Marketing professionals are under more pressure than ever to deliver tangible outcomes, from increased exposure at the top of the funnel, to more sales. Just take a look at the 2017-2018 CMO Spend Survey by Gartner, which found that marketing budgets fell from 12.1 percent in 2016 to 11.3 percent in 2017. As the report explains, “Marketing leaders must now justify past budget commitments and show the returns they deliver to ensure the future fiscal health of marketing.”
But this is no reason to panic. Although it’s clear that we need to be on top of our game, we’re also working in an era that offers unprecedented opportunities to engage with customers, gather actionable insights about consumers, and develop powerful human-focused marketing platforms.
1. Maintain clear communication about concrete goals
Goals aren’t just necessary to ensure accountability – they also offer employees specific targets to work toward and concrete achievements to celebrate. While effective marketers know how to educate, engage, and entertain customers, we also make sure these efforts are always serving a more fundamental purpose: to meet a brand’s business objectives.
Although this may sound a little reductive, the production of memorable and compelling work is inseparable from the pursuit of better business outcomes. When marketers maintain an open dialogue with brands about what we’re trying to achieve, the chances that we’ll actually meet our goals improve drastically. This doesn’t just improve the brand’s bottom line – it also gives marketers an incentive to do our best work.
2. Engage in human-to-human marketing
It’s easy for marketing professionals to wedge themselves into boxes like “B2B” and “B2C.” But we should actually be thinking in terms of H2H marketing: human-to-human. No matter what your agency specializes in, you’re ultimately just dealing with human beings making decisions.
Consumers are increasingly hostile to companies that talk at them – they want to be participants, not passive observers. This is why marketers constantly need to be thinking of new ways to creatively engage customers – from campaigns that revolve around co-creation (such as Lego Ideas and Starbucks’ Red Cup Contest) to consistent and authentic interactions on social media.
If you understand how to communicate with consumers on a fundamental level, you’ll be able to build trust and maintain their relationship with the brands you serve.
3. Rigorously track the effectiveness of your strategy
We’re in the big data era of marketing. There are almost 7,000 technology solutions available to marketing professionals today, and the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has made the acquisition and analysis of huge quantities of data more efficient than ever before. This allows brands to determine which elements of their marketing strategies work and which ones don’t.
For example, with advanced AI-based attribution software provided by companies like Adobe and AirPR, you can find out how much penetration a particular piece of content is getting. It’s a marketer’s responsibility to follow these metrics closely and determine if a change needs to be made. The best technology in the world will go to waste if it isn’t integrated with a smart strategy, and this is a fact that marketers should never forget.
4. Work with the PR team from the outset
When marketers are developing a campaign, we need to consider a vast range of factors, from how it fits with the rest of the brand’s messaging to which groups of consumers will be targeted. This is where the PR team can be an invaluable asset. PR professionals often have an intricate understanding of market trends, and it’s their job to interact with the media. It’s difficult to think of a better set of skills for navigating the early days of a campaign.
Your PR team should serve as your eyes and ears. By keeping the lines of communication open right from the start, you’ll create an environment where the best ideas about how to amplify the brand’s message rise to the top.
5. Focus on reference customers
If a brand wants consumers to trust the claims it makes about a product or service, there’s no better resource than its own satisfied customers. According to Pew Research Center, 40 percent of American adults say they “always/almost always” read customer ratings or reviews. Another 42 percent sometimes check reviews. And among 18 to 29-year-olds, these proportions are 53 percent and 43 percent, respectively.
Marketers should always make the retention and engagement of reference customers a top priority. From exclusive opportunities to provide feedback on products that are still in development to consistent interactions on social media, there should be an ongoing discussion about how to keep satisfied customers satisfied. They’re like an army of marketers that doesn’t cost you a cent.
6. Stop talking about yourself
From surveys to blog posts to email newsletters, brands are increasingly using their platforms to offer insights that aren’t strictly self-promotional. Consumers recognize that brands are uniquely positioned to drive the conversation on a range of issues, such as the implementation of emerging technologies (like AI), trends in consumer behavior, and innovative business practices. This is a way to facilitate authentic engagement and keep your brand at the top of consumers’ minds.
But the keyword here is “authentic.” Nobody wants to read a blaring advertisement thinly disguised as a blog post. Consumers will regard this as deceptive and opportunistic, which is why it can actually undermine trust in a brand. Do you like going to lunch with people who only talk about how wonderful their kids are or how beautiful their last vacation was? Your customers are the same way.
7. Reward customers for being influencers
The best marketers understand that a customer’s relationship with a brand should never feel purely transactional. This is why, when customers say something positive about your brand or engage directly on social media, it’s essential to be as inclusive and communicative as possible. Customers should never feel detached from a brand – they should feel like collaborators and stakeholders who are on your team.
This is one of the reasons why user-generated content is such a powerful way to get a brand’s message across. As noted above, consumers are much more inclined to trust customers who have actually used a brand’s products and services. And what better way to make customers feel like part of the team than to give them a platform to share their experiences with the world?