Top 5 Things to Focus on in 2016

I don’t pretend to know the future. That’s why I try not to take part in the “my predictions for next year” type posts that run rampant in December.

However, I do know that a lot of marketers and small business owners are looking for ways to stay ahead of the pack as they go into the New Year. They need to set their budgets and outline a strategy that will give them the best chance of success.

Regardless of how you fared in 2015, here are 5 areas to put your focus into next year:

  1. The Mobile User Experience – everyone is finally starting to realize that the mobile user is a different type of user than his desktop brethren. Mobile users want and need different things. They are at a different stage of the buying cycle. It’s time we stop trying to treat everyone the same and really focus on giving the mobile user exactly what he or she is looking for in a friendly, easy to use format, both on the web and in our advertising and email campaigns.
  2. Market Segmentation – just like mobile users, we want to stop treating everyone in the market the same way. People are different. They have different problems that they’re looking to solve, and the same solution doesn’t work for everyone. Our ability to review data and learn about our customers should help us begin to segment them in meaningful ways. That could be based on where they live, the products they buy, when they buy, etc. The more we can segment the market and customize our marketing to each group, the better our results will be.
  3. Customer Service as Marketing – how can I help? Those four little words should be at the heart of how you serve the marketplace. Customer service is a more public activity than ever before. And the companies that get customer service right use it to their advantage. By going out of your way to make customers happy, you increase goodwill and build brand advocates. Rather than negative and hurtful reviews, you’ll start to see positive reviews and strong word of mouth marketing. Invest in service and you should see the rewards on the marketing side.
  4. Measurement and Analytics – make 2016 the year you commit real manpower to understanding your data. Technology has allowed us the ability to study and learn how our users and customers behave like never before. The companies that will succeed in the coming years are the ones that will take the time to understand how that data can help their business. Ignoring the data is no longer an option.
  5. Product or Service Expansion – if you really want to grow your business, you need to find the one or two things you’re not doing right now that are a natural complement to whatever you are doing. Are there related products that your customers are buying from other places you might offer? Are there other uses to your product you haven’t thought of or marketed yet? You don’t always need to find new customers to grow. It’s often easier to invest in selling more to the people you already reach.

How to Set Your 2015 Marketing Budget

What did you do this year that worked?

What did you do this year that did not work?

What are your goals for next year?

Those are the three questions that you need to ask yourself before starting to put together your marketing budget for next year. And you need not only to ask them, you need to have the answers. If you don’t, then you need to set out to find them.

Create a list of everything you did in 2014. Try to include everything on that list, from where you advertised and how much you spent, to changes in strategy, design, messaging, pricing, etc.

Once you have a full list, do your best to define the results, both positive and negative, for each item on the list. Was the advertising effective? What was the return on investment? Did changes in strategy lead to increased sales or more traffic to the site?

Now you have a full list of what you did in 2014. You know to some degree what worked and what didn’t (and the more accurate your analysis, the better you’ll be able to plan for 2015). Next you need to write down your goals for 2015 – revenue and sales targets, and the initiatives you think will get you there.

You’ve now answered all three questions above. It’s time to start on 2015.

  1. Get rid of all activities that did not work in 2015. Rather than trying to find ways to tweak them to make them work, I recommend wiping them out completely so that you can focus on those activities that did work.
  2. Find ways to grow the activities that did work. Maybe there was a particular advertising channel that outperformed all the rest. Can you grow it by spending more and still achieve those stellar results? Take the money you saved on the things that didn’t work and spend it on things that did. You are essentially doubling down on your winners.
  3. Finally, add in those new activities that you believe will have the biggest measurable impact. Prioritize those things that will have the most immediate impact, because if you’re able to hit or exceed your goals early in the year, you’ll have more room to test new, riskier activities later in the year.

Your marketing plan is built. The next step is to get input from other members on your team. Present it to them, along with the goals for the year, in a clear and easy-to-understand way. Get input, and revise where needed.

And you’re ready to go! Good luck to all marketers in 2015, except all those competing with me directly of course ;)

How Does a Tradeshow Help Your Marketing?

Marketing is all about getting attention. And a tradeshow can be a great way to get attention from a very specific industry or group of consumers.

Depending on your product or service and the industry that you’re in, there is likely one or more trade shows or conferences that your business might attend. And, if you have the budget, you might consider becoming a sponsor or exhibitor.

If this is not something your business has done in the past, here are some reasons why you might consider making tradeshows a part of your marketing strategy in the future:

  • Generate leads – tradeshow attendees can learn more about you and give you their information so that your sales team can follow up after the show.
  • Create business partnerships – you can meet and talk to representatives from other companies in your industry, which can lead to profitable partnerships.
  • Launch products – tradeshows already get media coverage, so they can be a great time to make big product announcements. You already have a built in audience.
  • Brand awareness and industry respect –tradeshows tell consumers and industry players what brands are worth paying attention to, and just showing up at a tradeshow for the first time will get people’s attention.
  • Social Media tie-in – tradeshows can be a great way to generate interest in your social media channels. You can cover the event in real time or make special social media offers during the show.

For more information on using tradeshows as a part of your marketing strategy, read this and this.

Marketing Trends for 2014


Recently I was asked the question, “what trends should I be paying attention to in planning my 2014 marketing strategy?” And I answered that question in my newsletter that came out earlier this month.

Below is my answer:

1.       Segmentation and Data

I believe that 2014 is the year that the smoke clears on big data. To this point, its been little more than a buzzword. And to those of us with smaller budgets, merely a pipe dream. But with the amount of money being thrown into data and customer personas, it will soon be something even the smaller companies will be able to take advantage of.

So what does this mean? It means getting to know a lot more about your customers. It means knowing what they do online, where they shop, what they do for a living, who they spend time with, and what they want to get from you. It means more ability to segment your marketing into buckets and target the messaging, design, and offers to individuals or small groups, rather than showing everyone the same thing. That will lead to a greater response, and more efficient marketing.

Take a look around during the budgeting process and find some companies and marketing agencies in your area that are already involved with data and market research. Chances are they can begin to help you define, segment, and target your marketing better than you are doing currently.

2.       Integration

A pain point for me over the last year is the separation of marketing into tiny buckets. By this I mean treating email marketing, social media, content marketing, mobile marketing, and everything else as it's own, independent area or channel. It's not. The old cliche, the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts, is true of marketing plans as well.

I believe that 2014 is the year we turn the corner, at least the smart companies do. We will create campaigns that incorporate all the individual channels and manage them together, as one unit. All of the pieces will support the larger goal of connecting with more consumers and generating more sales. And we will measure these campaigns as a whole as well, instead of trying to separate out the response generated from each component.

When planning your 2014 budget, don't think about email marketing or anything else on an island by itself. Should I increase my email budget or decrease it? Instead, think about the high level campaigns. Who do I want to reach and why? Then plan the best ways to reach them.

3.       Social Media

I'll start by saying that social media will always have it's place in marketing. Having said that, I do believe we are in a bit of a social media bubble when it comes to marketing budgets. I know that I just said not to treat social media as its own individual area, but I think we're due for a snap back to reality in the next 12 months when it comes to the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the like. Twitter is going public, which will mean more ad options. Pinterest and Instagram have already launched their first ads. Social media is driving hard towards monetization, and there is bound to be some push back from consumers.

What does this mean? Not that social media is going away. But the time for spending money in social media just because its the thing to do it over. It's time to really look at how your activity in social media channels is affecting the bottom line of your business. It may mean that you find areas where you should be investing more time and energy. But it may mean refocusing your time and money in fewer places where you are having the greatest impact on your business. And it may mean pulling out of some areas altogether.

Start by thinking hard about how you've been using social media to this point. Get a fresh set of eyes to look at your business and help you understand what's working and what's not when it comes to social.

How to Use Customer Birthdays in Your Marketing Plan


Do you know your customer’s birthdays? Is that a piece of information you collect anywhere on your website or over the phone? Is it something you have access to?

If you answered yes to the questions above, you’re in good shape. If you answered no, figure out a way to change that so that the rest of this post makes sense for you.

This idea is one of many answers to an important question that companies (marketing teams) should be asking themselves. The question:

“What can we do to show people we care?”

One answer: remember their birthdays.

Consumers want to feel connected to companies on a more human level in today’s marketplace. The companies that take care of them will win more and more of their business. And a simple way to show them you’re paying attention is a friendly birthday present.

It could be as simple as a fun email. It could be a discount offer. It could be a free gift.

It’s an easy way to reach out to customers in a way that isn’t spammy or aggressive. It provides a brand experience that is unexpected. And I’ll bet that the feedback will be extremely positive.

Do it now and stay ahead of the curve!