As you begin, or refine, your marketing and marketing communications planning for the coming year, you’re probably a little uneasy about whether you’re maximizing your strategy, budget, plan, executions and measurement. Whether you’re a B2C, B2B or nonprofit marketer, it might help to know you’re not alone. It’s always a challenge to develop these plans, but especially now.
In fact, 93 percent of Chief Marketing Officers say they’re under more pressure to deliver significant ROI, while only eight percent say they can determine ROI for their social media efforts.
Marketing And Marketing Communications Challenges
Our continued unsettled economic and political landscape and changing demographic patterns, coupled with the explosion of new communications tactics, along with a plain lack of trust between buyers and sellers, has led to the increasing levels of uncertainty that we all feel. In developing new plans and strategies, this translates into a host of considerations:
- Expenditures for major media (as led by television, yes television) and marketing services (as led by sales promotion) in the U.S. are projected to total an all-time high of $406 billion in 2015. That’s a staggering $1,262 per person (Zenith Optimedia)! Beyond the dollars, that’s a lot of clutter and competition.
- Conversely, median household income declined 8.7 percent between 1999 and 2013 to $51,939 (Census Bureau Current Population Survey). During this time, most buyers have learned how to spend their hard earned dollars more cautiously.
- The two largest and most important age cohorts are very different. Millennials are more willing to buy lesser known brands, don’t see ownership per se as an aspiration, and are cash strapped. On the other hand, the brand loyal Boomers will account for about 70 percent of U.S. disposable income in 2017 (Quirk’s Market Research).
- No one expected the efficiency and simplicity of emails to reach today’s volume, as businesses now spend nearly one-third of their work week managing them (McKeney & Company). Maybe declaring an email holiday is in order.
And, if you’re unsure or apprehensive about next year, perhaps your customers and prospects are too.
Improving Marketing And Marketing Communications ROI
So what can be done to develop a better overall program? I believe there are important steps you should consider for improving ROI.
1. You really need to know what your customers and prospects want and need, how they perceive your product or service, and how your brand stacks up to completion. Avoid corporate myths and mere opinion, and employ market research to focus your planning.
2. Be sure to understand the full demographic scope of your customers and prospects today and how they will change in the future. Consider the continuing dramatic growth of the Asian and Hispanic populations and include them in your planning.
3. Make sure your employees, reps and distributors completely understand, believe and can articulate your brand promise. Encouraging them to be dedicated brand ambassadors can dramatically increase your brand’s awareness and positive reputation.
4. Go out of your way to be media neutral. With so many new tactics to explore, make sure that, when you compare traditional and new media, you know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. For example, a recent Gallup study among 18,000 consumers reported that 62 percent said social media had “no influence at all on their buying decision”.
5. Sharpen and integrate your messaging across media through a marketing communications audit. Before committing your already stretched revenues, conduct an audit to help determine the strengths and weaknesses of your program as a whole, as well as how each individual communications tactic and message does or does not meet your objectives.
Done properly, these actions will help you develop a more knowledgeable, coordinated, focused and profitable roadmap for next year’s journey. But how do you actually begin that journey?
Marketing Communications Consultants Add Value
No one doubts that smart, dedicated people have been involved in developing your current marketing communications strategy, budget and plan. But, if you’re like most small and midsized companies, your people are probably stretched to the limit, and/or simply may not possess the background to oversee this process in the most knowledgeable way.
Because of this many companies have partnered with established, senior level consultants, to help develop, refine and, if appropriate, implement the program. If you consider this option, make sure the consultant has extensive experiences across disciplines, as well as a variety of industries and brands, so he or she won’t be trapped by the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality. You want an apolitical team, with a willingness to “tell it like it is”. Fresh eyes can be a major asset to your profitable growth.
In today’s challenging environment, a focus on upfront planning can go a long way toward improving your marketing communications ROI.