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Date: 2020-11-15 20:00:00
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CEO, Founder and Manager at Hot Dog Marketing helping businesses prepare for their next phase of growth with comprehensive marketing.
This time of year, most businesses enter a process of strategic planning for the upcoming year. The fresh start of January 1 is a catalyst for doing things differently, even when things haven’t changed that much around us. If major company growth is your plan for 2021 and beyond, then marketing is a crucial component to that success. However, marketing rarely works well without a plan, consistent execution and buy-in from your team.
After the year we’ve had, two categories of companies have emerged. Knowing what kind of company you are can provide you with the right context for planning what’s next. Your company is either in need of innovation or it’s ready for expansion. Both require increased customer feedback as a starting point to propel growth for 2021. Stop assuming you know what your customers are thinking, especially this year.
Innovation For Distressed Or Slow-Growth Companies
Many industries took a beating this year. If your company struggled this year because it was highly dependent on gathering or in-person interaction, then it’s crucial to focus on innovation. Pushing out more information about business-as-usual is not how you will grow in 2021. Your company may be a slow-growth or distressed company independent of the issues caused by the pandemic this year. If this is the case, innovation is still a great plan for 2021.
Getting Started With Innovation
When was the last time you spoke to your customers? Innovation is a constant, iterative process in the tech industry. Software companies regularly get feedback on how to make their product better, faster and more helpful. However, in other industries, it’s rare to stop and speak to your clients or customers and figure out how to innovate to make your services better. This is crucial for innovation.
Customer-centric marketing planning will take collaboration between your executive and marketing teams. Your company will need to be open to adding, removing or changing services; challenging the conventional ways of doing business; and improving customer communication, relationships and transparency.
Innovate For Growth
The first step to innovating for growth is to understand what job your customer is trying to do when they find themselves in need of your product or service. Jobs-to-be-Done theory states that customers are never looking for a particular product when they start shopping — they’re looking for a solution for an issue they’re facing. Understanding this theory behind how customers start a relationship with your company is key to innovation.
For example, let's say you’re a corporate event planning company. Your services are not in demand. You’d like to innovate so your brand and your company can withstand this period. You decide to interview the client you have the best relationships with. You discover that your clients are lacking the tech-savviness to do virtual events well. In order to pivot, you decide to partner with a world-class virtual event platform that your team can become experts at running.
Market Expansion For Growing Companies
For the rest of the businesses out there, 2021 probably looks like a world of opportunity, which means a solid strategy-based marketing plan is the best way to stay focused on growth. Market expansion can mean two things: looking at different markets or growing your marketing program through branding and lead generation efforts.
Getting Started With A Market Expansion Strategy
The first step to getting started with a market expansion strategy is to look critically at your business goals. Your marketing goals need to align neatly with your business goals — otherwise, there will be wasted effort and dollars. Here’s how you might align a marketing strategy to business goals in examples:
Example 1: Your company is looking to grow by 25% next year, but you know that you have maxed out in your current city. You decide that your marketing strategy needs to be focused on a new city. Your marketing goal for 2021 might be to launch your brand in a new city by June 2021. Your sales goal may be to acquire 10 new customers before the end of the year in that new market.
Most businesses, however, rarely have such high market penetration that they need to expand to new markets. In that case, the opportunity to simply grow their marketing program is where you start, like in this example:
Example 2: Your company is looking to grow by 25% next year, and there’s still tons of opportunity in your existing market. Your company is ready to invest in branding and lead generation. You’d like to achieve your growth goal through new client acquisition without adding to your sales team overhead. Because this is a new investment, you decide to focus on growing sales on the highest margin services you deliver. By clarifying this strategy, you’ve made it easy for your marketing team to focus their marketing goals on selling those services to new customers and existing customers.
In order to figure out messaging, content and effective digital and ad strategies in either example, you need to do customer research. The Jobs-to-be-Done method is one option. Your company can also deploy a lead gen strategy or launch in a new market with the right kind of information your customer is seeking — while building your brand using the platforms your customers prefer.
The need for honest customer input is more important now than ever before. Assumptions you have about the sales cycle, customer behavior and what motivates them has changed. The key to having a solid marketing strategy in 2021 depends on a customer-centric approach.
Take the time now, whether you’re seeking to innovate or to expand your market, to find a way to sit down with your customers. Hire an agency to do qualitative research, survey your customers or just take some of your clients out for a Zoom happy hour. Get them to talk to you about how they’re approaching buying services this year and what challenges their facing. The ideas will start to flow.