Marketing

Has Q1 Come and Gone with No Real Marketing?

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 2.40.10 PM.pngWe’re already two months into 2018, and if your company has been playing the guessing game when it comes to marketing, it’s time to take action! Even if marketing wasn’t a focal point of your annual strategic sessions, or if you don’t have the time or resources to make a robust annual plan, there’s one thing you can do, in particular, to ensure your marketing is as effective as possible: create a quarterly marketing plan.

Here are some reasons why I recommend creating a quarterly marketing strategy:

  • Quarterly results provide the motivation to continue. Although a quarterly marketing strategy is more detailed than a simple checklist, it is still a checklist of sorts. Once each part is completed, you earn a sense of accomplishment that urges you to continue.
  • Quarterly goals are less intimidating. With annual goals, it’s easy to delay tasks until the following week, month, or couple months down the road. Many of us are prone to bouts of procrastination if we allow them. Don’t allow them! Procrastination kills goals.
  • Quarterly goals give direction. If you don’t plan out where you want to go, how can you expect to get there? Going with the flow without a map could lead you to a dead end.

How to Start Your Quarterly Marketing Plan

  1. Identify your target audience. If you haven’t already done so, it’s important to define who is most likely to purchase and use your product or service. Market research is one of the most effective methods of figuring this out.
  2. Learn their behaviours. Is your audience online, or are they more prone to seeing your brand through traditional mediums such as print? You want your message to appear where your target audience is most likely to see it.
  3. Compile a list of key dates for the upcoming quarter. Do you have an upcoming tradeshow? Undoubtedly, you know you’ll need collateral for it. Running a webinar? With no promotion prior to the event, how else do you expect to drive attendance? By outlining upcoming initiatives or events, you can better plan what’s required to allow you more time to focus on attaining your goals.
  4. Set realistic goals. Marketing is intended to support the growth of your company. With that said, aligning business goals with marketing goals makes sense, and it ensures accountability for the entire company that does not rest solely on the marketing team.
  5. Make it a one-stop shop. Include all upcoming campaigns, ad buys, content posts, and other relevant promotions that provide both a macro and micro look at the quarter. This approach will help you allocate resources where need be, and will ensure you stay organized with all things marketing-related.

Remember, a quarterly marketing plan will be more beneficial than having no plan at all. Once you’ve hit your quarterly goals, don’t stop! Marketing isn’t a temporary, one-time solution. Stick to the plan you’ve made and make changes to it if necessary.

There’s no doubt in my mind that you will start to see better results from your marketing once you have a blueprint to follow. As always, if you need help with developing a quarterly marketing plan or anything else related to marketing, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

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Marketing ROI: Is it Guaranteed?

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 12.06.14 PM.pngIf there’s one question I hear most often from business owners, it’s “how can you guarantee a ROI for marketing?” It’s a fair question, indeed, but one where the answer isn’t clear-cut. Undoubtedly, it’s good business sense to expect a return when you invest in something for your business; but when it comes to marketing, there are various factors business owners need to consider before axing a tactic that yields a low ROI.

Consider these factors when deciding if your marketing dollars are being spent wisely:

  1. What strategy or technique did you use?
    Marketing is a practice that incorporates many different tactics and techniques, and some strategies will have a direct ROI while others will not. For example, if you’re launching a lead generation campaign on Google AdWords, you can directly track the leads coming in from this source, while comparing the profit made from these leads against your budget. You’ll be able to clearly determine if the ROI is there or not. A similar approach can be used for trade shows. Did the revenue made from the show at least cover the cost of the booth and any other expenses it took to attend? Lead generation campaigns will be easier to track, but even still, some level of leniency should be applied when determining ROI. As I’ll explain, not all conversions are immediate, and this is something you definitely need to take into consideration.On the other hand, marketing practices such as branding or content marketing won’t necessarily yield a high ROI for your business. Does this mean these practices aren’t worth your time or investment? Absolutely not. These types of marketing tactics are important to keep your brand relevant and relatable for customers. No one likes a stale brand, and you should think of these tactics as a support to your lead generation campaigns.
  1. Is your pipeline robust?
    There’s value in building your pipeline. For every customer that converts into a lead, there are dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other customers that come into contact with your brand and marketing messages. Some, if not many, of these other customers will result in future sales. That’s why consistent communication with both your current and potential customers is so important. Traditionally, it takes seven touches before someone notices and engages with your marketing message. It’s also why having a strategic marketing mix is vital to your marketing success, so customers are exposed to your brand through various mediums.Even if you have a transactional business, a well-defined brand experience will increase the chances of repeat business. And don’t forget: every customer is an influencer.

So to answer the question of whether marketing ROI is guaranteed: it depends. As business owners, it’s important we see the value in all facets of marketing that may not exactly yield a high ROI; however, I would highly recommend that past marketing initiatives be used for guidance when developing future marketing budgets. If you require assistance with developing a budget or marketing mix, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

Here’s Why You’ll Want to Introduce AI to Marketing in 2018

hand-2722107_640.jpgIf you’re looking to keep up with the competition in your market, there’s no doubt about it; artificial intelligence (AI) is where you need to be. But what exactly does it mean, and how can you introduce it to your marketing mix? Introducing something new to your business can be intimidating, especially if it’s technology related, but AI is surely one of those things you don’t want to miss out on.

What is AI?

Simply put, AI is any intelligence displayed by a machine that mimics the natural intelligence of humans. This might be displayed through any function that we typically associate with thinking, such as learning, problem solving or decision-making. Have you recently visited a website that had a chat box pop up from what appeared to be a real customer service rep? Were they helpful? Maybe. Were they real? Probably not. This example is simply one application of AI, but there are various other applications that can be used to optimize the marketing of your business.

So, why should you introduce AI to marketing your business this year?

  1. You’ll know your customers better

I often hear from business owners that they know exactly who their customers are. While I don’t doubt that they have a solid understanding of their average customer, they’re likely just scratching the surface when it comes to knowing their purchasing habits and other influential factors. With AI, you’re not only able to analyze more data, but different types of data too. What this means is that you’re able to learn more intricate details into the lives of your customers.

  1. You’ll communicate with personalized content, in real-time

Now that you know who your customers are, this means that you can curate highly personalized content to target them. According to a study by Demand Metric, 80% of marketers say personalized content is more effective than “unpersonalized” content. Gone are the days of annoying, irrelevant pop up ads, because now, online ads will be personalized to the interests of shoppers using data from several of their tech devices.

What’s more exciting is the ability to communicate with your customers in real-time. With certain applications of AI, stores are able to send real-time discount offers to customers. Instead of waiting to entice customers with a future promotional offer, businesses can capitalize on customers making a purchase the moment they search for a related item.

  1. You’ll save time and money

By introducing AI to your business, you’ll save countless hours on traditionally time-consuming tasks like data analysis and crunching numbers. Additionally, AI will allow you to respond to consumer requests quicker than ever before. Even large tech giants like Facebook have recognized the importance of this, and have recently introduced auto responses for inbound messages received through a company page. With AI, you’ll shorten the length of your sales cycle and convert more viable leads.

Although AI can help you better know and interact with your customers, it won’t be necessary in every aspect of your marketing strategy. Not everything needs to be automated—automation works best when the task being completed can be done so more efficiently by an AI than by a human. Designate simpler or more repetitive tasks to AI systems so that you are freeing up more time to dedicate to the really difficult challenges of your business strategy that require human input. Are you ready to jump on the AI bandwagon? Contact CreativeWorks Marketing today to discuss how AI can be introduced to your marketing strategy for 2018.

Setting Your Marketing Goals for 2018

shutterstock_578273836With 2018 now in full force, it’s likely you have your strategic business goals prepared and ready for execution. Hopefully, the marketing aspect of your business received just as much love during strategic planning sessions for this year, but in the off chance it didn’t, or if you’re looking to optimize your marketing plan for the new year, read on!

When setting your marketing goals for 2018, I highly encourage you to consider these points. In doing so, you’ll have a robust plan that is easily understood, integrative, and ready for execution:

  1. Identify what did and didn’t work in 2017

Like anything in life, it’s best to learn from your shortcomings; the same mentality should apply to your business and how you market it. Begin by reviewing any marketing or campaign-specific data you may have from the year prior. This data may stem from Google Analytics or any other web analytics tool your company may use, social media analytics, email marketing results and lead tracking (web or otherwise). Upon reviewing the data, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where did these leads come from? Did they result from a campaign or organic search?
  2. Was the messaging tailored to a unique audience?
  3. Was my website, landing page, or collateral optimized for conversions?
  4. Did customers interact with my brand the way I intended them to? Did I follow-up with them as often as I should have?

You may notice that while you had great campaign ideas, the execution was off. Slight tweaks of the same campaign based on answers to the above questions could result in an entirely different outcome!

  1. Consider your resources

As small businesses, we often don’t have the luxury of having a marketing department or team. Your marketing team may only consist of a coordinator or manager, or perhaps even just yourself! Bearing that in mind, make 2018 the year you introduce automation to your business. With automation, you’ll provide your marketing personnel with more time to focus on tasks that really matter, such as strategic planning and business development.

Or, if finances permit, expand your marketing team. Get specific with what you need. Do you require a generalist who can complete as many different tasks as possible, or is a specialist of some sort what you require? You may consider hiring a marketing agency that has all of the above and more, and can be more cost-effective than hiring an additional full-time staff member.

  1. Be realistic

First things first, yes, all companies want to grow and make more money; however, it’s important to remain realistic with the amount of growth you achieve and how quickly you attain this growth. Remember, good marketing takes time. While you’ll want to see a direct impact on your ROI, the fact of the matter is, revenue growth from new leads and customers will not be noticed until the next quarter or even later on in the year; or, years to come. Of course, this all depends on the type of business you have and the industry you’re in, but the importance remains that you should be focused on building your funnel at this time.

What are you waiting for?

I too often hear from business owners how they require assistance with marketing their business, yet it somehow is always placed on the back burner. By setting your marketing goals now, you’ll have a clear and concise plan that you can refer to throughout the year. If you require assistance with developing a marketing plan or executing marketing tasks, give CreativeWorks Marketing a call today!

Marketing in 2018: What’s Next?

p-247-ae-0040-lIt’s hard to believe that 2017 has come and gone, but if I’m being honest with myself I tend to have that same thought every year. As business owners, our time and attention are focused on year-end financial statements this time of year, analyzing what went right and wrong for our businesses.

You may find that certain things worked well when it came to marketing your business, and others, not so much. Don’t fret! As in year’s past, this is an exciting time for marketing, and with the right strategic approach, you’re bound to find something that works for you.

If you’re looking to change things up in 2018, you’ll definitely want to consider some of these trends as part of your marketing mix:

  1. Live Video and Augmented Reality
    The past couple of years have seen the explosion and experimentation of live video on social platforms, and Augmented Reality on mobile apps, with wild success. In the next few years, expect to see even more of it, and in different applications, so users can really become a part of the brand experience. When consumers are engulfed in these experiences, not only do they enjoy them and come to associate positive emotions with your brand, but they also come to trust it more – which in turn could lead to more sales.
  2. Content Marketing
    Content marketing is becoming an increasingly powerful way of connecting with your audience. Not only does the content provide relevant information for your customers, but it can also position you as thought leaders in your industry and excite the Google gods by improving your online presence. What are you waiting for? Start up a blog and tell your clients what you’re up to! Your blog is both a creative and inspiring way of reminding your clients as to why they are working with you.
  1. Video Marketing
    Voice recognition software and chatbots are becoming all the rage with many companies. While this is certainly a good goal to have, start off with creating some quality videos that will let your clients know everything about your unique business. The benefits of video are simply undeniable.

BONUS: AI Technology

The day has finally arrived, and robots are now fully integrating into all aspects of our lives; marketing included. This innovative technology can streamline marketing processes by way of extreme personalization; according to VRTY CEO Kingston Lee-Young, “Marketers will be better able to understand the likes and dislikes of a customer and determine what specific branded content should be served to them. Because customers are more loyal when they see marketing specifically targeting them based on their behaviors, these advances will allow marketers to more effectively engage with their prospects and customers”. The technology of course isn’t cheap, but it’s proven to be very effective in its early applications.

As a marketing leader and business owner with nearly 20 years of experience, I’ve seen several trends come and go, but one thing is for sure: Having a strategic approach to all that you do, especially with marketing, will result in a better ROI for your business. Are you as excited for these trends as I am? Contact CreativeWorks Marketing today for help putting together a marketing mix that’ll make sense for your business in 2018!

What Went Wrong: Dove’s Soap Ad

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Image courtesy of The Daily Dot

In the next of our, “What Went Wrong” series, I’d like to explore a recent controversial advertisement aired by Dove. For years, Dove has created a brand that’s reflective of “real beauty” for women, meant to relate to all women despite their physical characteristics. The personal care brand has launched several successful marketing campaigns in the past; most notably their Dove Campaign for Real Beauty which aims “to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves”, according to the company.

But what happens when your brand values are misinterpreted in advertising, thus resulting in public backlash?

If you’ve yet to see Dove’s latest commercial, watch it here.

Here are the reasons why I think this campaign failed in its execution:

Issue One: Lack of attention to racial sensitivities

It makes sense that Dove would cast models of different ethnic backgrounds in their ads. They are, of course, a company that prides themselves on inclusion. But central to the failed execution of this campaign is the order in which they chose to introduce each woman combined with the product they were selling. This lack of attention to detail led to public outcry of Dove being racially insensitive.

The ad was criticized because many people interpreted a black woman ‘changing’ into a white woman to be an inappropriate message – especially for a beauty company. It’s important to note that the reaction to this ad was swift and clear, with almost no one coming to the more positive conclusions that Dove intended.

Tip #1: Before releasing an advertisement of any kind, show it to a few people who come from diverse backgrounds. This exercise will provide you with important feedback and allow you to make any necessary changes to the ad prior to it going live.

Issue Two: Failure to learn from competitors

Yet again, and much like the last campaign I analyzed, brands fail to learn from past mistakes. Dove is not the first company to be in the spotlight for airing a racially insensitive commercial. Remember this commercial that sparked public outrage last year?

In the past, there are many historical examples of soap and personal hygiene ads utilizing racially charged images. Some of these include overtly racist images of people of colour scrubbing their skin to become white, and some show more subtle images of women using makeup and beauty products to make their skin lighter. However, there are numerous examples of ads with this messaging that have consistently provoked outrage, and it’s important that companies study past marketing mistakes in order to avoid them in the future.

Tip #2: If you’re launching a new campaign, conduct competitor research first to gain insight on what has and has not worked for the competition.

A successful campaign is not necessarily one that has an infinite budget. As a small business, if you put in the time and energy to know who your customers are, you’ll be able to create tailored messages that resonate with your audience, and thus convert more leads. For assistance in finding out who your customers are, contact the team at CreativeWorks Marketing today!

What Went Wrong: Kendall Jenner and Pepsi

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Image courtesy of New York Daily News

In our next series, coined “What Went Wrong,” I’ll be discussing recent controversial marketing campaigns and providing an analysis of why I feel they may have failed.

My goal of this series is to share my analysis of a campaign so that you can see that even the ‘larger’ brands don’t always get it right and also to give you an opportunity to learn from these mistakes and avoid them when it comes to marketing your business.

This week, we’ll look at Pepsi’s Live for Now advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner.

If you haven’t yet seen the “canned” commercial, click here to watch it.

Here are my reasons for why this campaign may have failed to resonate with consumers:

Issue One: Wrong message at the wrong time

It’s no secret that the U.S. is currently in a hyper-politicized state. The intended aim of this campaign was to provide commentary on the current social and political injustices in the country. How Pepsi chose to do this though, in regards to their solution to these injustices, is what led to public outcry.

Shots from the advertisement appear to mimic Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, with a particularly well-known image of protestor Iesha Evans facing two police officers in Baton Rouge. When Kendall Jenner simply hands a Pepsi to one of the police officers, the outcome is joy and applause; if only solving racial injustices was that easy.

Advertisements that choose to make a commentary on societal issues must address them with empathy and sincerity, or risk coming across as tone-deaf, or worse, exploitative.

Tip #1: Be mindful and cautious of the stances you take on politically charged issues, even if your heart is in the right place.

Issue Two: Utilizing controversial celebrities

Celebrity endorsement is nothing new when it comes to selling products or services, especially for big brands. But selecting Kendall Jenner to be the new face of Pepsi proved to not be so wise. While Kendall Jenner has achieved tremendous success in her career, she has also received criticism in the past for appropriating black culture and for copyright infringement.

Businesses must be extremely careful that the public figures that represent their brand have not been involved past controversies. These past missteps should have been taken into account, especially in an advertisement that seemed to mimic Black Lives Matter protests.

Tip #2: Similar to celebrity endorsement for large brands, you may want to choose influencer marketing as a marketing technique. Before selecting an influencer, ensure the influencer you choose aligns with your values and is free from controversy that may tarnish your brand.

Issue Three: Not learning from past mistakes

In 2013, Pepsi-owned Mountain Dew released an advertisement featuring an injured woman on crutches identifying a criminal from a police lineup of 5 African-American men. The ad was immediately criticized as insensitive towards the serious issues of violence against women and systemic racism in the criminal justice system. It’s crucial that businesses understand feedback and criticism and ensure that past mistakes are not repeated.

Tip #3: It’s always important to publicly address negative criticism in the online world. If your business has received a negative comment or review on a social platform or search engine, take some time to respond to the unhappy consumer by addressing their concern and providing any assistance in resolving the manner. That is, of course, if the comment does not contain obscene wording or profanity, in which case deleting the comment would suffice.

As a small business, it’s important that your marketing is executed in a strategic manner. As we’ve seen with this controversial story, one wrong move could lead to the demise of your business. Contact the professionals at CreativeWorks Marketing today for assistance with your marketing campaigns!