How Can Small Businesses Approach Marketing Differently in 2016?

By Billy Cripe, CMO Field Nation

It’s the start of 2016, and marketers are well-positioned for success more than ever before. We have more technology to extend our reach and more access to data about target audience behavior and engagement. We also have greater opportunities to amplify our voice, value, and volume.

While access to these technologies create wonderful potential, they won’t deliver results any more than watching a SpaceX launch makes you a rocket scientist.

That’s why 2016 is the year in which we marketers must focus our energy and efforts on execution and results. During the last few years of global recession, we have argued that but for the lack of technology, budget, and staff we would meet our goals. We have so many excuses; we point the finger of poor conversion at sales and we blame the lack of attendance at our webinars and events on the slow economy. We blame the lack of press coverage on the fact that our PR agency stinks or that we need that new hire we’ve been asking for.

But 2016 is the year the excuses stop; all of the critical barriers are no longer there. An end to the blame game is seemingly a scary place. All of the responsibility for meeting our numbers — whether those are marketing qualified leads or forecast pipeline revenue or click-through rates — rests on our shoulders. There is no one else to blame if we fall short. The upshot is that we get all the credit when we exceed expectations. But for now, we have to focus on doing, not just planning.

This is the mindset that marketers need to adopt as we accelerate into a new year. We get bogged down improving our business foundation rather than creating new business opportunities. We spend more time cleaning our lead data than creating new leads. We spend more time evaluating SEO/SEM & digital advertising proposals rather than executing campaigns that push us forward. We spend more time explaining why mediocre results are a good thing than we do building on what we have learned and moving on.

If you spend all your time laying foundation, you’re only left with a parking lot.

Here are 3 strategies marketing teams can use to get some real work done this year:

Experiment

Small, rapid experiments show trends and results quickly. But remember, experimentation starts with a hypothesis that is tested with execution. Start with some questions in mind and find a way to measure results. Here are some questions to get your creative juices flowing:

1. More or fewer emails? Once a month or Once a week or Once a day?

2. Whitepapers or videos? Is video content better than print content for driving engagement?

3. Infographics or slide presentations? Which is better as a sales enablement tool?

4. Trade show booth or attending the exhibition? Which generates more qualified leads for the money?

5. Original blog content or curated links to other industry content? Which creates more traffic?

6. Big conferences or local shows and meetups? Where do you get more traction?

If you cannot measure it, do not do it

Seriously, it might sound like a great idea — it might even be a great idea. But you won’t be able to prove it unless you can measure it. Any marketer must be ready to answer the question: Was it worth it? Your experiments will help you figure out how to best measure your activities. While you’re interested in impressions and click-through rates, your boss is interested in the end result. Start with that in mind. To answer the “Was it worth it?” question, determine your customer acquisition cost (CAC) as a percentage of customer lifetime value (LTV). At the very least, you need to understand if you are spending more money on your campaigns than you’re generating in revenue influenced by your campaigns.

Be merciless in your measurement

Garbage numbers and bogus figures don’t help you. So be brutally honest with yourself, your teams, and your programs. Marketers love big numbers, but don’t be tempted by large, irrelevant numbers. If your conversion rates stink, work on creating higher-converting campaigns. Go back to #1 above, and experiment until you find something better. If your average opportunity value is low, go back and work on your ideal customer profile and target audience definitions. Experiment with retargeting until you uncover a cohort that delivers the value you want. Finally, figure out how to measure the intangibles. Building brand awareness is a noble goal. But how do you know when you’ve done it? How do you know you’re on the right track? Be merciless with yourself and you’ll be able to be amazing to everyone else.

Conclusion

The advances in marketing technology have removed the excuses marketers have used for so long. The clear success of disruptors and growth hackers has left us questioning the old assumptions about how marketing is supposed to work. So question them. This year experiment and execute.