andrea obston marketing communicationsEvery year, as the ball drops in Times Square and the pine
needles drop from the Christmas trees, many of us feel the need
to start the New Year right.

To help you in that effort, here are a few resolutions to help grow your business in 2016:

Talk to consumers where they are. Resolution #1 – Open your marketing mind to what works for your customers, not for you.
Too many executives and business owners build their marketing efforts on what motivates them. But chances are that your customers are NOT you. In today’s environment, your customer is most likely someone who’s grown up with the world at their command. They’ve always had apps that let them adapt their cell phones to their wants. They’ve always had access to internet resources that bring them exactly what they want when they want it. Now, more than ever, your marketing must respond to those expectations. For example, you might want to add a chat box to your site so customers can get instant answers to their questions from a live person. Or, you could create specific landing pages for those who want to dive deeper into email promotions.

Make Your Website the home base it should be. Resolution #2 – Take a good look at your website to make sure it’s contemporary. When was the last time you looked at your site through the eyes of your customers? Many business people don’t want to. They recall with dread how tedious it was to create their original sites. They can’t face that process again. “It’s up. It’s done. Let’s move on.” That’s their attitude. But, here’s the sad news: your website’s never done. It must evolve just like your business. The good news is that updating or even creating a new site is a lot less painful than it used to be. And keeping an outdated site can be downright destructive to your bottom line. You wouldn’t go into a restaurant with a banged up front door. Or a boutique with dirty windows. So why would you expect your customers to want to come through your “front door” (i.e. your website) if it looks shopworn and haggard?

Your website must be your home base for all of your marketing. Everything -from your blog, to your email marketing, to your social – must point back to that site. It needs to drive traffic through that front door and to your bottom line. That better be an open, welcoming and contemporary front door.

Not sure if your website’s dated? Here are a few signs it’s time for a change from Jennifer Lonoff Schiff in her article in CIO Magazine:

  • Traffic Isn’t Converting Into Sales
  • Bounce rates are high
  • Loading is glacial
  • Updates require an outside vendor
  • Mobile friendly is a foreign concept
  • Content is stale and/or links are broken
  • Social media links are nonexistent or hidden

If any of these sound familiar, it’s time for a website refresh.

Create relationships with your customers not transactions. Resolution #3 – Concentrate your 2016 marketing efforts onbuilding customer loyalty and engagement instead of pushing one-time sales. Gone are the days of mass marketing. Today, smart marketers focus on developing long-term relationships that grow their businesses over time. Companies that build emotional customer connections create brand ambassadors who carry their messages for them. Today, there’s easily accessible data that will help you learn what your customers want from you and what needs your product or services satisfies for them. Use it to develop the building blocks of strong relationships that go beyond the transaction.

Use social media to solidify a personal connection. Resolution #4 – Vow to focus the bulk of your social media posts on content that’s useful to your audience. “Hey look at me” posts are tedious and of no use to your customers. Before you post ask yourself, “Is this interesting enough that I’d pass it along to a friend if I didn’t work here?” The fact that you have a new machine or an employee celebrating five years with the company never changed anyone’s life. Post “news you can use” and you’ll use your social media to solidify your position as a thought leader. And speaking of personal social connections, focus your efforts on the specific platforms your customers and prospects use. For Boomers, that will probably be Facebook. For Millennials, it could be Instagram or whatever’s coming next. Too many clients think they have to jump into every social media platform at once. Know the channels and understand their strengths. Then jump in with frequent posts that make the most of them.

Mobilize the power of email marketing to create productive engagements. Resolution #5 – Learn ways to drive traffic to your site with regular eblasts. Yes, I know we all have a love/hate relationship with email. We hate that it’s there. We hate that our inboxes are crammed full. But many of us (and, yes, I’m guilty of this) check our email as soon as we’re conscious in the morning and right before we lose consciousness at night. Deliver compact, useful and engaging content through regular e-blasts and people will click on the links that drive them to your site. Do it regularly and watch the analytics to see what engages your customers. Then modify content accordingly. In addition, make sure those emails have social sharing buttons built in. According to AdWeek, emails that contain social sharing buttons increase click-through rates by 158%.

Make community service a key player in your marketing efforts. Resolution #6 – Look into ways to involve your company and your employees in something that both heals the world and is a natural extension of what you do. We have long been proponents of making community service a key pillar of a strategic marketing plan. It showcases your business as active player in the community. It gives your employees a reason to work together and feel good about what they do. And it gives you a chance to show off what you do to a whole new group of people. Choose a cause that makes sense with what your business does and uses the skill sets of your employees. For example, instead of holding a food drive for your local food bank, why not donate the redesign of their website if that’s your business? The organization wins. Your employees win and your company wins. It’s a good deal all around.

Lose the DIY marketing. Resolution #7 – Make the most of your in-house marketing professionals by outsourcing projects that fall outside their skill set. Doing everything in-house is a waste of precious resources and ends up taking twice as long to accomplish your goals. Could your marketing person learn how to do paid Facebook advertising? Probably. But is it productive for her to spend her days teaching herself how to do it? Wouldn’t it be a better use of her time, deep knowledge of the company and marketing expertise to have her supervise an outside expert with experience maximizing Facebook ad budgets? And, when it comes to handling explosive PR crises, does it really make sense to embroil her in a situation that could put her at odds with upper management? Wouldn’t it be better to call in an outside crisis communications pro who’s unencumbered by in-house politics and company hierarchy?

Next year promises to be a marketing adventure, with new platforms, new ways to reach consumers and new challenges. Embrace the change and hang on for the ride. It’s going to be one glorious journey!

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