in your quest to prove your business is the best place to go for that product.
Or it could be that you already meet the needs of potential customers at each stage of the customer journey, but you do nothing to engage current or past customers. In that situation you need to spend more time on the Care stage.
This approach is particularly useful for businesses that are both B2B and B2C, for example recruiters. That’s because it effectively doubles the potential marketing activity for your business. If we have any recruiters reading this, can you confidently say your marketing strategy currently meets the needs of all of the below?
- Professionals in your sector who aren’t currently looking for a job (See - B2C)
- Businesses in your sector who aren’t currently looking for a recruitment partner (See - B2B)
- Professionals in your sector who are thinking about changing jobs (Think - B2C)
- Businesses in your sector who are thinking about changing recruitment partner (Think - B2B)
- Professionals in your sector who are actively looking for a new job (Do - B2C)
- Businesses in your sector who are actively looking for a new recruitment partner (Do - B2B)
- Current candidates (Care - B2C)
- Current clients (Care - B2B)
From what I have seen, the answer is - more often than not - ‘no’.
Building strategies around the different stages of the customer journey is the way forward.
3) Not looking hard enough for what makes you truly different
The final, fundamental mistake that marketers need to avoid in 2017 is to stop assuming your USPs are indeed unique.
This is something I have noticed, in particular, in the professional services sector. Everyone is, apparently:
- Able to explain things clearly
- Able to work on a one-to-one basis
- Different (!)
And so on. Well, I’m sure they all are. But I’d argue that a) most potential clients will absolutely expect that of any service provider and b) they aren’t unique. So they’re not USPs.
You need to dig deeper to find and share what truly sets you apart from the competition, and what will truly exceed the expectations of your customers or clients. The truth is every company is different because every company is made up of different people. The personality, experience, expertise and philosophies held by a company are all guided by the people. So anyone who thinks their company doesn’t have a different story to tell is misguided.
Of course, the service you offer might well be the same as that of other companies. But how you get your message across can also be your differentiator. Your tone of voice, your culture, your approach to providing the service. That can all set you apart from the competition.
So how can you unearth these true USPs? We recommend conducting a comprehensive fact-finding exercise, internally and externally.
What do your colleagues and employees think makes your business different? What do they love about coming to work? What reasons would they give for recommending your business to friends or family?
What about your existing clients or customers? What do they like about working with you?
Find these key messages and make sure they are well communicated across your marketing channels.
Back to basics
With so much happening in our industry, with so many techniques and tools and terms to keep on top of, it is understandable that we might lose sight of the basics. We’re particularly guilty of over-complicating things in digital marketing. But these are fundamental errors that I see being made on a regular basis.
The good news, though, is that they’re easy to solve.
Consider these three things this year and I’m sure your marketing will be significantly more effective and your role significantly less stressful.