They say, “nothing is certain but death and taxes,” though one more thing seems pretty certain lately: continuous change. We know businesses work hard – even in stable economic times – to ensure their sustainability by distributing their dollars responsibly, but what happens when the tides shift and strategies pivot? When new priorities emerge? When economies upend?
Trimming the proverbial fat is a viable strategy for stretching dollars. But as we’ve said before, shutting down your marketing engine is almost never the right idea. Doing so closes your lines of communication, alienates stakeholders, withers public faith and creates a much larger (and more expensive) hill for your business to climb later on.
Here’s the good news: When events call for creative approaches to brand promotion and you need to justify every marketing dollar with tangible results, there are plenty of resourceful moves you can make to help optimize your marketing program for maximum ROI. To create a manageable, efficient and effective program, you should look for:
What you can earn vs. buy
Employee Advocacy: A significant portion of consumers trust company employees more than the company or brand itself. That makes employees the most valuable amplifier in your business – provided you’re doing all you can to give them a fulfilling experience. Couple a proven, values-driven company culture with a proper internal communications program that consistently informs, reassures and inspires, and your marketing team will grow by every person in your employ.
Earned Media Placements: The formula is simple – deliver solid news and smart, “big picture” ideas to the right journalists at the right time with the right mix of patience and persistence. Give it time, don’t give up, and be kind. Developing mutually equitable relationships with the media will help your brand maintain its visibility, especially when other brands have decided to scale back.
Social Media Engagement: This one gets a little tougher with each algorithm shift, but the primary principles endure – consistently fill your social media channels with sincere, interesting content and don’t forget to interact with complementary channels to increase exposure and build public rapport. Not sure what counts as “interesting”? Listen to your customers first and analyze the channels of similar, successful brands.
What you can measure vs. estimate
SEO/SEM: These effective, data-driven techniques improve website visibility, drive traffic and generate leads from your target audiences. They can be daunting for the uninitiated, but Google’s free dashboard and reporting tools (Analytics, Ads, Search Console) make it easy to experiment as you learn which metrics are most important to your goals. Paid search offers opportunities to measure ad impressions, click-through-rates, cost-per-click and conversion activities while SEO can be a bit more challenging when calculating success. However, metrics including website visits, keyword rankings and goal completions (form fills, downloads, purchases) can all give you a clear view of what’s working and what isn’t.
Email Engagement: Much has changed in the world of email marketing over the years, but the medium is more relevant than ever thanks to online shopping and home delivery. The latest trends point to ditching “open rate” metrics in favor of replies/interactivity, experimenting with types of content and their packaging (i.e. plain text vs HTML), and periodic (as in several times a year) cleansing of email lists to keep them accurate. Ultimately, having a nimble email marketing program in place will open a highly valuable and informative line of communication with your customers and partners.
Share of Voice: SOV measures your brand’s presence in media as compared to its competitors. Your number/grade doesn’t just tell you where you stand — it gives you a way to measure gains or losses in media presence over time as you and your competitors are discussed across mediums. A proper SOV analysis will tell you where you are in the media landscape, where you could be and how to get there.
What you can repurpose vs. create
Existing Blog Content: Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose! Blogs are perfect for splicing and dicing to create new content. They can be transformed into social content, award and speaking submissions, even contributed commentary for earned media placements. Focus on your evergreen topics and update them regularly for a fresh perspective.
Existing Industry Research: Studies, surveys and crowdsourcing are goldmines for creating compelling media relations angles, sales and marketing materials, website and social content. Sharing official research – like nearly 100 years of studies that prove marketing through recessions pays off – boosts your brand’s credibility and positions you as a trusted resource ahead of brands that can only speak to their aspirations. Don’t let your data gather dust on a digital shelf.
Recent Media Coverage: Many brands fall into the trap of securing stellar coverage, but once the excitement wanes, they let it slip into the void. Instead, make sure your employees (and especially your sales teams) are the first to hear about positive mentions, as they help validate your brand’s claims about the value it brings to the world. Speaking of which, make sure that validation is front-and-center in investor presentations and recruiting materials so your prospective stakeholders can feel good about investing their time, energy and money into your brand.
A good marketer is a resourceful marketer, regardless of the state that their marketing budgets or campaigns may be in. Take a good look at what you already have at your disposal and prioritize your strategies and tactics in line with the above mindset to weather any type of storm.
Vanessa Taylor is the general manager of Precision, a nimble and effective division that applies Matter’s full suite of PR services and vast expertise to brands with highly focused PR needs. She’s also the manager of Matter’s Open Door program, which works with accelerators, co-working spaces and other member organizations to provide free education/training to entrepreneurs who need to manage brand promotion on their own.