By Jennifer Nagy, President of JLNPR Inc.
Many companies are now working on finalizing their marketing plans for 2016. For some, it will just be a continuation of the same 2015 strategy, slightly updated to suit the expected market and demand changes in the New Year. Others will be scrapping the old, and ushering in the New Year with a brand new marketing strategy. But no matter which way your company is planning to move forward, there are lessons that you must take from 2015 to ensure that your strategies are effective at accomplishing your 2016 development goals.
Content (marketing) is king. By now, you’ve probably heard many people extol the virtues of content marketing over and over again. Many of you will have chosen not to implement a content marketing strategy yet but, let me tell you, it will be an operational imperative in 2016. Here’s why… content marketing is the creation and distribution of “educational, engaging content (i.e. articles, blog posts, etc.) with the purpose of driving action (in this case, either enquiring about or purchasing a company’s product or service)”. As well as raising awareness about a company and its products or services, content marketing is highly valuable for building credibility in potential customers’ minds.
Content marketing is not a direct sales tactic. One of the biggest mistakes that a marketer can make in 2016, is using content marketing as a medium for the distribution of sales messages. If that is the strategy that your team chooses to implement, I can guarantee that your content marketing strategy will never help you to accomplish the branding and credibility boosting goals that it was designed to do. Both branding and credibility are integral in helping to shorten your sales cycle (with potential customers). To find out more about how content marketing can help shorten your company’s sales cycle, please read my recent article: “Three Ways to Shorten Your Company’s Sales Cycle“.
For start-ups, PR is more effective than advertising. There are many reasons that PR is the most effective marketing tactic for start-up companies. First, PR is much more cost-effective than other more traditional marketing/advertising tactics and the results that can be achieved (if executed properly), greatly exceed the ROI that can be earned from advertising. Second, the inherent nature of a start-up (it’s something new and different!) creates a story angle that will be more attractive to media, and therefore, you are more likely to secure coverage. Third, articles written about your company by a journalist (an independent third-party expert) gives your company more credibility in the mind of potential customers. The same message delivered by an advertising spokesperson will be ignored many potential customers, as most consumers know that the ethical standards for messaging are less strict in advertising than they are in journalism. Finally, PR (like content marketing) helps a company to establish itself as an expert in an industry, which – when combined with the credibility and trust factor offered by editorial coverage – helps to shorten the sales cycle when approaching potential new customers.
Public Relations is a marketing tactic that is better left to the experts. While it is very possible for companies to handle their PR outreach internally, with no help from freelancers or PR agencies, it will often surprise marketers how much time and effort PR can be. Between the copywriting, building and maintaining a media list, researching story angles and journalists’ past articles, sending pitch emails out and ongoing correspondence with media, it really is a full time job.
It is a more effective use of a company executive’s time to focus on the overall sales strategy planning and execution, rather than PR. I recommend that start-ups outsource PR efforts to a reliable agency or freelancer, who can secure more coverage for your company (because of their numerous media contacts), at an affordable rate.
Social media is important for all companies, no matter the industry in which they do business.
Many companies assume that if they are not selling directly to consumers (B2C), there would be no reason to do outreach via social media. This would be a mistake because, like PR and content marketing, social media helps a company to deliver its key messages to its target audience – no matter who they might be.
Of course, B2C companies should use different social media channels than B2B companies, as the audiences that they are trying to reach and action that they are trying to stimulate is different. Keep in mind that the best social media sites for each company are completely dependent on the company’s product/service, goals, target audience, etc. so before launching a new social media strategy, it is always best to speak to an experienced social media marketer to identify what would be most useful to accomplish your specific needs.
In general, B2C companies should use the social media sites that consumers use most frequently, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine and Pinterest. B2B companies should use social media sites that have a strong business presence, such as Twitter and LinkedIn. If a B2B company is selling a highly visual product, they can also use Facebook and Instagram to connect with potential customers.
Press releases are no longer the most effective way of securing editorial coverage from journalists. Many people exclusively associate public relations with press releases. Back in the day, the press release was a more effective way of securing coverage but today that is no longer the case. Journalists receive hundreds of press releases every day by email, making it impossible to actually read every one that passes their desk. As such, journalists tend to scan the message subjects, headlines and perhaps the first few lines of the press release to see if it’s something that they would be interested in covering. If those few words don’t convince them, then your press release is lost in the shuffle, never to be read again. Sounds futile right?
The biggest issue with the press release is that it only tells the reader the news. Rather than just stating the facts, the most effective media pitches tell the journalist a story. Here’s an example… Let’s assume that you are technology provider that offers online marketing solutions to hotels and you’ve just launched a brand new product. Your press release could simply state that you are launching the great new product but it will, most likely, be ignored. A more effective way to pitch your new product to media is to write a short paragraph (or two) about why this new product is important:
- What makes it revolutionary?
- How will it help hotel marketers?
- What are the key benefits?
- Will this product have an effect on the industry as a whole?
By showing the journalist the news angle behind the product launch, it makes it easy for them to see and agree that this is big news that needs to be shared. Make it easy for journalists to do their job; give them the story on a silver platter. Don’t hide it in a complicated and inefficient press release.
PR and content marketing are not substitutes for an effective sales strategy. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Although PR and content marketing bring HUGE benefits to a company – a measurable increase in visibility/awareness and a boost in credibility – they are not direct sales tactics. Establishing your company as an expert in the mind of a potential customer is important, but (in most cases) it won’t be enough to get them to sign on the dotted line. Your sales team needs to be there to follow up on the warm lead (generated through your PR and content marketing campaigns) and close the deal.
Once you’ve written great content, don’t file it away. Good content doesn’t have to be a one-off. Once you’ve used a piece (whether it is a blog post, marketing copy, newsletter or an article), smart marketers will repurpose the content to increase the ROI obtained from the work. In general, repurposing content can accomplish two outcomes: change the format of the content or the audience that the content is intended for (or it can be both). For example, you could take a blog post that received a great deal of interest and repurpose/expand it to make a full-length whitepaper that examines the subject in greater detail. To change its audience, you can take a piece that was originally written to target potential hotel clients and amend it to suit a different target audience, like restaurants or bars.
Demonstrate your expertise. Customers are always more receptive to making a purchase from a person and company that they know and trust. When a potential client already trusts that you are an expert, they are more likely to respond positively to a sales pitch – even one that results from a cold call. In short, establishing your company (and spokesperson) as an expert in your industry will make it faster and easier to convert a potential customer, shortening your sales cycle and increasing your conversion rates.
Market to existing customers. It is a proven fact: it is easier and more cost-effective to make a sale to a pre-existing client, rather than a brand new customer. Even though many marketers are aware of this fact, many don’t develop an appropriate sales strategy for this lucrative market. Just as your company has a complete marketing strategy to target new customers in various stages of the sales cycle, you should also be implementing a strategy specifically tailored to pre-existing customers. Both the messaging and the marketing collateral should be specific to this audience. For example, you could make reference to the fact that they are already customers and thank them for their loyalty. This is the perfect opportunity to repurpose your existing content to suit this new audience!
Reprinted from ehotelier