Seven Resolutions to Improve Your Bottom Line

With the arrival of the New Year, it’s time to take stock of 2004’s marketing successes and failures. It’s also time to make a list of resolutions covering what you want to achieve this year.

Before developing a list of resolutions, analyze last year’s performance. Start by listing every 2004 marketing campaign and promotion that exceeded expectations. Create a similar list for every campaign and promotion that disappointed. Consider 2004’s results to understand what happened and why before finalizing 2005 plans.

Then, examine the competitive landscape and your organization’s strategic direction for marketing inspiration. Finally, look for good marketing ideas to “steal.” Some of the best and most original marketing ideas come not from monitoring direct competitors but from marketing that worked well for similarly positioned products — in totally unrelated industries.

As a marketer, set attainable goals that will help you reach your business objectives. Of course, you know increasing revenues or expanding unique users will make your boss happy. It takes careful planning and management commitment help your product reach its full potential.

Here’s a list of marketing resolutions for 2005 from some of the top marketers in the business:

Drive traffic, and track it by source and campaign.

Mike Sprouse, senior VP of marketing at Playboy Entertainment puts it succinctly: “Increase traffic. Convert traffic more effectively. Anything that moves, measure it!”

Interevco‘s CEO Paul DeBraccio concurs. His resolution: “To work diligently to standardize audience research, response metrics, and RFP processes.” You must monitor users and customers over time to identify the real winners, not just short-term successes.

Beliefnet‘s COO, David Becker, echoes this opinion. “As marketers, we focus on acquisition goals and financial metrics every day.”

Develop a test plan to analyze different components of your marketing mix and customer conversion.

At a minimum, test landing pages, forms, and buttons as well as copy, color, and format. Remember to set aside money for these tests. “Test landing pages,” recommends Anne Holland, MarketingSherpa‘s publisher. “Don’t send clicks from any campaign to an untested page, since the lessons learned will make a huge impact to your bottom line throughout the year.”

Other marketers agree. David Gitow, Barnes & Noble‘s CMO, resolves to increase creative testing.

Focus on consumers. publisher Paul Rossi states, “2005 will be about building value for subscribers.” Scot McLernon, CBS MarketWatch‘s executive VP of sales and marketing, reinforces that opinion. “Today’s consumer has become an entertainment and information programmer dictating when and where they get their information or entertainment. This is a critical key that interactive marketers need to leverage in 2005.”

Companies often discuss what they think their customers want, turning over the same recycled ideas. Actively seek customer input to learn what they really want instead.

Customers want to help and to be heard. Put links throughout your site to enable customers to send you their feedback. Remember, talk to them. Not only in formal focus groups where you define the agenda, but also in open-ended, one-on-one conversations.

Giving partnerships and affiliates a twist on the consumer theme, Heidi Messer, president of LinkShare suggests, “Online marketers should value their affiliate partners who fuel their success and view them as more than low-cost advertisers.”

Test new marketing approaches.

Set aside a small budget to test new ideas outside your “normal” marketing, such as a buzz campaign or a blog. Stretch your imagination and marketing prowess by trying a new idea you’ve read about. This isn’t just about staying competitive with your immediate competitors but rather finding new, cost-effective methods to reach new customers. This is in line with Lauren Freedman’s thinking. The e-tailing group president recommends focusing on innovative merchandising tactics that bring “new” customers online.

Place privacy at the forefront of all marketing efforts.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes to understand how they want to be treated and want their personal information protected. “Online marketers need to continue focusing on building their customer opt-in file,” advises Jere Doyle, CEO of Prospectiv Direct. “Marketers who get customers’ permission to communicate with them and to request promotional information before marketing to them see huge returns from these practices.”

You may want to send that extra marketing email to meet your quota. Consider whether that one more email will push beyond your customers’ tolerance level and cause them unsubscribe or, worse, complain to friends and family about your firm.

“Take the permission your subscribers grant you very seriously,” Matt Blumberg, ReturnPath CEO reminds marketers. “Only send messages that are relevant, enticing, and welcome. Less can be more in email!” And, don’t forget to comply with CAN-SPAM.

Create a promotional calendar.

Many companies’ marketing cycles evolved around their product line’s seasonality. From a business perspective, your promotional calendar should fulfill two functions: maximizing revenues during your peak seasons and creating demand during the lulls.

According to Debbie Weil, publisher of WordBiz Report, “Employ persistence and common sense in equal parts when planning your 2005 online marketing strategy.” For Weil, this translates into sticking to a schedule, as you only see results over time.

Develop a lifetime value model.

It’s amazing how many companies have no idea how much money they earn from an average customer. If you don’t know how much revenue and gross margin you generate per customer, how can you determine how much to spend to acquire new ones?

“Metrics and innovation will carry the day for the focused online advertisers in 2005,” observes Will Margiloff, eXact Advertising‘s CEO. “We expect marketers will demand even more understanding of the numbers, the targeting capabilities, and the new innovations.”

Other marketers concur. “One of our 2005 resolutions is to continue to strive to be excellent direct marketers, not just good ones,” says Matthias Epp, Bookspan‘s senior VP of media and Internet, “and [to] decide carefully where to spend our advertising dollars online.”

Good luck keeping those resolutions, and best wishes for the coming year! If you have resolutions or other topics you’d like to share, please drop me a line.

Related reading