2013 Marketing Communications – Six Strategic Tips For Midsized Companies And Nonprofits

Everyone – organizations and consumers alike – continues to be wary of the ongoing negotiations in Washington associated with the fiscal cliff. It will take time to sort out the impact of what finally gets resolved, but marketers know they can’t wait any longer to determine how to aggressively promote their products and services now.

Whether you’re a business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) or nonprofit marketer, you’ve probably also been overwhelmed by the countless claims, and counter claims, about if – and how – to use all the various forms of “new” marketing tools – social media, mobile, content marketing, email and video. Some experts project the demise of email marketing as social media and video sharing grow in importance. Others stress the need for mobile marketing, while even others shout “Content is King” (first coined by Bill Gates in 1996). All will continue to be important, but these decisions, coupled with the economic environment, means that the marketer’s world is more complicated than ever.

Rather than endlessly pondering these choices, maybe this is the time to put these latest tactics into perspective, and focus on some basic marketing and marketing communications strategies for 2013.

Target Audience Knowledge Trumps Opinion

A deep, reliable and projectable understanding of your existing and potential clients, customers or donors is key to developing effective and profitable strategies and plans. And that means market research.

Marketers should fully understand the wants, needs and attitudes of their target audiences, and how these factors relate to the organization, as well as competition. Facts, not opinions.

Employ market research and monitor social media discussions and behaviors to determine what’s important to your constituents before your tactical plans are developed. In other words, “Look before you leap.”

Embrace The Changing Demographic Landscape

With nearly 315 million people in the US alone, the dramatic growth of older consumers is significant and should be recognized. Does your customer and prospect planning take them into consideration? And does your planning recognize that:

  • 21 percent of the workforce is now 55+ years of age, and they plan on working well past traditional retirement age;
  • The number of people 65 and older was 40 million in 2009 but is projected to be 60 million in 2020 (US Census Bureau);
  • While 69 percent of those aged 18 – 49 used social media, only 38 percent of those aged 50 and above use any form of social media.

Acknowledging the growth and absolute size of this huge audience in your planning presents a major opportunity. And, depending on your product or service, you might want to go through this exercise for other demographic groups – Hispanics, Asians, younger people, women, etc. Understand them and make sure you relate to their needs. In summary, “Board a trend, don’t buck it”.

Don’t Discount Traditional Media

New media offers exciting potential and will grow significantly in importance. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about “old” media. Both new and traditional media have value and both should be considered in planning your overall media mix. That means that strategically you need to fully understand their relative effectiveness, not just their efficiency.

And, would it surprise you to learn that traditional media is actually becoming “new” media for some marketers:

  • Commercial and nonprofit marketers will spend $169 billion in direct marketing, representing over half of all US advertising expenditures (DMA’s Response Rate 2012 Report);
  • There were 195 new print magazines launched in 2012 (MediaTrends.com); According to Forrester Research, while consumers discover new brands, products or services by talking to friends (80%) and online searches (79%), television advertising is a strong third (71%);
  • While the average consumer receives 14 – 15 email selling messages a day, the average household receives only 2 – 3 direct mail promotions per day (USPS);
  • Despite the record breaking political spending in 2012, national cable television advertising is still expected to grow by 11 percent, while billboard spending will increase by 5 percent and radio by 3 percent (Zenith Optima).

New versus traditional media should not dominate the discussion. Rather, how you strategically develop your media mix should be on the front burner. Above all, be “media neutral”.

Anniversary Marketing Invigorates Established Organizations

Your anniversary provides an opportunity to leverage your past strengths while communicating your vision for the future. Your history and your plans for the future can have a meaningful impact on an already nervous audience of employees, channel partners and suppliers, much less existing and potential clients, customers or donors. Galvanize them to the road ahead.

A 12 to 18 month fully integrated anniversary marketing program provides a unique opportunity to unify and focus all of your efforts across your constituents. And a 35th anniversary can be as impactful as a 50th or 75th. Just don’t make the mistake of merely adding an anniversary logo to your messaging, or just having a celebratory party. Your message will fall on deaf ears.

Get Better As You Get Bigger

With market turbulence over the past few years, some in the C-Suite question the ability of marketing to profitably drive the organization to new heights. Lack of understanding or lack of trust may be an issue. Maybe it’s time for unbiased, fresh eyes to conduct a marketing communications audit.

This type of audit can provide an apolitical evaluation of your program as a whole, as well as how each marketing communication tactic does or does not meet established objectives. Recommendations from this audit can help everyone understand where improvement is needed, what’s registering with your constituents (internally as well as externally), what subjects and benefits should be stressed and, importantly, provide the organization with an integrated roadmap of how, when and where your messaging should be delivered.

The audit should give you the tools to maximize your marketing communications ROI before significant dollars are committed. Trust and confidence should follow.

Round Out Your Marketing Team

There will be many challenges facing marketers in 2013 and beyond. And, chief among them will be having a dedicated, smart, apolitical team, developing, creating and analyzing marketing communications strategies, tactics and plans to meet the uncertainties ahead.

A lot of smart thinking has already gone into developing the disciplines you need but, like most midsized companies and nonprofits, you may be understaffed and underfunded. Consider partnering with established, media neutral, senior level marketing communications consultants to help your team formulate, refine and implement your programs. Be sure they have extensive experience across brands and industries, as well as a willingness to “tell it like it is” so candor will flourish.

Most probably 2013 and the near future will present marketers with a very rocky road to travel. Hopefully, some of these tips will help, but as Mark Twain once said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”.