As year-end approaches, companies are headed into planning and budgeting for 2022. For marketing teams this is a crucial time to align marketing efforts with business goals and identify key projects for the new year. As Marcomm begins to develop marketing plans and budgets in collaboration with many of our clients, we wanted to share challenges we’ve faced, trends that need attention and our best advice for marketing planning.
The past two years have been challenging for marketing professionals with the major shift in remote working and needing to bolster digital marketing efforts. Plans were built and re-built, sales were forecasted and re-forecasted, and budgets haven’t seen this much fluctuation since the recession impacts of 2009 – 2011. It’s time to get ahead of the chaos.
One of the biggest trends of 2021 marketing is still at the top of the list for 2022 – customer engagement. My number one recommendation in 2021 was to pay attention to the customers you have. As we plan for 2022, that advice holds firm (and may be even more important as companies look to capitalize on their current customers for growth and referrals).
Protect Engagement with Existing Clients: It is always less expensive to keep an existing customer than find a new one. And staying front and center with your existing clients is more challenging than ever. Some of this is due to reductions of in-person events, fewer networking functions and more team members working remote (some from distant locations). Zoom is great, but nothing replaces the experience of in-person. So … how do we cope?
Stacey Kusnier, Senior Marketing Project Manager
“Collaborating with partners, peers, and customers always gets the highest social media engagement, which directly increases organic followers and website traffic for everyone. But make sure you’re being genuine and avoid the temptation to overuse tags or hashtags in an attempt to get more likes – people will see right through it, and you’ll actually lose engagement.”
Engagement strategies should work to replicate the meaningful interactions we have lost and build the kind of personal relationships that turn average customers into loyal customers. While it is essential to keep up with social media, blogs and email campaigns, your teams need to take additional steps to make content personal.
- Interact on social media. Posting is nice, but are your sales and customer service teams actively connecting with your clients via social media? Let’s talk specifically about LinkedIn. Liking and commenting on posts, asking questions and sharing insightful content through social tools are great ways to stay top of mind with valued clientele and partners. Are you following your clients? Are you inviting key clients to follow you? And when you post, is there real thought leadership or entertainment value? But please, leave off the kids and puppies (at least as regular posting topics–LinkedIn is for business, after all).
- Use surveys, polls, landing pages and other tools in your email marketing. It’s not enough to just show up in your client’s inbox anymore. We need to make it valuable – for us and for them. Using tools that ask clients to interact with content is a great way to gain intelligence from your customer base. You will build content that you can share with clients, and the marketplace as a whole, through thought-leadership blogs and educational webinars.
- Educate your clients and give them a place to interact. Beyond posting blogs, videos and podcasts, companies have an opportunity to provide learning and networking opportunities through virtual experiences. And I’m not talking about the hour-long monthly webinar designed to sell something. It’s time to up our game as marketers and position our leaderships teams as the experts they are in quick, topic-based online forums designed to get everyone involved in the conversation.
- Back up your interactions with a website that is informative and content rich. One of my biggest pet-peeves in social and email marketing is content that lacks a call to action. If you want to inform me with a great blog, also give me the next step. If you send me an email, let me know what action you want me to take (what more I can learn and where). The days of SEO keywords just to get attention is over … in 2022 you need to back up your purpose and your promise with the content needed to make a decision. Remember, millennials are making up to 90% of their buying decisions before they talk to a live person … web content matters.
Lead With Your Purpose and Values: Focus on your brand–and I’m not just talking about your logo, tagline and colors. Is your company clear on your purpose, your values and what truly makes you unique? Too many companies lack alignment at a leadership level about why they truly exist and what they are trying to accomplish, and this impacts their ability to develop and deploy great content.
Chris Veiga, Senior Marketing Project Manager
“It’s important for people to understand that coming up with great content is not difficult for any business, it just takes time. More importantly, it’s how you communicate your purpose effectively through content vehicles and key channels. Most people tend to look at social, SEO and other channels as different projects, but in reality, they are part of your connected messaging strategy.”
It is essential to gain alignment to develop effective content. If you asked every leader in your company to answer the following questions, would you get the same answers? What if you asked your sales, marketing and customer service teams … would they be in agreement?
- What is your purpose? Or phrased a little differently, what is your right to exist in the business universe? What is the reason the company exists? What problem does it solve? What benefit does it provide? For those who are Simon Sinek fans, this is the center of the Golden Circles exercise … you must be able to clearly articulate “Why?” you are in business. The primary cause of alignment issues between sales, customer service and marketing stems from not having your purpose clearly defined.
- What is your niche, your specific playground? Define the boundaries of your space. It doesn’t have to be overly detailed, but it will help you avoid getting caught up in providing goods or services you shouldn’t be providing or trying to help customers that don’t really fit your offering. Not having a clear niche will cause you to spin your wheels and lose traction on the business that matters most. If everyone is a potential customer, it will be impossible to engage your audience and build a loyal following.
- What makes you truly unique? And how do people (specifically your customers) benefit from working with you? Too often we work with company leaders who say they have no competition – this is just not true. Whether competition comes from another entity or your prospective customer’s indifference to solving a problem, everyone has competition. By defining what is most unique about your product or services, you can clearly articulate your value. And marketing can clearly define the audience to engage and develop into customers.
Align Your Budget with Company Goals: When planning for marketing spend, too many companies put together an unrealistic project wish list they cannot afford—and then try to whittle the list down to fit the financials. Others set high sales goals and plan marketing spend on a financial projection that is too fluffy (only to have to make cuts by the end of quarter one). Many underestimate how many ad hoc projects will come up throughout the year and marketing gets pinched trying to serve too many masters with too few resources.
Alexandra Winninger, Senior Marketing Specialist
“In larger organizations, the most challenging part of staying on budget is prioritizing projects and determining who has the final say for approvals. While it’s important for everyone to be heard, it’s also essential to have a cohesive content plan and execute projects on time – this helps us align with business goals and drive results. Plus, we protect the budget and timeline of future projects.”
When building your plan and budget, ensure you have a defined team of decision-makers and align each of your priorities with the business plan. Try to consider marketing spending on multiple fronts – what do we need to do to keep and grow our existing customers, plus what will we spend for new leads and a healthy pipeline of sales activity? Oh, and don’t forget internal stakeholders.
- Market to your existing base. Customer engagement is important and requires ongoing touch points. Consider how to best stay connected with current customers via social, email and other digital efforts. When you’re ready, add in event planning (or consider how to use virtual events). And don’t forget about all the little—but important—tasks that take up marketing time. The additional email here, updated material there, sales promotion, customer announcement or other tasks that typically get added to marketing’s plate are important to consider.
- Develop specific plans for lead generation. Sales and marketing need to be on the same page when it comes to filling the pipeline. Do new leads come through advertising, sales or education events, trade shows, referral strategies or other means? And when you get the attention of new prospects, does your website back up your sales pitch in every way possible? You can have a great lead generation campaign, only to lose prospects when they land on your website and don’t get what they expected, or even worse they don’t get what you promised.
- Support growing (and closing) your sales pipeline. Unlike lead generation that is all about introducing new prospects to your product or service, marketing to support closing and onboarding new customers is different (and often more intensive). Content is key during the sales process, and marketing gets tasked with everything from thought-leadership blogs to video to webinars. Consider presentation decks, sales collateral and other material your sales team needs to be effective and include a healthy marketing budget for the creation of content that helps both close the deal and bring new customers through onboarding.
- Make your employees part of the marketing effort. An often-missed marketing activity is your internal stakeholders – the people who make the magic happen. When planning your marketing efforts, be sure to consider when and how to share the great content and sales material you’re building with your employees and other key stakeholders. Marketing can support corporate communication and positive culture development by keeping your most important assets (your team) in the loop and on the same page. If employees are informed about what you’re selling and how you want customers to see you, they will also be able to deliver to the standard customers expect.
How Marcomm is Helping Clients Plan for 2022 (Learn More Here)
We’ve been at this marketing thing for a while now … nearly 30 years. We’ve seen many marketing services companies come and go because they lacked focus, clarity and customer engagement. We practice what we preach when it comes to clarity. We are focused on finding the best marketing talent and putting them in the right role to help our clients.
Marcomm serves clients in four distinct ways:
Contract Staffing: If you have a gap on your team, Marcomm will fill marketing roles with talent that fits both the required expertise and your company culture. And because we focus on our niche – which is marketing – you can bet that we will deliver the right resource. We believe in the value of the human experience, so connecting companies with marketing talent isn’t just a tagline for us … it’s who we are at our core.
Fractional Marketing Teams: For our small and mid-sized clients, Marcomm designs marketing teams on a fractional basis. We take your marketing budget and fractionalize it to include strategy, planning, project management, writing, design, and everything else that goes into executing your marketing efforts. Think ¼ + ¼ + 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/8 +1/16 + 1/16 = one marketing person … just in the pieces and parts that matter.
Projects: Many companies already have a marketing team, but they need specific marketing expertise, overflow capacity or unique project support. Marcomm will tap into our diverse and experienced talent pool to assign a single resource or build a project team to supplement your marketing department. We take on projects that require a few hours, or a few months – and we collaborate as an extension of your team, as your partners.
Placement: To complement our staffing function, we also can place full-time marketing resources. Today more than ever, finding the right talent is challenging—and because we’ve constantly got our finger on the pulse of marketing talent, we understand how to customize a search to find and secure the right person in a timely fashion. You can stay focused on your business, and we’ll do the sourcing.
Need Help with Marketing Planning and Execution? Learn how Marcomm helps companies plan, staff and execute great marketing efforts.