Tuesday, December 22, 2020

How to Take a Holiday Break Without Breaking Your Marketing Machine

I feel confident saying that just about everyone is ready to put 2020 to bed. This holiday season offers a welcome chance to disconnect (as much as possible) from accumulated stresses as you rest, recharge, and get ready for a productive 2021. But even if you're on vacation, you don't have to let your marketing efforts go on hiatus as well. If you want to keep your target audience aware of you -- and perhaps even buying from you -- all the way through the end of the year, consider adopting the following smart strategies to keep the ball rolling, not only this holiday season but whenever you decide to get away from it all.

Stockpile That Social Media Content

Internet traffic stops for no one at any time of year. Your target market will continue to communicate, search, and shop online, especially in the face of ongoing pandemic precautions and restrictions. You'll want to keep up your regular schedule of social media posts, from blog articles and Tweets to YouTube videos and Facebook updates. 

If you have a vacation coming up, make sure you've created a stockpile of extra social media content that you can keep feeding into your marketing machine. If necessary, hire a freelance copywriter, video production company, or other marketing professional to generate this surplus of material. You can stick to evergreen topics that will work for any time of year, or you can pre-plan specific items to accommodate holidays or other calendar milestones.

Automate as Much as You Can

All that ready-made marketing content won't do you much good if you fail to put it out there on schedule -- another necessary task that can impose on your rest and relaxation. The good news is that technology makes it easy to automate your marketing content distribution. For instance, most online blogging platforms allow you to pre-schedule your posts for any future dates you prefer. Twitter automation tools can provide a wide range of scheduling, sharing, social listening, bookmarking, and other helpful options to take work out of your hands.

Automation can also mean placing your marketing content in the hands of providers for distribution on a pre-arranged schedule. As long as your Web developer, social media strategist, copywriters, graphic designers, and other marketing professionals are working from a detailed editorial calendar, you should be able to count on those digital and print marketing pieces going out according to plan. Just make sure that all your providers are on the same page, with any tweaks to the editorial calendar shared by all concerned.

Outsource, Outsource, Outsource

All this discussion of third-party marketing providers points toward one other huge vacation saver for business owners and small marketing departments: outsourcing. The more marketing content creation and execution you can delegate to outsourced professionals, the less of it you have to bother with yourself. This lightened marketing workload makes holidays and other breaks much easier to accommodate.

Do you feel odd handing over the keys to the car, so to speak, to outsiders? If you've chosen skilled, trustworthy marketing experts, you may find that the quality of marketing improves dramatically even while you're sitting back and enjoying a break from that activity. You always have the option of contributing as much (or as little) as you like to the proceedings if you just can't resist getting involved.

Try these strategies on for size. You may find that they enhance your holiday enjoyment as well as the quality and effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Why "What Are We Going to Do Now?" Isn't a Marketing Strategy

I've always been a big fan of the late great Spike Milligan. In addition to his pioneering comedic lunacy on "The Goon Show," Milligan also stretched the boundaries of TV's sanity on his "Q" series. Many of his comedy sketches on that show didn't even bother with an ending -- an offstage director would simply announce that the sketch was over. The cast would then march toward the camera, chanting: "What are we going to do now? What are we going to do now? What are we going to do now?..."

We're used to reacting to situations as they come up, which is all well and good as an important survival trait. But many businesses are less skilled at manipulating the circumstances that create (or prevent) those situations. In other words, they fail to plan. I've written my share of articles for the facility management industry, and the big push there is always for proactive management instead of reactive management. You can fix it every time it breaks down, or you can maintain it so it breaks down less frequently. Which sounds like a smarter way of working -- or marketing, for that matter?

Marketing without a plan is like saving money without a budget or driving a car to an unknown destination. You feel like you're doing something, and maybe you even see progress to support that feeling. But you don't really know what you're doing, how long you should keep doing it, or when you should stop doing it. In the marketing world, this results in lots of time, effort and money going down the chute with little or no idea of what the return will be or even should be. You may as well burn a goat on an altar or consult bird entrails.

I can usually tell when a business lacks a firm marketing plan, because that's when the owner starts asking me basic strategy questions: "Who do you think we should be aiming this web content at?" or "What tone do you think this content should adopt?" or "What kinds of print marketing should we try?" This tells me that the company hasn't done sufficient research into who they want to sell to, where those people are, and what those people like. This requires analyzing all the big data you can get your hands on to see how customers have discovered your business in the past, whether or not they bought something, and why they bought that thing. Until you have that data, you can't create a long-term marketing plan with any hope of delivering a predictable ROI.

Another thing I hear all the time is, "Well, we figured it was time to talk to a copywriter because we're thinking about maybe giving [blogging, a new website, an email campaign, a sales letter] a try." Well, these folks thought wrong. Why are you thinking about giving it a try? What solid indicators do you have that your target audience will respond to it? What other tactics have you tried in the past, and what results did you get? And how do those results factor into this latest notion?You would never think of just giving a new financial plan a whirl, just to see what happens. Since your marketing plan is a big part of your business plan, you shouldn't just spin the big wheel with it either.

My advice? Before you even talk to a professional copywriter, work out a detailed marketing plan with your core team. If you don't have a marketing team in place, then align yourself with an experienced turnkey marketing firm that can provide you with the data analysis, strategic planning, and reliable implementation you need for optimal success. Since I write for these kinds of companies all the time, who knows -- we might end up chatting after all!