By Jeffrey Barnhart
During every stage in your business life cycle, you’ll encounter marketing challenges. Before I jump into the biggest marketing challenges that I’ve seen in my more than 40 years in the industry and share solutions, let’s take a closer look at the business life cycle.
The business life cycle is the advancement of a business and its phases over time. It is typically divided into the following five stages:
- Launch – Launch of new products or services, with sales slowly starting.
- Growth – Rapid increase in sales, with businesses starting to see a profit.
- Shake-out – Sales continue, but at a slower rate.
- Maturity – Market matures and sales begin to slowly decrease.
- Decline – Sales, cash flow, profit and competitive advantage decline.
The product life cycle follows a similar path, but with the addition of the development phase. This phase is the research phase, which comes before a product is introduced into the marketplace.
Marketing is the driver for sales. Without a solid marketing strategy in place, as a compass for sales, you will not have a clear path for success. This is particularly important as you relaunch following COVID-19. Your marketing plan may require some fine-tuning.
Marketing is communicating to and moving prospects down the four stages of the sales funnel: 1.) awareness 2.) interest 3.) desire and 4.) action.
Keep both the life cycle phases and the sales funnel stages in mind, as I walk you through solutions for the 5 biggest marketing challenges:
Marketing Challenge: Lack of visibility
Solution: Build brand awareness
No matter where your business or product is in the life cycle, you’ll need to build a strong brand to create and maintain visibility in the marketplace. A brand is a story that makes a public pledge and lets your customers and prospects know how they can benefit from your products or services. Building brand awareness is the foundation of any successful marketing campaign. Post-COVID-19, that means putting more emphasis on digital branding. As a result of the pandemic, companies are adapting to a completely digital environment. Brands are adjusting and innovating with new creative, pivoting to digital solutions.
Your stepwise approach for building brand awareness begins with developing brand guidelines. These guidelines are critical, as they will assist you in how to represent your brand across all marketing channels. Brand guidelines need to include key messages, fonts, colors and logo use.
In addition, think about the target audience you need to reach. This will enable you to customize your key messages, logo design and branding. It’s important to be familiar with the competitive landscape. Be sure to research and understand your competition’s positioning, so you can differentiate your business. Following COVID-19, your branding efforts need to remain strong, so customers will recognize, remember and consider your products or services amidst your competitors.
Next, create a brand logo or consider redesigning your existing one to better represent who you are at this very moment. It must be memorable and stand out among your competition. If your brand is “fun” or “groundbreaking,” ensure your logo exemplifies those characteristics.
Once the logo and brand guidelines have been established, incorporate your logo across all of your marketing channels. Your brand should be visible in everything you do and in what your prospects and customers see—from your web design, advertising, public relations and social media. Be sure the branding remains consistent. Use the same design, colors, wording and typeface at every touch point.
Marketing Challenge: Not enough leads
Solution: Implement lead generation programs
It’s not surprising that lead generation is one of the most mentioned buzz words among marketing teams. Lead generation allows you to create massive traffic, through your website, which leads to more sales and higher conversion rates. Lead generation is a cost-effective and integral part of every consumer’s journey to becoming a customer.
When prospects are searching for solutions that your business can provide and it stands out among your competitors, the chance of converting that lead into a customer substantially increases.
But, how should lead generation be fine-tuned following the global pandemic? The answer is: Reshape your strategies to generate demand. While it may be difficult to drive revenue now, you can still generate leads that will pay off as recovery continues. Improve your response rate by retargeting your audience, reallocate dollars for digital and offer virtual events.
Marketo reported that even though marketing executives report that lead quality is one of the top priorities for lead generation, it also is one of the biggest challenges facing marketers today. In a recent study by IDG, 61 percent of marketers reported that generating high-quality leads was problematic for their organization.
The most effective marketing channels that generate the greatest leads include:
Just having a well-designed website isn’t going to generate website visitors and leads. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, your website needs to be optimized to guarantee that a search engine can index and access it. You can increase those changes by peppering in relevant phrases and keywords, as well as editing meta tags and image tags. Following COVID-19, many marketing budgets have been slashed as a cost-cutting measure, however it is important to fine-tune your SEO strategy to ensure that your company will be found on search engines, even if your Google ad dollars are eliminated. An integrated strategy will produce leads, pull in new customers and help convert organic traffic.
Other smart website lead generation strategies range from adding a contact phone number and simple contact forms, to providing clear calls to action. Another strategy is to produce and give away valuable information, such as webinars or blog posts, like this one.
This type of marketing doesn’t blatantly promote a brand. Instead, it’s aimed to spark interest in a business’s products or services through the sharing of informational content such as social media posts, blog posts and videos.
Humanizing your content especially as recovery from COVID-19 continues will help customers feel more connected to your brand. Continue to build brand loyalty by adjusting your brand voice so that it reflects what your customers are facing. Think like your customers. Be authentic, heartfelt and relevant in everything you produce.
This is the most important part of the content marketing process. Smart content marketing strategies start with the customer. Only then can you create content that’s high quality.
Another tactic to consider is offering an alluring lead magnet to entice people and capture email addresses. One of the top lead magnet ideas is to offer a content upgrade.
Finally, promote your content! You can do that through digital marketing, social media marketing, public relations and email marketing—which brings me to my next point.
Email marketing is a cost-effective way to communicate, get your message in front of your target audience and most importantly, generate leads. Whether you are building a relationship with a subscriber or they’ve been on your list for years, email marketing continues to be one of the preferred ways of getting information. Email newsletters should be part of your digital marketing, social media marketing and content marketing strategy.
Those are my top three marketing channels to generate leads. Some others include pay per click (PPC), search engine optimization and events/conferences, to name a few.
Marketing Challenge: Too little time and in-house expertise
Solution: Focus efforts and partner with a marketing agency
Following COVID-19, these are unprecedented times for marketers. With budgets being cut, now more than ever you want to stretch your marketing dollars to maximize your return on investment (ROI). A marketing agency can help you keep up with emerging technology as you rebound from COVID-19. Again, this is just another reason to have a solid marketing plan in place.
Your marketing plan will provide you with a roadmap for success. Unlike a business plan, which covers the entire business including financial plans, operations and sales, a marketing plan focuses just on the marketing.
It also will outline where you want to go, why you want to get there and when you want to get there, so you’ll have that information in one place. Most importantly, it helps a business measure its success.
One of the biggest marketing challenges I see with our customers, especially small businesses, is the lack of time and in-house marketing expertise. You’ll want to choose the right marketing agency to partner with and conquer this challenge.
On the road to achieving success and having a long-term partnership, its important to find the right agency fit. Some of the attributes to look for include having the similar core values, as well as an agency that offers a range of services to fill your marketing needs—not only for today, but down the road. This probably goes without saying, but you want to partner with a firm that has a proven and successful track record, in addition to one that’s been around and has an established business.
Marketing Challenge: Lack of budget
Solution: Develop a marketing budget
Every business runs into budget issues at one time or another, during its business life cycle. Now, especially, businesses are being impacted by a reduction in marketing spend as a result of the pandemic. As such, it’s imperative to create a marketing budget to drive growth. You need to have a sound marketing budget and marketing plan to demonstrate how you achieved your financial goals.
When approaching a marketing budget, with limited funds, start small and expand as you ascertain which efforts deliver the greatest ROI. A phased approach, which addresses your topline goals and objectives, is most effective. Remember, quality is more important than quantity.
One way to stretch your budget is to look for overlap areas. When you work with a marketing agency that provides many solutions all under one roof, that marketing team will know what’s being done in all areas and can determine where there’s overlap and how marketing materials can be repurposed.
Did you know that once a blog is developed, posted on your website and shared across your social media channels, that you can repurpose it for other media outlets? It takes a fraction of the time to tweak, which saves a ton of money. The best part? You’ll be expanding your reach, by communicating your key messages to new audiences.
Marketing Challenge: To Prove the ROI
Solution: Measure the ROI
The importance of measuring and delivering ROI has been a challenge for many marketers. In fact, a common trend throughout the CMA marketing best practices blog was the importance of measuring and delivering ROI. However, only one in four marketers are highly confident they can quantify ROI, according to a Nielsen report.
Although one of the biggest marketing challenges, I’m happy to share some of the best ways to measure and increase marketing ROI. Calculating ROI, during the marketing planning process, is critical. Aside from the fiduciary reasoning, ROI is a tool that you should always utilize. It helps prioritize marketing investments and base that investment on actual results, as it relates to the campaign goal.
You also need to measure marketing ROI on a continual basis to determine if the strategies and marketing efforts are on target or if they need to be changed mid-year or earlier.
Thanks to technology, marketing is more measurable than ever before—which allows for more analysis for each tactic. When developing your marketing program, it’s a good idea to know your benchmarks for success. Be flexible and open when you’re walking through the process of result analysis.
Marketing Challenges Case Study
At CMA, a full-service communications, marketing and association management firm, we don’t just produce top-notch results for our customers, we practice what we preach and deliver them for ourselves too. Being a 33-year-old business, CMA has experienced the five biggest marketing challenges that I’ve shared, throughout that time.
The first way we overcome those challenges is to begin each year with both a marketing plan and a marketing budget in place. Our main goal throughout 2019was to continue to enhance brand awareness, with the CMA target audiences to generate leads. The top marketing channels comprised webinar and PPC campaigns, public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media marketing and email marketing. Most recently, throughout the global pandemic, we pivoted our marketing strategy to a “mindful marketing” approach and focused on helping our clients and the community.
Tactics and topline results included:
The lead generation campaign, which consisted of webinars and PPC, delivered an ROI of 438% over a one-year duration.
The campaign included a monthly webinar campaign on topics including digital marketing, content marketing, social media and public relations. All of our webinars were promoted through organic social media and email marketing.
The campaign included solutions-based landing pages including social media, public relations, digital marketing, web design and content marketing. Keywords were based on CMA solutions, within a targeted geographic area.
- The campaign included leads that came to the “Contact Us” website page, which was based on Google searches (SEO) and organic social media.
The campaign included a proactive media relations campaign and optimized press releases, which were posted on the CMA website, shared on social media, distributed to New Jersey media outlets and highlighted in a monthly newsletter. News angles ranged from promoting the firm’s acquisition to its industry awards and accolades, new clients and community involvement.
- Secured 80 placements
- Secured 10 thought leadership feature pieces in CMA’s top-tier media outlets
- Reached 131,767+ targeted individuals
The campaign included a blog series (42 total), which positioned CMA as a thought leader and solution to various marketing and association management problems. CMA posted them on its blog page and shared them across its social media platforms and in dedicated email blasts.
Blog angles included tips, in addition to pertinent and timely industry trends:
5 Most Effective Digital Marketing Channels for Your Business
3 Smart Ways to Build a Social Media Content Calendar
5 Smart Website Lead Generation Strategies
Video Marketing Secret to Boost your Traffic and Conversions
- Total Users: 21,651 (up 45% from same timeframe compared to prior year)
- Total Sessions: 25,409 (up 31.4%)
- Total Bounce Rate: (down 6%)
Our monthly video blogs (vlogs) that the firm branded as Reel Results are based on blog content. In addition to being embedded in the blogs, CMA also posted videos on YouTube, the CMA website and its social media platforms.
- By adding video to blogs, page time and engagement rates doubled.
- CMA received an award for this video series from the NJ Communications, Advertising and Marketing Association’s (NJCAMA) Annual ASTRA Awards.
Social media marketing
of the campaign included posts on the CMA social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram promoting its blog, press releases and video content. Other types of social media posts were quotes from CMA thought leaders and announcements like community involvement, employee recognitions and company initiatives. The post frequency was 3-4 times per week.
- Total Referrals from Social Channels: 1,799
Our monthly newsletter distribution went to CMA customers and prospects with the latest blogs, vlogs and news. To increase shares and drive additional traffic, there’s an opportunity in each section for recipients to share the content through social media or email.
Marketing is one of the most vital ingredients for business success. As recovery from COVID-19 continues, consumerism won’t look the same. Your marketing practices will need to reflect that. Gaining a competitive edge in the post-COVID-19 world will require fine-tuning your marketing strategy.
Regardless of where your business or product is in its life cycle, you must identify your biggest marketing challenges. This likely won’t be an easy process, but it is necessary to thrive. Only then can you determine which solutions will work best to overcome those challenges to accomplish your marketing goals.
Do you want to learn more about solutions for your biggest marketing challenges? Contact CMA today, to start the conversation.