Understanding how marketing works and the general best practices and functions of a marketing strategy for any business are essential tools for every type of business manager. This is most important for those who are involved in day-to-day marketing decisions, but even those who aren’t should be aware of some standard best practices. Marketing should play a large role in your overall business plan, and we advise that every manager keep an eye on marketing trends so you can help lead your team and your brand toward success.
In today’s post we’ve highlighted some key marketing trends, and general guidelines that we think every manager should know about marketing.
1. Mobile Marketing Is a Must
Consumers today are consistently using their mobile devices to do research and make purchases, so retailers of all sizes must think always think mobile. Global mobile users will top two billion in 2016, while the number of desktop users will creep up to 1.8 billion.
These numbers alone highlight the importance of incorporating a mobile-centric approach to your marketing. More important are the marketing signals and trends being noted by major influencers such as Google. The company was among the first to note the breakdown of the traditional path to purchase and has become one of the biggest proponents of the relatively new focus on micro-moments. That’s because customers are turning to their mobile devices more and more, taking advantage of the inherent connectivity and information that those devices put at their fingertips.
Mobile culture has engendered an on-demand culture, whether it’s for directions to an interesting mom-and-pop shop (as with 82% of smartphone users), making purchases through their smartphone, or finding answers to questions, sometimes even while shopping. In fact, m-commerce represents 30% of all e-commerce in the U.S., representing more than $100 billion in sales, and even when shopping in-store, 82% of smartphone users will be consulting their phones before making a final decision.
Consumers are looking for a seamless, omni-channel experience facilitated and contextualized through their mobile device. Consider the fact that 66% of smartphone users turned to their device to look up something they saw in a commercial. There’s something crucial to note there—consumers are choosing to use their phones rather than a computer, even when at home. What will your customers find if they turn to their phones after being exposed to your brand’s marketing? Can your brand be there in that moment?
2. Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Website
This is the natural next step for a business in response to our first point. A responsive website (i.e., one that is viewable on every device because its layout natively formats to suit) is a must. As we mentioned, consumers expect to be able to research, find, and buy your products and services from your website using their mobile devices.
Again, you should look to the major influencers. In April 2015, Google rolled out an algorithm update that penalizes websites that aren’t optimized for mobile. It only took six months after the algorithm was put into place to start seeing major effects: non-optimized sites dropped an average of five ranks in mobile search results, which can cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars per quarter.
To look at it another way, if you aren’t already mobile-friendly, then becoming mobile friendly will boost your business by five ranks or more in search results, increase your site’s usability to diminish bounce rates, and begin bringing in new customers. Just switching to a responsive layout is a minimal action that gives you a sharper competitive edge.
3. Frequency and Consistency Are Critical
Regardless of the channel you’re marketing on, your advertising needs to maintain a certain level of consistency and frequency in order to be effective. Consumers need to be exposed to your marketing, usually on a variety of platforms, several times in order for them to become familiar with your brand, product, or service. It may take several times more to lead to action. This is where consistency becomes key—if your audience is hearing a different message with confusingly different instructions, then they aren’t going to remember your calls-to-action, let alone follow through on them.
Consistency is also key for your customers to understand what your brand represents and why you’re unique from (and hopefully better than) your competition. Like pieces of a puzzle, each exposure to your brand should give them a clearer and clearer perception of your business.
Of course, you never want to spread yourself, or your brand, too thin. A campaign focused on brand image and awareness requires more time and less day-to-day frequency, but a campaign that’s attempting to get the most customers to complete an action by a deadline will need higher frequency over a longer period of time. Develop a strategy and a marketing mix calendar to make sure you're putting your ad spend where it counts most according to the desired results.
4. Integrate Your Marketing
If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, you’re not alone; 70% of marketers actually lack an integrated strategy. However, this is actually a natural outgrowth of our three previous points. After you have strategically chosen your marketing channels including mobile and digital, you need to integrate and synchronize your messaging across each so that your target audience receives it as a part of a seamless experience of your brand. If all of your marketing channels communicate the same information with the same branding, it will increase the effectiveness of your advertising by the increased, omni-channel frequency while building brand awareness through a more complete, multifaceted exposure to your brand.
5. Target Your Marketing
Even if you’re only vaguely familiar with marketing, you understand the importance of market research and understanding your customer. However, market targeting offers your marketing strategy some serious benefits. Firstly, it means you’re only reaching out to a qualified audience (i.e., people that are interested in what your business can offer them), which means you’re much less likely to be wasting your ad spend.
But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, targeting improves the efficacy of your marketing outreach. By understanding your customer in meaningful ways, you develop a picture of their behaviors (important for winning micro-moments), their platforms and beliefs (important for winning intent), and much, much more. There are all sorts of targeting and retargeting tools that allow you to avoid a major mistake—oversimplifying your customer.
Creating detailed audience segments allows you to craft a message that speaks directly to them, too, which wins what some are calling relationship marketing. And while this may seem most applicable to B2C companies, it’s just as important to B2B companies because it also helps you realize that inside the company you’re marketing to is a person or team that you’re actually reaching out to, not a faceless entity.
6. Use Social Media for Prospecting and Reputation Management
Social media gives you the chance to engage in a more authentic and personal way with both current and prospective customers. By harnessing the power of social media platforms and using them to creatively interact with your target audience, you can connect sooner in the sales process while also learning a lot about your customer base through social listening tools. Social media also highlights another way in which the consumer journey has fragmented: Part of the customer’s research process includes going to social media or other social elements (e.g., reviews) to see what others have to say about your brand and its offerings, creating an ongoing conversation. These conversations, and reviews especially, hold a lot of weight with consumers; about 88% of consumers read as many as 10 reviews before feeling they can trust a brand, and just as many consider reviews to be as good as a personal recommendation from someone they know.
Fortunately, you have the ability to join that conversation. Reputation management has always been important, but social media has offered new benefits (and hazards). For instance, consider the real-time nature of Twitter: As soon as a customer Tweets about an issue, your social media team can reach out to them in a whole new form of customer support. Some common best practices are to always respond to issues and complaint in a timely manner—within 24 hours is ideal— and never respond flippantly or in anger.
And reputation management is only one of the many reasons it’s vital for your brand to have a social media presence. Social media has become a mainstay of modern life, a method of communicating both publically and privately, to the point that even those who don’t have regular internet connections or smartphones will have social media logins. It’s a marketing and communication channel that your brand can’t afford to simply ignore. And thankfully, with the proliferation of business tools there’s no excuse to, either.
7. Create and Maintain an Online Presence for Your Business
There’s more to omni-channel marketing than just social media, so definitely to take the time to consider having your business listed on major online directories such as Yelp, Google My Business, and Angie’s List. Having your business listed on a variety of review sites and online directories increases your SEO rankings, not to mention the contexts in which consumers have to get simple information about your business, including phone number, hours, and URL. These online presence platforms also tend to offer a host of analytics options and tools that give you even further engagement with your audience.
8. Track Your Efforts To Assess Your Success
When we’re talking about tracking your marketing in this context, we mean a lot more than the simple metrics offered to you from your website or social media platforms. Marketing is only useful if it’s actually effective, and the only way to know if it’s effective is to accurately and meaningfully understand the results.
What it comes down to is determining your ROI. For many, that is strictly a dollar value. There’s other factors, such as website traffic, lead generation, or how many calls your business gets within the campaign timeframe, and those are easy to put numbers on too. However, there’s other marks of success, like lead nurturing, which doesn’t have an immediate monetary value. Marketing is an inherent part of brand building, and that means your company may need to define other types of goals and what meeting or exceeding those goals looks like.
9. Post High-Quality Content
Content is still King, and it matters in more than just driving traffic to your site. Consumers are increasingly using reliable, entertaining, and informative content in their buying decisions. Whether you create the content yourself or contract a professional, a well-written blog post, captivating website copy, professionally designed images and social posts, and other informational resources will help position your brand as a leader, and ultimately, convert more visitors into customers.
When it comes to building a content strategy, start simple. What are the top questions your customers have during the sales process? What are their primary needs or objections? Create infographics, articles, eBooks, and videos that tell a story and address the primary concerns and interests of your customers. Tie it together in a compelling, interesting, and brand-aligned way, and you’ll see how valuable content can be in an integrated, omni-channel strategy to your bottom line.
10. Be Patient as Marketing Takes Time
Understand that marketing—especially awareness marketing—is an investment, not an expense, and it takes time to build brand recognition and an image in the eyes on consumers. This is definitely where frequency and consistency will come into play as well, especially since there’s so many other factors that can affect the time it takes your campaign to be effective. If you’re entering a new market and need to capture customers for a competitor, you’ll need time to break down their brand loyalty. It will also take time for audiences to receive and process your brand message, especially if you haven’t been advertising to them for very long. What’s more, if your industry is highly competitive, it will take time for your message to stand out from the rest.
Finding your marketing sweet spot isn’t easy, either. It can take testing, which takes time, to determine what you want to say and how you want to say it in a way that spends your marketing budget the right way. Just remember that your patience and willingness to continue experimenting or take marketing risks will eventually pay off.
While it takes some time, effort and attention to detail, marketing your business does not have to be difficult or intimidating. These marketing best practices for managers are a great starting place and represent a good baseline for how you approach your brand’s marketing.
Keep in mind that marketing is always evolving, and the role of marketing is becoming less and less of a silo department within businesses, so there’s always something new to learn. Use our tips as a launching point to learn more about the role marketing plays in your business and the effects it can have on your work and your team.