For better or worse, the business world changes constantly. Your company goals shift from year to year. And your marketing strategy should change along with them. The same plan of attack just won’t work year-over-year, because every year you’re marketing a different version of your company to a different version of the marketplace.
In fact, since a good marketing strategy is specific, this is even more true if last year’s marketing was excellent. The specificity that gave it power won’t apply anymore. You’ll have new growth goals to attain. And maybe a new product, or initiative to launch, too.
So, what do you need to remember when you’re refocusing your marketing?
Keep track of the state of marketing today, both in form and function
In the past, the methods of B2B marketing were completely different, because people chose their suppliers differently. Consumers gathered information primarily from brochures and trade shows. Their sales relationships started earlier, and they were more loyal to the brands they selected.
Potential buyers don’t speak with sales until they’ve done their online research. So you have to provide the lots of information up front. This has made more intentional, active marketing a necessity. Gone are the days when marketing was a cost centre; today it’s a revenue centre.
Customer relationships are affected by marketing, too. Customers are more fickle when it comes to brand loyalty.
Simultaneously, there are changes in what buyers expect aesthetically and function-wise on your website. Perhaps we need to count the life of a website in dog years! If your site is more than 5 years old, it isn’t impressing anyone. If you are claiming to be innovative and your site is old ... well, as Donny Brasco says fuhgeddaboudit.
These changes don’t happen instantly—they’re composed of micro-trends that come and go. Faster than you can say fugazi, buyer expectations, new competitor tactics, and linguistic tics sweep the market and then disappear. Keeping abreast of these developments can be the difference between your brand dominating, and your brand falling to the back of the pack.
Responding to environmental shifts and positioning against competitors
Different market conditions can call for completely different approaches to selling the same product.
Let’s say you’re selling video conferencing equipment, and you’re advertising at a time when the economy is booming. Given the economic abundance, it might be the time to sell your equipment as a prestige good. Focus on the lustrous quality of your images, your comprehensive feature set, and so on.
But then, the market takes a downturn. Even prosperous companies are tightening their budgets. What do you do then? Focus on the budgetary advantages of your product. Talk about how it facilitates more efficient meetings, which will save companies money. Share statistics about its reliability, making it clear that you’re offering a sound investment.
And this is just one example of the kinds of change that you need to navigate. New innovations, political shifts, and regulatory changes can all be a big deal. For example, in our past work with Canada Cartage part of our marketing strategy and plan focused on attracting and retaining drivers because of the shortage of truck drivers in Canada.
Accounting software company Auvenir, which we built a strategy for in 2017, needed to covey its know-how in machine learning and AI in order to prove it is the most innovative, progressive brand in its saturated category.
This brings us to the fact that you’ll have to plan around competitors, too. Obviously, you’re better at some things than they are, but your customers don’t know that—unless you communicate these differences. Every single company we’ve worked with has needed to better articulate how it stands apart from the competition.
This involves studying your competitors—knowing about their brand, messaging, marketing tactics, and more, so that you can actively differentiate from them, and achieve your goals.
Alignment and goal setting are crucial to ensuring your marketing pays off
But hey, what are those goals again? Surprisingly, some companies ignore this question. The reality is most companies we work with don’t have the expertise or bandwidth to develop a marketing strategy and plan. So any marketing they are doing is off the cuff.
Marketing should always align with goals, priorities and what departments like sales and customer service are doing. Marketing is a function that supports most functions in the business: product innovation, regulatory compliance, sales, customer service. Even the front desk staff.
At Hop Skip Marketing, we insist on refreshing the marketing strategy, tactics and budget annually. And every year we update the key performance indicators (KPIs) for marketing too. These goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. For more on this, read this blog we wrote about how to set relevant and SMART goals every time.
It might seem like a chore to revisit your marketing plans on an annual basis. But it’s the only way to avoid wasting money and falling behind competitors.
Refreshing your marketing every year is how you maintain your brand’s relevance and success in a fast-changing world. Ultimately, it’s the way into your customers’ hearts—and, of course, their wallets.