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How to Improve Your Marketing Performance

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The power of a first impression is priceless. Within a few seconds, your customer has already had a positive or negative interaction with your brand through your marketing materials; a website, brochure, direct mailer, packaging, or point-of-purchase display to name a few.

How effective will your materials be in engaging them and positioning your brand as the one they should choose? When is the last time you took a hard, objective look at your materials to see how they are performing? Have you made product or service enhancements and only updated certain materials without getting around to updating the rest of them?

Time for Some Maintenance?

Your marketing material is just like a car. It may appear to be running ok and doing what it’s supposed to do, but upon careful inspection, you may uncover things that could be hampering your performance (in generating more sales and leads).

In the case of our car analogy, perhaps an oil change, putting more air in the tires, changing a spark-plug or starter will help it run better or increase gas mileage. The key to maintenance is doing an assessment of which factors could be impacting your performance and making adjustments accordingly. Here are some common factors to start with.

Inconsistent Messaging

Using a lot of different messages in your marketing creates confusion with your customer and can damage their brand perception. Think about it this way; what if your customer was on the ice as a hockey player listening to the crowd cheer in the stands, but everyone was shouting something different. Chances are your customer wouldn’t get any motivation from these fans because there is no single message or clear picture of what the crowd is trying to say.

Now, imagine how different the result would be if everyone in the crowd was cheering, ‘Go Team Go!”

Part of building a solid brand identity is to be consistent in the message you are communicating. For example, if your unique selling benefit is durability, then durability should be the core message you consistently focus on communicating through your marketing material (with the help of secondary feature points to support it - ie. protective coating, solid workmanship, material finishing).

A tune-up approach would be to modify your messaging so it’s the same throughout your advertising. That way, every time your customer is exposed to it, it tells them the same thing and reinforces the same idea so they remember it.

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Your customer needs to be clear on what you’re offering, how you’re different and what your product or service is promising to deliver. Being consistent will help them get your message.

Diluted Brand Identity

If you placed all of your print material on a table, would it look like it all came from the same company? Is there a consistent look and feel, font use, colour treatment, and application of your brand identity or has your design palette changed on some pieces and not carried through on others?

I’m not saying every piece of marketing material has to look identical by using a cookie cutter approach. There has to be enough flexibility in your design to create a distinction between product lines and services, while still maintaining some commonality that visually unifies your family of material to support your brand.

There are many factors that can cause a diluted brand identity such as lack of time to execute your materials properly (best efforts aside, things still get missed in the shuffle), rebranding, design by committee, or using multiple vendors to design and develop your materials.

For example, a radio station could be writing the script for your next commercial, a signage company designing your tradeshow booth and banners, and several advertising agencies creating different print pieces. The danger that lurks in using this approach is the inconsistency that can quickly creep into your marketing because there are so many vendors creating pieces and not a single source/partner ensuring the same design, brand and message is used across every piece.

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Assessing your own materials for a diluted identity may be similar to the proverbial ‘forest from the trees’. A tune-up approach would be to partner with an experienced advertising agency that can objectively review things and make the repair process easy.

Outdated Materials

This can happen before you know it. Sometimes you’re so busy doing business, you don’t realize how much time has passed since your materials have been refreshed or you’ve been using the same stuff for so long you don’t notice it’s starting to look old. Maybe you’ve even fallen into the ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ trap.

Whatever the case, outdated materials over the long term will hurt your brand image and negatively impact sales. A tune-up approach would be to develop new marketing materials with new photography, refreshed messaging and a vibrant design. Take action and allocate budget to invest in your brand, future sales and capturing your market’s attention. Its money well spent. Many times an update can ignite sales like never before.

Not The Right Strategy

The strategies you employ set the course for so many things. They define your market, mediums, materials, messaging and how your marketing budget will be spent to accomplish them.

Be sure to keep your eye on the prize. Having a marketing plan and/or creative brief that clearly defines what your goals are, as well as the tactics and messages you will use to reach your target audience is a great tool to measure your activities by, while ensuring consistency and a cohesive approach to accomplishing your objectives.

Strategy is a very important element in your marketing and is deserving of a much bigger discussion, but let’s take a look at two common strategy pitfalls that could be considered for a tune-up.

Setting unrealistic goals.

Whether you’re setting a goal for market share or increased sales, you must be realistic. It sounds like simple advice, but I’ve seen cases where reality has fallen by the wayside.

For example, I once had a client who wanted to increase sales by 50% (which would have equated to an additional $500,000 in sales), but was only allocating $25,000 to accomplishing it. Not only was this plan doomed to fail because of an inadequate budget, there also wasn’t any consideration given as to whether the company could manage that amount of new business.

A tune-up approach would be to research and assess the market as to what you can reasonably expect to take in sales from your competitors, what level of response you will need from your marketing activities (whether personal selling, direct mail, ad campaign) to achieve the increase and whether you’re investing enough budget to get there. Don’t forget to think about whether the level of staff and internal processes you have can successfully handle your new customers.

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Not strategically targeting the right market.

If you’re getting some results, but not nearly what you should be, perhaps your marketing strategy needs a tune-up. A great example to illustrate this would be a developer targeting university students as primary purchasers of new condominium units that are located near the school. While this strategy might yield some results, it probably won’t generate the sales the developer is looking for. A tune-up approach would be to assess the current target and realign the marketing materials towards the real decision makers for this opportunity; the parents. They are ultimately the ones who have the income to afford such a purchase, are looking for an investment, and will most likely help support their son/daughter with a place to live or rent to others.

A Little Extra Professional Help

For the most part, performing your own marketing maintenance and repair is easy. You know your business best and what needs to be done. However, if a tune-up becomes particularly complex, you might benefit from seeking a little extra professional help from an advertising agency or marketing firm, even if it’s just to gain a fresh perspective or second opinion.

A good partner will be able to help confirm your suspicions on which issues are affecting your performance, uncover any new ones, and guide you on how to fix it.

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