It’s a new year! Hooray! Out with the old and in with the new. A chance to redefine your marcom strategy and brand messaging and bring some new ideas to the table to drive better business throughout the year.
The first few months of the year are some of my favorite. It’s the time of year when you develop the key themes and messaging that will drive your marketing and communications strategy for the next year. Team members are generally very open and communicative about their business needs, since they are likely going through their own planning and budgeting processes internally. It’s the perfect time to talk with brand managers, sales teams and other key players on what is challenging their business and how your strategy and messaging can be refined to solve those issues.
This is a great time to ask yourself what you want to accomplish in the next year, how you want to get there and what new strategies you want to propose. Assuming your marketing budgets aren’t going to magically increase overnight, there are a few things you can look at while conducting your annual planning:
A comprehensive messaging review should be conducted at least annually. Over the course of a year, there will be a dramatic shift in business objectives and your messaging needs to reflect that. Sometimes the products you are promoting change, sometimes it’s the market. There’s a good chance you’ve learned a few things in the past year that could be applied to help make the language better and more targeted.
Your messaging strategy will drive all content that is produced in the next year and therefore it is vital that is right. It simplifies many processes down the road. In some instances, you may only need a theme and a couple messaging points. In other instances, you will need comprehensive messaging for the whole company, its brands and its products. You know your company best and should be able to suggest what updates are needed based on your learnings from the previous year.
The beginning of the year is a good time to revisit your targeted audiences, whether it be your media lists, your social media contacts or the email lists you’ve acquired. It’s a good time to review your audience targets and refine them based on market goals. Your audience and lists might be a little different every year depending on what product or service is the top item for the year. Or you may have exactly the same target every year, in which case it’s an opportunity to review how well your targeting is working and how you can make it better.
Social Media Mix
Hopefully by now you are using social media in some way to communicate your message. If not, it’s a missed opportunity, since it’s a fairly low-cost way to get your message out to audiences that are higher up in the sales funnel.
If you have been on social for a while, it may be time to perform a channel audit and see how everything is performing. Every channel fills a different stage of the sales funnel, so this might be the perfect time to have a conversation about goals and whether they might like to put some budget towards paid advertising on social. Start using tracked links for each channel, so you can analyze who actually makes it to the landing pages when tracked via Google Analytics. Put aside some budget for imagery and videos in the new year, as these will be imperative for any social strategy moving forward.
Optimally, your website is amazing, the messaging is on point, the imagery is great and it’s already been fully programmed for SEO and tagging. But in the real world, this isn’t always the case. It’s important to remember that your website is an important marketing piece and with some simple steps you can make it do some of the heavy lifting for you.
Conduct a quick website analysis from a marketing perspective. How is the content and imagery laid out? Is the messaging clear and concise? Are the desired actions simple and easy to follow for the user? You can also conduct a quick Google search for a few key terms associated with your brand and see how highly your brand and web pages rank.
Even if your website is managed by an IT team, you now have simple change actions that could lead to a large change in your search rankings and the user experience on the website, ultimately driving more brand engagements.
Obviously, this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of all the ways you can optimize your marketing and communications budgets. But, these suggestions provide a few quick value-add items to any annual plan that will drive new ideas and better business practices.