Making the Most of Your Marketing Communications

From a marketing communications perspective, the conventional wisdom used to be “throw some money at advertising and marketing to create awareness and sales will follow”. Marketers were more interested in building awareness and brand recognition and there was no linkage between sales and marketing. Lots of assumptions were made and there was little accountability.

All that has changed. Now sales and marketing are inextricably linked and it’s all about return on investment — ROI. Marketing budgets are now scrutinized to squeeze the most value out of media plans and PR activities. So how do you get good ROI from your marcom budget when you’re trying to reach a specific target market with information about your product or service?

ROI in marketing communications is all about taking the time to really understand who you are trying to reach and what it is that they really want. It also requires finding the most cost-effective way to reach that very specific target audience. No longer can the strategy be spray and pray, identifying the largest trade magazines and industry websites in your market and then hitting the biggest audience with a general message, assuming that you’re going to benefit from trickle down. Traditional vehicles like on- and off-line trade publications are suffering from some of their lowest advertising revenue in years, which translates into reduced readership and effectiveness. So, despite some very attractive deals out there, chances are industry trade publication advertising right now doesn’t offer very good ROI.

Identify your target customer accurately.

So what do you do? You practice something called guerrilla marketing. You find multiple, more focused ways to reach a highly qualified, targeted audience. And you start by doing your homework on who you really want to reach. For example, don’t say your target audience is engineers. Go that extra mile to confirm that the person you really want to talk to is the senior design engineer who’s driving specifications for board-level components. Target, target, target.

Now you can concentrate on how to most effectively reach your highly qualified target. Because you’ve selectively reduced the audience to a critical few, think about generating case studies, white papers, and press releases containing relevant keywords and specific “long-tail” search terms that potentially would be used by your target customer, with helpful industry links as well as appropriate anchor text and links to landing pages within your own website. Then make sure you have more complete, relevant information on your landing pages and an interactive contact form that enables them to query you and provide some details on what they really need.

Keyword every page in your site using those long-tail terms specific to your niche; for example, instead of a generic keyword such as “fabric”, use “waterproof, ripstop fabric.” Ten well-qualified leads are much more valuable than a hundred less-than-qualified leads.

Tweak your web site to contain a wide range of links out to appropriate trade pubs and industry or trade association websites, and try to get them to post a link to yours on theirs. All these things cost very little money, yet they can go a long way toward creating visibility for your company and product or service.

Use social media wisely.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding social media networking these days. One thing that is true, though, is that a thoughtful, appropriate presence on major sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can boost your visibility and help you open conversations with potential customers.

If you don’t have an account with these social media, get one. Join relevant professional groups on LinkedIn and start discussions there (almost every major industry has at least several professional groups on LinkedIn). Start a company blog and Facebook page, get a Twitter account, and have your comments posted automatically to all three (they all have mechanisms that enable, say, a LinkedIn comment posting to appear automatically on your Twitter page). There are lots of helpful, easy-to-find blogs, websites, and consultants that can help you explore social media networking more fully.

Five tips for achieving marketing communications ROI:

Know your target customer

Do your homework and research who REALLY would buy your product or service. Avoid generic job titles or descriptions as much as possible and try to drill down to the job responsibilities and purchasing needs of the person you’re trying to reach.

Hone your message

Focus on customer pain – the thing or things that really present a challenge to your potential customer and that your product or service will “cure”. Avoid the trite and hackneyed and communicate with clarity. Talk about what concerns your potential customer, not your company.

Disseminate your message creatively

Don’t blindly rely on traditional methods that may or may not work for your specific circumstances and in these economic times. Seek alternative methods, such as using social media networking and free article directory sites to post industry-related comments, key-worded case studies and press releases that can be found by industry bloggers and e-publications looking for content.

Find ways to “get found”

Generate case studies, abstracts, and articles that can become search-optimized content for industry publications, all pointing back to you. Make sure your website is updated regularly to include new and better content and links for increased visibility. Foster online relationships with industry marketplaces, trade journal sites, and professional organizations. Position yourself as an industry expert — line up speaking engagements and conduct seminars, webinars, and podcasts where possible.

Repeat

Once you find the right mix of message and media, repeat as often as possible. Stay on-message and on-target by producing key-worded content on a regular basis for outside publication and your own website. Create new content more easily by expanding upon previously-covered topics and updating older pieces with new information.

Good ROI for your marketing communications efforts comes from doing your homework, understanding what you’re trying to accomplish, and setting goals. Do this, and you can sleep easy, knowing your marketing communications program is working as hard as it possibly can.