Farming Your Web Market

You’re going to get your hands dirty
A good farmer scoops up the soil in their hand and smells the earth, perhaps even taste the earth. The thing is that as a farmer you will be getting intimate with your market.

If the crop you plan to raise is made up of web users then your web page is the soil that they will grow strong on. The nutrients you add to your web page have a fragrance, maybe even a certain taste. And the richest addition you can add to your web page is your own personality.

Now, don’t get fearful
Perhaps professional marketers have told you not to get personal with your marketing, but that type of aggressive marketing is not what we are talking about here. To cultivate your market you need to talk to them in ways that nurture, and this means that you care enough to be yourself.

If you wanted to get to know someone based on a feeling of attraction would you analyze how to do this? If you overheard a conversation and the opinions expressed attracted you would you choose to get demographics and contact information before you introduce yourself?

The whole purpose of cultivating a market lends itself to casual and intimate conversations. And ‘intimate’ does not mean private and secretive, it means:

  1. Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity
  2. Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature

Most web marketing is done at arm’s length because the marketing people are not clear on the market being targeted. And the word ‘targeted’ is rather cold and disconnected emotionally. Targeting is an odd way to build relationships, but building relationships is exactly what we want to do.

Cultivating the market
The bigger portion of our market that we wish to cultivate is at earlier stages of the buying cycle and we are able to help them and build a relationship in the process. In this way we cultivate a much bigger market than trying to capture the smaller numbers that are ready to purchase.

Those members of our market that are ready to purchase have already been influenced. We cannot reach many of them now. On the other hand, the greater numbers that are early in their search can be cultivated, influenced and helped to make a smart choice and buy from us.

We need to design a web site that will allow us to be helpful and generous in sharing our information. Far too many small business web owners do not know what to share with their market. We are going to be different.

What do we feed our market?
We want our undecided market to choose our solution as their purchase. To do that we need to help them along, and this is where our web design comes into play.

Our page is jammed full of really good information but it doesn’t show everything at once. And then there are other pages doing the same thing. We are using HTML which stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. It is the hyper text that allows us to provide a selection and then deliver a choice.

We are no longer using limited space on paper, nor are we using limited time on TV. Web marketing needs to use HTML in its marketing to get the most out of the medium and yet the HTML in contemporary business designs is relegated to basic navigation and placeholders for content. Instead, we need to put HTML into our marketing methods and provide choices for all members of our market.

Talking all the way through
We will spend time talking to that portion of our market that doesn’t even recognize yet that they have a problem. We are going to help educate them so that they do recognize that their life could be better with our solutions.

We will spend time talking with those that are researching possible solutions and we will help them see all of their possibilities from all sides. We’ll look at the upside and the downside of various features. We’ll bring these people along our path of understanding so that they are ready to look at comparisons.

We will not be afraid to compare our solution with others available on the market. We want to nurture this stage of the buying cycle fearlessly and give them all of the choices available while building a relationship they can trust. We want to keep this stage engaged or they will leave our site looking for comparable products and solutions.

If we don’t feed them right now and right here their next stage of development is to make a decision to purchase and we could lose them at a crucial moment in the cycle.

Farmer or hunter
A hunter fears that the prey will get away. They target and shoot early when they can and short term goals are everything to a hunter. On the other hand a farmer has long term goals and works with the seasons. Six months can go by from planting to harvesting and a farmer knows that nurturing cannot be superficial or provided with impatience.

Our harvest will arrive and it will be our own if we provide the helpful nutrients. Spending time to create the best content is essential and the easiest way for our market to find the right content on our site is also essential. But it can all be for naught if we choke up at the end and impatiently push for the sale.

We need to honor our market and validate their choice even when the choice goes to our competitor. Most choices will come our way because we nurtured that market along and we have build up a relationship. All the rest will take care of itself. It does so because everything about the marketing process is as natural as sunlight and rain.

Pull Marketing
And when we market naturally we are attracting the best interest from search engines. We are providing volumes of our unique and original information that search engines and our market are attracted to. We are sharing information that creates growth while building relationships with our market. We are cultivating our market by solving problems and providing insight for our market. And the bulk of our information is work that does not have to be repeated over and over.

Our web pages may need some tweaking from time to time but our main effort is going to last for a long time to come. And perhaps one of the most valuable assets we develop with pull marketing is that nothing we ever do is lost. All of our marketing stays in place for years and as we build we grow stronger and stronger.

Unlike push marketing that requires constant feeding of cash for advertising, our pull marketing is more like putting money in the bank and building our reserves instead of spending them.

Farming our web market is a very different concept from that of an opportunist feeding off of the market. By farming we control our own market and build a richer relationship rather than rely on just the good seasons or good years to get us through.

Mid-Market Company Marketing Communications – Five Tips To Improve ROI

For the moment, the economy is chugging along, financial markets are recovering, summer vacations are about to start and, hopefully, your B2C, B2B or nonprofit brand is growing. What could be better? Perhaps, your outlook for the future.

You’ve worked very hard to sustain your brand through the recent economic challenges, so perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate your situation, and focus on improving your marketing communications for the road ahead.

While competitors may be taking a breather, now may be the time for you to be aggressive and take a fresh look at your plans for the future, both short and long term. Here are five tips to keep in mind as you do so.

Knowledge Of Your Target Audience Trumps Opinion
Often, middle market brands believe they fully understand the wants and needs of their customers or constituents. However, consider employing market research to uncover their awareness of your brand, and how they really feel about you and your competition on various key attributes.

Doesn’t investing in research make sense before you spend your limited marketing communication budget? The good news is that research might confirm what you already know; the better news is that you might learn something new about how your audience really feels, and then be able to employ communications to correct what’s bothering them or highlight what’s important.

Understanding – rather than guessing – the wants and needs of your customers and prospects (as well as, perhaps, your own employees) can go a long way toward improving your marketing ROI.

Marketing Communications Audits Provide Real Value
If you haven’t recently (or ever) conducted a marketing communications audit, now is the ideal time to consider this tactic. Done properly, it will help you determine when, where and how to invest your time and money. At its core, you’ll be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your existing program as a whole, as well as how effective each tactic is in communicating your objectives.

The results of this type of audit will provide you with an actionable and coordinated road map of message delivery and spending allocation, across traditional and new media, events, content marketing, promotion and employee knowledge – and, like a financial audit, a tool for improving your profitability.

Promote Your Brand’s Anniversary
If your brand has an anniversary milestone coming up in the next two years, start planning for it now. It presents a unique opportunity to create a significant, fully integrated 12 to 18 month program, allowing you to focus on and energize your various constituents in a way that can’t be matched by your competitors. But recognize that, to be successful, you can’t just develop a new anniversary logo or throw a celebratory party. Like any other marketing tool, it must be grounded in meaningful and consistent messages.

Your corporate past is often the best criterion for your customers, prospects, employees and other audiences to judge your future performance. And, your 10th or 35th anniversary can be used to tell your story as effectively as a traditional 50th or 75th milestone.

Be Neutral When Evaluating Traditional And New Media
Don’t get caught up in all the excitement about the latest new media tactic you read about. New media does offer exciting potential and will continue to grow in importance. But don’t forget to consider traditional media. You might be surprised to know that, despite the advertising windfall generated by the Olympics and political advertising in 2012, total U/S. advertising dollars increased by only 0.9 percent in 2013. And, according to Kantar Media:

  • While network television and local newspapers decreased by only 3.4 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2013;
  • Cable television increased by 7.3 percent; consumer magazines increased by 2.6 percent; outdoor increased by 4.4 percent; free standing inserts increased by 3.4 percent; and, Spanish television increased by 2.9 percent.

Without question, digital media and content marketing increased dramatically during this time. However, you must remember that there are many options to consider. While efficiency is important, more important is maintaining your neutrality to understand and evaluate the relative effectiveness of each alternative in achieving your strategic goals.

Marketing Communications Consultants Add Value
Whether you’re a B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer, your own resources are probably already stretched to the limit. Unfortunately, you may not be able to allocate the physical or intellectual capital to the short or long term tasks at hand.

So don’t go it alone. Consider partnering with established, senior level consultants to help you and your team develop, refine and implement your plans.

Look for consultants who aren’t selling one particular discipline or a boilerplate “one size fits all” solution. Importantly, any consultant you consider should have extensive experience across industries and brands, both large and small. And be sure they’re willing to “tell it like it is”, so candor will flourish. Apolitical, fresh eyes can be an efficient use of your resources, and can provide objectivity to the decisions you need to make.

Improving marketing communications ROI is a constant challenge. It may seem like a daunting task but, as Mark Twain said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

Small and Midsized Company 2016 Marketing Communications Forecasts

By now, you’ve probably seen the forecasts referring to 2016 as an “OK” year, with US GDP growth of about 2.6 percent, unemployment at 4.8 percent, wage growth of 2.7 percent, and increased volatility in financial and political arenas.

Why would any B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer feel comfortable with this outlook? In fact, the December Chief Executive Magazine’s “Confidence Index” for the year ahead is at its lowest since June, 2014.

Marketing Communications Forecasts

With so many macro strategic and tactical issues on the horizon, it’s difficult to know where to start. But corporate and nonprofit marketers will still have to make decisions about their businesses, so here are my top five forecasts for you to consider as they relate to your marketing communications needs in the coming year.

1. Current client-agency relationships are at a very low level, and there will be an increase in the use of outside marketing communications consultants and groups to help small and midsized organizations.

Over time, client’s lack of trust in their agencies, combined with the huge overhead garnered by the larger agencies, has resulted in a weakening of the bond between clients and agencies. As an example, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently hired two consulting firms to investigate allegations of undisclosed rebates in digital media flowing to agencies. Much to the chagrin of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the ANA is working without their involvement.

Is it any wonder there was/is $30 billion under review in 2015? Transparency is the new black.

2. Content marketing will become even more important, as marketers learn to use market research and data analysis to deliver more meaningful information to customers and prospects. Further, as the number of people in the US blocking ads rose to 45 million in the second quarter of 2015 (up 48 percent from a year earlier), the economic viability of digital media is threatened. Taken together, this offers a unique opportunity to provide customers, prospects and donors with better information once the marketer understand what they really want to know. Look before you leap.

3. How marketers gather, analyze and integrate data about customers and prospects will help determine how well they achieve marketing and profitable sales success. By 2017, 69 percent of marketers say they expect data to drive most of their decisions (Gartner).

Everyone agrees there is an overwhelming amount of data. That’s the good news. The challenge is knowing how to interpret it and being able to communicate the implications correctly and effectively. Without this skill set, the entire marketing communications ROI is just another fancy name.

4. In 2016, with political advertising dominating media, many small and midsized companies and nonprofits will be priced out, finding it difficult to secure and/or afford many media and marketing tactical services. Next year, Advertising Age estimates that media will account for 54 percent of spending, while other marketing services will account for 46 percent.

Specifically, direct marketing is projected to account for one-third of all spending, followed by television at 23 percent, digital at 15 percent, plus newspapers and sponsorships, each at six percent. More than ever, being flexible and media neutral should be the first priority.

5. Despite the seemingly daily appearance of new online marketing tactics, human connections will, in fact, become more important. The explosion of digital tactics has created a unique opportunity to efficiently build awareness and initiate a dialogue. However, it’s also left behind a lot of clutter in its wake.

If you want to close a sale, you may have to resort to the “old” method of face to face relationships. In fact, nearly eight out of ten B2B and B2C marketers use in-person events for just that reason. Importantly, employees who understand the category and believe in the product can provide the quality, sincerity and emotional connection that are missing in most digital dialogues. Your own employees can not only be significant brand ambassadors but can also be an important source of customer feedback. Don’t be afraid to use them.

There are many other areas of prognostication worthy of discussion – including mobile, native advertising, baby boomers vs. millennials, internal communications, ROI measurement, videos, etc., etc. – but I believe the forecasts discussed above will have a significant impact not just on 2016 but the years ahead. The question then becomes what to do about them.

Marketing Communications Consultants Add Value

With all of the changes in the years ahead, consumers, buyers and donors will be forced to become more knowledgeable and more demanding, and will become even more cautious about how to spend their money. The rapid changes in technology have created an “always on” media environment. And a recent study by Forrester Research reports that over one-third of marketers currently feel overwhelmed by change.

I believe the 2016 will be the year of people, not technology or media or brands or companies. In almost all organizations, but especially in small and midsized ones, people are probably stretched to the limit and/or simply do not possess the background or expertise to handle the marketing communications challenges of 2016.

Because of this, an increasing number of for profit and nonprofit organizations have partnered with established senior level consultants to help develop, refine and, if appropriate, implement ROI focused programs. Look for people with broad industry and brand experience, across organizations, large and small. Candor should flourish. Look to make your future better than your past.