What do you do when…
- Your website traffic is declining month-over-month?
- You email marketing program has strong open rates but low click-thrus and diminishing conversions?
- Your competitors’ share of voice is growing and your CEO is being quoted less frequently?
- Your social media successes become erratic?
While one or more of the above can signal the need for strategic and/or tactical tweaks, it is important to step back and take a global assessment of your organization’s marketing program before making a sharp change in direction. Organizations invest both time and budget in building strategic marketing plans that align business and communications objectives. And, while plans should be nimble and allow organizations to make refinements to improve performance, it is equally important to make sure that a particular campaign, strategy or tactic has had ample opportunity to prove its worth before moving on to Plan B.
If your marketing antennae are up and signaling a need to make some tweaks, take time to evaluate the following before launching a new plan of action:
Have you set appropriate benchmarks?
Benchmarks often fall into two categories – those set to measure performance against the competition and those set to measure an organization’s own year-over-year performance. While both categories are important, benchmarking against oneself often provides the most concrete metrics. Why, you may ask? Because you don’t necessarily know all of the ins and outs of how your competitors are powering their marketing efforts. And, without that invaluable context, it is hard to evaluate if the benchmarks you have set are realistic.
For example, you may have set the goal of using an integrated marketing campaign to increase referrals by 20-percent during the next 12-months, in turn taking 2-percent market share away from the competition. Your competitor(s), however, may have implemented an incentive-based referral marketing program and may be putting a larger budget (money and/or time) towards the effort.
Are you seizing opportunities for cross-pollination?
Perhaps your organization has made a significant investment in video to showcase your products, services and/or success stories. Those videos may live on Vimeo or YouTube – but how are you pushing them out? Having a dedicated content sharing strategy in place helps to ensure you are getting your content in front of the widest possible audience.
If you’re finding that some of your marketing tactics are underperforming, consider how you can take the content that you’ve already created and push it out through other channels. For example, if your blog traffic is lighter than desired, consider including excerpts and links in your email marketing. If your email marketing program has strong open rates but low click rates, consider featuring different types of content from your existing bank of marketing assets to try and improve performance.
How has the competitive landscape changed since you laid out the current marketing plan?
As mentioned earlier in this post, benchmarking oneself against the competition can be tricky at times. Oftentimes, one isn’t prevalent to the competitions marketing budgets and resources which can vary widely among organizations of various sizes and structures. That said, keeping a close eye on the competition is important, as it can help to inform the marketing channels where your organization has the greatest opportunity to generate ROI, as well as fill gaps in the marketplace (think thought leadership, unique services offerings, training/professional development, etc.).
When determining how the competitive landscape will impact changes to your current marketing strategy, consider which channels are the least cluttered and will allow you to make the biggest impact. If you are noticing diminishing returns on any specific marketing channels, do some quick research to see if there is a noticeable ramp up in content volume or shift in direction among your competitors. Sometimes the impact of changes to the competitive landscape are felt almost immediately, while others take longer to play out.
While it is important to address marketing non-performance in order to improve effectiveness, it is also important not to abandon a strategy or tactic too quickly. When evaluating the performance of a particular strategy, tactic or campaign consider how you can make light refinements to try and improve ROI before going in a whole new direction. Small changes, such as A/B testing email subject lines, adjusting the send time on you e-newsletter, shifting the content focus of your Instagram marketing, or tweaking the frequency of your press release distributions can help to improve outcomes and impact without having to recreate an entire marketing plan. As you make these refinements, ensure you can measure the impact of each to assess what is and is not moving the needle on your organization’s integrated marketing program.