Marketers continue to face complex challenges as they plan for the upcoming year; high inflation continues to persist and budgets are ever-tightening. The buying process is taking longer and more people are involved than ever before, yet marketers are being tasked with delivering results faster.
Despite these tough market conditions, it’s still possible to grow in the short term while also setting your business up for long-term success.
With tried-and-tested marketing principles emerging from academics, industry bodies and thought leaders across creative, media and measurement, we don’t have to guess at a path forward. We know what works:
- You need a strong and compelling brand
- You need to maximise your reach
- You need to make it easy to buy
We’ll look at each of these in more detail and the two mindsets to adopt if you want to lay the groundwork for success.
Three levers for growth
Businesses that want to grow need three things – a solid brand, maximum reach and an effortless experience.
A strong and compelling brand
Your brand is how you show up in the marketplace with the ultimate goal being recognition.
It’s the story you tell of why you exist, who you seek to serve and the problem you want to solve. It’s what you look like and sound like as well as the message you’re conveying.
A strong and compelling brand is one that people recognise when they see it. It’s the brand that comes to mind when customers encounter a buying trigger or think about the category. Customers believe that it offers something valuable and different from the other companies in the space.
For B2C, strong and compelling brands are Apple, Nike, Harley Davidson, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Disney. Switch to B2B and the brands that stand out are consultancies like Deloitte or EY, tech companies like Microsoft, HubSpot and Salesforce, or industrial giants like GE.
They all have a clear sense of who they are and the value they bring to the marketplace.
Your brand’s positioning in the marketplace needs to take into account what your company excels at, what customers want and need, and what your competitors are doing.
Moving from the conceptual idea of brand into the action-oriented brand, you also need a big idea – a creative hook or golden thread – that holds all your tactical activity together. So no matter what channel your customer is on or what stage of the buying journey they’re in, they’ll recognise you.
Maximising your reach
In order to grow, you need to maximise your reach. You need to get your brand in front of as many of your category buyers as possible.
Research has shown that up to 95% of your customers aren’t in an active buying mode at any given moment, but this passive state doesn’t mean they aren’t absorbing marketing and advertising, educational content, word of mouth and press about a category and the companies operating there.
It’s important to invest in broad brand awareness activity to stay in front of people at this stage because most buyers have a shortlist of brands that come to mind when they encounter a buying trigger. And in the B2B space, 90% of buyers select a brand from their shortlist when it comes time to buying.
For the 5% of customers who are actively looking for a solution, ensure your marketing activity is aligned with the channels they’re on, it speaks to the buying trigger or challenge they’re experiencing and gives them a clear call to action.
Maximising reach isn’t just about balancing your paid budgets between the long and short activity – you should also be using owned and earned channels, online and offline to ensure you’re getting in front of people throughout the entire sales funnel.
Creating an effortless experience
When it becomes time to buy, make it easy for customers to do so. All the work that’s come before was making a promise to the customer and now it’s time to deliver on that promise.
Physical availability of the product, a frictionless check-out process, quick delivery and customer service on hand to help with any problems will ensure you complete the sale. Any disruptions at this point could send customers back to competitors.
Once they’ve made a purchase, the ongoing experience they have with the brand and product dictates whether they’ll consider buying from the company again. So focus on the long-term relationship with your customers too – not just your acquisition of them.
A final point on experience – while it’s third in our list, it isn’t third in priority, especially if you’re running paid media activity, you need to address your conversion experience immediately. There’s no sense in paying money to bring people into the top of the funnel if the majority of them are falling out before they reach the bottom.
Two mindsets for success
It’s easy to project our own attitudes, beliefs and behaviours onto our customers. And once we start working with or for a company, we’re naturally biassed. We ascribe meaning to things or make connections between disparate parts based on our insider knowledge that our customers can’t follow.
Adopting the mindset of market orientation means being humble enough to acknowledge that we are not our customers. We accept that we don’t have all the answers and intentionally step into our customers shoes, letting them lead us.
To succeed, this needs to be more than just a marketing initiative, but marketers have a leading role to play in understanding the customers’ experience of the brand from the outside. They also need to stay up to date on what competitors are doing to ensure they are positioning their brand and products in a way that stands out.
But the effort is worth it. Research led by Professor John Narver has demonstrated that “businesses that are more market oriented enjoy higher profitability as well as superior sales growth, customer retention and new product success”.
Spirit of experimentation
There’s a long-running debate within the marketing community about whether marketing is an art or a science. The truth is that it’s a bit of both. But one of the points we can take from the ‘marketing is a science’ perspective is a test-and-learn mindset.
Our knowledge of the world only advances through experimentation, and that holds true in marketing, too. We should constantly be looking at our current situation, creating a hypothesis about what might impact growth, designing a test, measuring the results and creating a new hypothesis.
Uncertainty and volatility in the market often lead to tighter budgets and to the clutching of old playbooks citing what’s worked before. But new scenarios demand new solutions. It’s the changes in buyer behaviour and new market forces that make experimentation the only logical path.
Test different channels, different messages and different value-adds with your products to find the ones that connect with your customers to ensure you’re staying relevant in the changing landscape.
A final word
Brands that can nail all three of these elements – showing up with something to say, maximising reach and making it easy to buy – will grow in the short term and the long term.
We’d love to talk to you about what this might look like for your brand. Get in touch today.