Year-end. The time to crunch numbers, scrutinize analytics and chart a course for the year ahead. With so many marketing channels available to get the word out about one’s products and services, creating an integrated program that reaches all of one’s target audiences can be a daunting task. As you assess which components of your marketing toolkit did and did not deliver during 2016, keep these considerations top-of-mind as you plan for 2017 and beyond.
What is the competition doing?
Who doesn’t want to outshine – and outperform – their biggest competitors? Whether it’s winning a major account during a competitive bidding process or becoming the media’s “go-to” source, the benefits of winning can be, well, rewarding. A well thought out marketing strategy keeps an eye on the competition and sets out to seize the potentially golden opportunities that the competition’s marketing strategies have overlooked.
While the temptation to go “toe-to-toe” and let one’s value proposition set their company apart is tempting, budgets and bandwidth often prevent that from becoming a reality. Case and point: if you are buying $1 million in media in Metro New York during a 12-month term and your biggest competitor is making a $5 million media buy in the same market, during the same term, it will be difficult to steal your target audiences’ attention through that channel – even with a more creative and compelling campaign.
What’s nice to do vs. what needs to be done
Just as in life, there are necessities and luxuries in business. Bills need to be paid. However, (and sadly for many) the gumball machine in the lobby doesn’t need to be upgraded to a high-tech candy wonderland. The same can be said for marketing – there are things that need to be done and activities that can sit on the back burner. As you refine your 2017 marketing plan, ensure that you are realistic about bandwidth, budget and resources, and that you are allocating the above to the activities that need to be done first and foremost. From there, you can prioritize the add-ons to the marketing plan that can be integrated as time and budget allow.
Remember, adaptation is key
As my colleague likes to say, this is a real-time media world. Gone are the days of the 3-5 year marketing plan. Today, the companies who achieve optimal marketing success are those who adapt their plans to seize timely opportunities and replicate prior successes. For some companies, this means consistently monitoring local/regional/national news for stories on which they can provide additional perspective and expert commentary. For others, it means closely monitoring legislation at the state capitol and distributing timely advocacy and policy communications to their stakeholders. Bottom line – keep your antennae up at all times.
Consider going “Live”
Social Media Today reports that people spend three times as long watching “Live” video on Facebook than video that is not live. While this real-time stream of content challenges brands to give up a little bit of control and embrace the unexpected – you truly never know what someone will say during their award acceptance speech – it’s a new way of communicating with online audiences and an experiment from which many brands are already reaping returns.
Leverage circles of influence
While it remains to be seen if influencer marketing is a buzz phrase or a concept that will endure, knowing who influences your target customers’ purchasing decisions is key. Whether you align yourself with a group of strategic network partners to present educational workshops for a shared pool of clients and prospects, offer leading industry bloggers exclusive experiences with your brand, or devise a campaign to engage local community leaders and align them with your company’s profit sources and/or passions, engaging influencers can heighten brand awareness, inspire engagement and drive meaningful action.
With so many strategies and tactics to choose from, it is easy to develop an overly ambitious marketing program that allocates more resources than a company has to give. As you work to finalize a 2017 marketing plan that is both strategic and creative – not to mention well-planned and nimble at the same time – it is important to keep your audiences’ wants and needs, along with the mediums best suited to your content, at the forefront.
Danielle M. Cyr is Vice President of Integrated Marketing for Co-Communications, with offices in Connecticut and New York. She can be reached at Danielle@cocommunications.com.