marketing plan

Marketing Agency vs. Internal Hire: Which Should You Choose?

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 2.25.49 PMIt’s a question I hear often when meeting with small business owners: “Why should I hire a marketing agency over an internal resource?” Undoubtedly, it’s a fair question to ask, and one that I would encourage any small business owner to ask when seeking marketing expertise. The answer will be different for every business because each business has its own unique goals and challenges it faces.

With that said, here are some things to consider when deciding whether a marketing agency or internal resource will be the best asset for your business:

  1. A marketing agency is full-service and more cost-effective

Think about it – at a marketing agency, you’re given access to a full team of marketers and specialists, including project managers and strategists, web developers, graphic designers, and so on. When looking to hire an internal marketing coordinator, for example, it can be difficult to find someone who is proficient in all of these skills. By hiring a marketing agency, you’ll receive top-level quality work for less than what you’d typically pay a full-time coordinator.

  1. An internal resource will know the intricacies of your business

With a full-time internal hire, they’ll be exposed to your business for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. As a result, they’ll know every little detail of your business, from service and product details to customer policies. An agency will only become aware of these intricacies if and when they are shared with the team. It’s important that internal resources share as much information as possible with their agency to get the best results from their marketing.

  1. A marketing agency will increase productivity of your internal team

As briefly mentioned in the first point, a marketing agency provides a full team of resourceful marketers waiting to be called upon for their knowledge and assistance. By hiring a marketing agency to support your internal team, you’ll provide them with more time to focus on their core tasks, while additional marketing-related tasks, whether strategic or tactical, can be assigned to the marketing agency to handle. By burdening your existing staff with an extensive list of actionable items, you may be contributing to a decline in productivity due to burnout or exhaustion.

So, what’s the verdict?

While it truly does depend on the needs of the business, I find that the best outcome for most businesses is often the result of a collaborative approach between internal resources and marketing agencies. Each party has value in its own right, and when internal resources are able to share business goals with their marketing agencies, that’s when you’ll see the most from your marketing efforts. Contact CreativeWorks Marketing to begin your collaborative marketing journey today!

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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!

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 2016 and What We Can Learn From It

What a year! 2016 has been an amazing year to showcase the power of marketing. From the unanticipated election of America’s first president-elect who has never held political office before, to the explosion of Snapchat marketing; it’s been a busy year. We have covered a range of marketing stories from 2016 in our blogs this year, like this one on the blurred lines between social media and advertising.

In my final blog of the year, I’d like to take the time to reflect on some of the marketing lessons we have learned throughout 2016.

Social Media is more powerful than you think. Donald Trump was elected largely due to his participation in social media, mostly on his notorious Twitter account. Years ago, it was unheard of for high-ranking political figures to speak directly to their voters in such a medium. Now, anyone and everyone has a platform to reach out to their target.

Even if you think your small business doesn’t need a social media presence, you could be missing out on audiences just waiting to listen to what you have to say.

Fake news is dangerous. In marketing, we always make a point to create authentic content. However, 2016 proved that not all Internet content abides by these same rules. The “pizzagate” scandal has left a lot of people confused about what’s real news and what’s not. Facebook’s algorithm issue has also contributed to this fake news epidemic.

For businesses that run their own social media accounts, this could be a problem. If you’re sharing engaging social media posts from a fake news source, you’re hurting your brand’s reputation. As someone who has been in the marketing world for a number of years, I may see through these fake stories, while many others may not and that is concerning. In 2017, audiences need to learn how to be more media literate and dismiss fake news stories instead of sharing them with a larger audience.

You get what you pay for. As a marketer, I am constantly writing. It takes time and effort to communicate a message on behalf of my clients, and I often speak to them about what their opinions are on topics I would like to write about. That’s why I was surprised to hear that this year, there has been an increase in public interest for websites that promote pre-written, paid content. On these sites, you can plug in some information you would like to write about, and then it will be outsourced to a writer from anywhere in the world to write about this topic.

From a marketing perspective, I need to know my client before I can write for them. I find out who their target audience is, and how this message should be communicated. While these paid-for content websites may be a cheap alternative to authentic content creation, it’s no substitute for quality written work.

After this hectic year, I am interested to see what’s coming next in 2017. Will VR make its mark in the marketing world? Will Twitter still be as popular a platform after the buzz of the election dies down? I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises the New Year brings into the marketing world, and I hope you are too.

Marketing Needs PR: Handling Crisis

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more of a convergence between marketing and PR. The shift comes, I feel, as a result of the increasingly blurred lines between advertising and public relations as I mentioned in a previous blog, but also in part because marketing is so much more in the public eye than ever before as a result of personal brands.

As marketers today, it’s not uncommon for us to look at influencers, sponsor social content, and engage bloggers with opportunities to invest our marketing budgets. These approaches, one could argue, would typically have been part of a PR campaign, but with this paradigm shift many of us in marketing are taking note and making sure our marketing strategies include public relations.

The need for PR as part of your marketing can be highlighted in a situation of crisis. We see it almost daily: big brands make headlines after a bad social media post or a viral video, and because now bad social means bad PR and bad PR can mean a loss in customer and brand loyalty, these PR crises can become marketing nightmares.

As marketers, we need to have resources at hand to handle any scandal or branding nightmare. It’s important to have a plan in place should a crisis develop. In true PR fashion, but with a marketing twist, here are my tips for handling a branding crisis.

 Act quickly- but not recklessly

Once you’ve heard the bad news, it’s important to gather your team and address the situation. Find out what went wrong, and how you can fix it. If you speak first, you control the story, but it’s important that you have all the accurate information you need before you release any information to the public.

Take responsibility

While you might not feel like this was your fault, if your company was in any way responsible for this crisis, it’s important to take ownership. Shifting the blame around just makes consumers think you are dishonest and untrustworthy.

Create a solution

After you have received all the information needed and have accepted the fact that you need to apologize to the public for what has transpired, you need to come up with a solution. People want to know that you see where things went wrong, and you know how to fix it. After apologizing for your company’s wrongdoing, outline how you are going to ensure this never happens again. Once people know that you are fixing the problem, they will begin to move on.

 Rebuild

In the moment, it feels like this situation will completely ruin your business, but it’s important to remember that eventually, a new scandal comes along and people will forget about your organization’s indiscretion. In your effort to rebuild your brand, focus on creating positive buzz for your company, especially if it counteracts the original scandal.

I hope scandal never erupts in your business, but better to be prepared, which is why I advise clients to have a crisis PR plan in place as part of their marketing strategy. This will allow your business to act quickly and effectively, making sure your organization and brand comes out unscathed.

So You Have a Marketing Strategy, But Do You Have a Plan?

indexI know that as business owners or senior marketing professionals you are pulled in multiple directions when it comes to what marketing you should be doing to help grow your business.

You are bombarded by web guys selling SEO, email marketing guys selling email packages, and Hubspot selling, well, Hubspot. So which one should you choose and why?

I understand the need to see marketing activities happen, especially in the SMB market, but the expression “penny wise and pound foolish” comes to mind as tactics not tied to a plan or a strategy fail time and time again.

Before you invest thousands of dollars on executing tactics, it is crucial to have a marketing strategy and a marketing plan in place.

Would it surprise you to know that according to the BDB, 54% of business owners have difficulty developing and executing a marketing plan?

A second step to the development of a strategy is the creation of a marketing plan, sometimes referred to as a tactical plan. I have outlined below the key aspects of a marketing plan that will answer the question of what a marketing plan will do for your business:

  1. Tie into your marketing strategy
  2. Outline overall themes or areas of focus for each month or quarter, including events and trade shows
  3. Break the areas of focus down further to tie into your objectives: e.g trade show: to increase sales on product/service X by 10%
  4. Clearly state your objective: lead generation, awareness, introduce new service/product
  5. Type of media: e.g. social media, video, direct mail, web, online advertising, call-outs, etc.
  6. Details frequency: e.g 3 videos, one a month for 3 months
  7. Details of integration: e.g. video and call-outs, direct mail and video and call-outs
  8. Placement of media: TV, radio, which apps, which websites, which trade pubs, etc.
  9. Measurement: How can you measure the success of each campaign e.g. leads coming from the website, number of times video was watched on YouTube, the number of Likes on FB, etc.

To reach your marketing goals, I recommend starting with a strategy and following through with a plan before moving on to the execution stage. Having defined deliverables will identify the road map your need to reach your marketing goals.

Looking In with Marketing Analysis

ContentImageHandler.ashxWith the last of the fall leaves falling from our trees, this last quarter is one of the best times to review your marketing plan with a tried and true business tool, the SWOT analysis. But let’s focus on a marketing SWOT, which is a great way to review your marketing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It provides insights that can guide you in revisiting your marketing strategy, giving your company a stronger edge in the marketplace.

I have outlined below a few tips on conducting a marketing SWOT analysis, which will enable you to quickly see any missing gaps and revise your resources or plan as needed.

How do I get started with a Marketing SWOT?

Outline or summarize what you have planned for your organization: strategic direction, target audience, what you are known for, sales figures, internal and external resources, and a marketing budget breakdown including web, campaigns, online and media spends.

Strengths:

Here you should make note of significant advertising spends that you may have that your competitors do not, brand name recognition, and a proven, loyal customer base. Also consider your proven brand value as it relates to your customer (engagement of your audience).

Weaknesses:

A company could suffer because it has poor brand recognition or customers regard the company’s products or services as unreliable or overpriced. Weaknesses are important in a SWOT because they suggest how best to position a company against a rival that is stronger overall.

Opportunities:

Here you should illustrate any move your company could make to enhance its position. You might want to list extensive cash resources and financing as a chance for your company to quickly grow market share by spending more money on advertising and promotion. You could also consider any recent expansions or new services/products that could provide a strong future opportunity.

Threats:

These are similar to weaknesses, but show how your company is vulnerable to developments in the marketplace. For example, an established company that has always relied on traditional advertising in its marketing could face threats from new, entrepreneurial companies determined to build market share through social networking.

Once completed, you can review your current strategy against the SWOT and see if there are any gaps that you can address. You can also use the SWOT to help determine how best to use the company’s marketing budget given other factors in the marketplace and the competitive landscape.

Have you ever heard of a marketing SWOT? If so, when was the last time you conducted a one? How did it help you strengthen your marketing strategy? If not, do you see the value in doing a marketing SWOT for your company? I look forward to hearing your stories in the comments below.