8 Marketing Plan Differentiators That Will Make Your Strategy Pop
How do you help your brand stand out from the crowd? Columnist Sonny Ganguly offers up these tips for developing a marketing plan that shines.
As a marketer, I know there can be a lot of pressure to make your business stand out from the competition. Each year the process of creating a marketing plan becomes more difficult as the online and offline marketing channels continue to evolve rapidly. It can be difficult to come up with marketing plan differentiators that will deliver the expected results and have a sustainable impact on your brand.
Whether your business is coming up with a marketing strategy for the long term or just making adjustments midyear, use these marketing plan differentiators to make your strategy pop.
1. Focus On Your Brand’s Story
There are several viable brand strategies that could be considered marketing plan differentiators this year, but storytelling is the most effective and easiest to implement for small businesses. While you may have heard the term “storytelling” thrown around the past few years, non-fiction storytelling can be a great way to grow your brand.
Your brand is distinct from your competition, and the best way to convey that to customers is through storytelling. It’s important to make a personal connection with customers by helping them understand your business, your employees, and other customers so they can understand why you’re the best fit.
Previously storytelling was limited to advertising or in-person experiences, but with the prevalence of blogging and social media, it’s become the go-to strategy to achieve brand awareness.
Whether your brand’s stories are about your employees or are told through the eyes of your customers, those stories must reflect real values held by your business. If the story isn’t genuine, you’ll hurt your brand more than you’ll help it. To see a great example of brand storytelling and how it fits into a larger digital marketing strategy, head over to Microsoft’s Stories site.
2. Reimagine Your Business Website
Notice how I didn’t use the word “redesign?” Whether you just spent a ton of resources redesigning your website or don’t feel like it’s yet time to start over, reimagining your business site doesn’t require a lot of time or money. Rather, it simply requires strategic thinking.
In an age where websites are beginning to look more and more alike, it may be time to think about how to make yours different. Of this list of marketing plan differentiators, your website is one of the easiest places to drive a big impact on your bottom line.
One of the biggest 2015 trends for Web design is to simplify the look and feel by removing nonessential design elements. You can still create dramatic pages with big images or text, but balance those with a more minimalist approach to the number of elements on your page.
Your website should guide potential customers to the point of conversion, so don’t distract them with too many options. Many websites are opting for single-page sites that scroll, with no background colors or hidden main menus. Airbnb is a great example of a website that has simplified its layout to drive users to search its directory — straight to the point!
3. Increase Personalization To Boost SEO
The concept of personalization is not specific to search engine optimization, but SEO is an area where it can be applied. As search becomes more sophisticated, one of the biggest marketing plan differentiators will be personalization based on geographic and demographic data gathered through behavior.
Your website visitors are likely landing on your website based on a number of different needs and keywords, so personalizing the content they see will help keep them on your site and boost Web conversions. The more relevant you can make the page’s content, the better.
You can test headlines, forms, page content, calls-to-action — you name it. Even something as small as pulling in localized elements will help visitors find the information most useful for them. Check out the localized reviews on TripAdvisor for a good starting point.
4. Start Listening To Social Media Chatter
As far as marketing plan differentiators go, social media is nothing new. However, your business should be looking for ways to incorporate social into other business processes.
A natural fit for social media within your business is to incorporate social data into your customer service process.
Are customers having conversations about your brand? Are you responding to them in a timely manner? Social listening helps your business get ahead of the curve and jump into conversations before they become support issues.
Although you receive notifications when your brand is mentioned directly, it’s likely that most conversations about your brand are happening without your knowledge. Investing in a social listening platform will help you identify the keywords you want to monitor so you can be notified immediately when someone’s talking about your brand.
You can also track non-branded keywords to join conversations where there’s an opportunity to gain customers on a given topic. If you don’t have the budget (or volume) for a sophisticated platform like Sprout, services such as Hootsuite and Encore Alert offer great service out of the gates. (Disclosure: I am an adviser to Encore Alert.)
5. Incorporate More Video
Video is often the forgotten form of content when developing a content marketing strategy. Traditionally, videos were difficult to create, expensive and time-consuming. But advances in modern technology have made video much easier (and often cheaper) to produce.
Adding videos to landing pages can increase conversions by nearly 90 percent, according to data from WebDam. It’s time for your business to embrace video marketing across all channels.
With the U.S. watching 38.2 billion videos in the second quarter of 2014 alone, it’s important to reach your customers the way they’re already engaging with other brands and people.
Use your video content on your website, landing pages, social networks and emails to break up text and keep customers entertained. As a bonus, video content is an excellent tool for storytelling. Nonprofit charity:water is a great example of a brand incorporating video across its marketing channels to tell stories about the organization and its donors.
6. Start Thinking Mobile First
As 2014 was the year Internet usage on mobile devices exceeded Internet usage on desktop, it’s time to start designing and writing for mobile devices first.
Like video, the mobile-first concept can (and should) be applied across your marketing channels; 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone, and 64 percent own a smartphone, so consumers are more mobile than ever before.
The popularity of smartphones and tablets has made it so that consumers no longer think about their content consumption or purchase behavior as online or offline — if they see something they like, they can access it just as easily from a computer or mobile device.
Even if you’re far from implementing responsive design, your business can leverage a mobile-first strategy as a marketing plan differentiator in a number of ways.
Identify all the touch points you have with customers and think through the mobile experience. Make sure your website has mobile templates enabled so that your mobile site displays less text, has larger links and buttons, and displays all yourWweb elements to fit the visitor’s screen size.
Carry these concepts across your email marketing templates, paid search or social ads as well. Remember the “KISS” framework when it comes to mobile: Keep It Short and Simple.
7. Increase The Relevancy Of Your Emails
Email marketing is one of the oldest marketing channels that has continued to thrive as the Internet grows and evolves. Email is so effective, in fact, it’s estimated that by 2016 more than 192 billion emails will be sent per day worldwide.
Your email marketing plan differentiator will be to make your emails more relevant to your customers in order to get their attention in a crowded inbox and get them to engage with your messaging.
If you haven’t already, segment your email list by the data you’ve collected about your customers. At WeddingWire, we know when our engaged couples are getting married and how far along they are in the wedding planning process, so we use this data to inform the content and timing of our emails to make our messages relevant for each recipient.
Since your business may not have that depth of information, you can segment your email list by more easily gathered data like geographic location, business type or behavior. If customers engage with a certain type of article, follow up by sending them more information on that same topic.
You can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your email campaigns (open rates, click-through rates, deliverability, and so on), but it starts by increasing the relevance of your messages.
8. Manage Your Online Reputation
Whether your business is categorized as B2B or B2C, it’s important to manage your online reputation by paying attention to your reviews across the Web. Reviews are integral to our business — with over 2 million reviews within the wedding industry — but they’re equally important for all companies to know what customers are saying about their brand.
Get proactive about your online reputation by making feedback requests part of your process. Include links to the popular review sites in your emails, on your website or on your social networks to encourage happy customers to review you. Making it a part of your process will help you consistently collect reviews and feedback, which keeps your reputation up to date with recent reviews.
Don’t be afraid of a negative review — learn from it and fix it when you can, but remember that negative feedback will often lend credibility to your online reviews.
I hope this list has helped provide a frame and strategic direction for your next marketing plan. If you have other marketing plan differentiators to add to my list, leave a comment here or send it to me via Twitter.