January is the perfect month for setting big goals. If you do, you’re in good company because about 40% of Americans set New Year’s resolutions. Personal finance and fitness goals are always popular, but if  you own a business, marketing should be a top priority. If you aren’t doing much now, it’s time to get started. If you’re dabbling, but don’t have a strategy, get one. If you’re doing a decent job, it’s time to do more of what’s working.

We work closely with high-performing marketing experts in companies of all sizes. The following are best practices we’ve observed over 2018 that you can easily turn into marketing resolutions for 2019. Pick a few, stick with them, and get ready to rock the year.

Write down your marketing goals

There’s an old adage that says if you aren’t aiming at something, you’ll never hit anything. Time and time again, we’ve seen great results from marketers who write down their goals. Having them recorded allows you to check back in on them, share them with others and make adjustments as needed. Writing goals down promotes transparency and accountability.

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, found that “you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.” The act of writing focuses attention, keeps important tasks front of mind, and can help coworkers work better with you because they know what you are trying to do. Writing your goals down can also help inform and support more formalized goal setting practices like tracking objectives and key results (OKRs).

Create a marketing budget

Before starting any marketing program, it’s important to set aside dedicated funds and plans for your budget. Depending on your goals, you could be spending anywhere from zero to hundreds of thousands of dollars each month on varying channels and activities. So how do you decide what’s right for you?

Start with your goals. If you’re a new business, your priority is to spread the word and get customers through your door, so you want to spend money on brand awareness. If you’ve been around for awhile but have seen a decrease in traffic, you may want to offer a promotion to your existing customers. Spend some time thinking about the specific problems you’re trying to solve for then plan accordingly. And start with one or two goals, don’t try to do too much at once.

Next, figure out the dollar amount. A good rule of thumb is to set aside 3%-6% of your sales. There may be times where you go slightly above or below, but you really want to evaluate why. For example, if you decide to hire a consultant to help you with a specific marketing project for a set period of time that puts you slightly over 6%, it may be worth it. But this should be an exception, not a rule, particularly when you’re just getting started.

There are a lot of great resources out there to help you get started, including this helpful guide from Toast POS.

Understand the lifetime value of your customers

Customer Lifetime Value, or “CLV”, is one of the most important metrics for business owners to track. This insight helps you decide how much to spend on operations and customer acquisition efforts, such as marketing and other programs. For example, loyal customers generate 10x more revenue in their lifetime than new customers. This means you should be spending more of your marketing dollars to build customer loyalty and less to acquire new customers.

We know customers are people first, not just dollar signs. But operating a business means you need to turn a profit to see long-term success. That’s why knowing the value of your customers can help you develop an informed, strategic plan for the future and set you up for success in 2019.

Join the conversation on social

Brands used to be unconvinced of the value of social media marketing. Now it’s tough to find a company that doesn’t at least have an Instagram account with a few product shots on it. But many companies are still doing social wrong. You can’t just blast out content and expect everyone to be instantly engaged.

If you’re not interacting with followers and other brands in a conversational, meaningful way, you’re failing. The wonderfully snarky Twitter feeds that everyone loves (Arby’s and Wendy’s) are constantly talking to customers and commenting on trends. People like them because they aren’t just billboards, they’re in the same social spaces and they sound human. People get to know the brands’ personalities, which drives trust.

Once you’ve established trust, and demonstrated you belong in a customer’s social media space, you can make an impact. Being legitimately social helps with online customer complaints as well. According to Jay Baer, a social media researcher and author of Hug Your Haters, “failing to respond on social media can trigger a 43 percent decrease in customer advocacy; a reply, however, can give you a 20 percent bump.”

Get ahead of privacy concerns

The mishandling of personal data by major companies has rightly gotten a lot of coverage recently. Because of this, many customers are getting “data woke.” They are concerned about sharing their information and they want assurances that it will not be used in creepy ways. This causes them to opt out of emails, think twice about signing on to guest WiFi, and stop accepting cookies that help marketers with their ad targeting.

In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has forced companies to adopt a range of practices that protect customer data. There’s no GDPR in America, but similar legislation could be coming. What you should and shouldn’t do to protect data is beyond the scope of this post, however, we can suggest creating some language around your practices for customers to reference.

Apple does a phenomenal job with this. They have a well-detailed privacy page that’s written in simple language and explains exactly how they use data. Because of this and other practices, Apple is consistently ranked as one of the top trusted tech companies. Being transparent and open about how you handle customer data can build trust and keep customers from jumping ship if there is some sort of data breach.

Get serious about growing an email list

San Francisco nightclub personality Allen Cheu has been using social media to promote events for years, but he has always maintained a strong email list. He says, “In the early Facebook days, you could just blast all of your followers at once and people would show up. It worked great until it didn’t.” Cheu put effort into building a social media audience, but eventually, he didn’t have access to all of his followers without purchasing ads.

Fortunately, he still maintained his email list. He says, “No matter what happens with social media, I know I can always reach my crowds with email.”

Facebook and Google ads are incredibly effective. But here’s the thing. You don’t really control these platforms. Rules change and companies go under (remember Friendster?). The top companies look stable now, but if there’s one thing you can count on in tech, it’s that things will change suddenly and dramatically. If you aren’t prepared for this, your whole marketing strategy can fall apart overnight.

Social media uncertainty aside, email marketing is still one of the most effective tools you can use. Demand Metric reports that “email has a median ROI of 122% – over 4x higher than other marketing formats including social media, direct mail, and paid search.”

Start using video to tell your story

No matter where you choose to focus your efforts, video content will help you reach more people. Studies have shown a significant increase in engagement when rich media is included in digital marketing tactics. Google’s own research shows nearly two-thirds of shoppers say video has given them ideas for purchases, and more than 90% of them say they’ve discovered these products and brands through video.   

Video tools have advanced considerably in the last few years. With a newer iPhone, and a little know-how, most small businesses can create their own. If you’re not looking to be the next great video director, there are plenty of stock video options that work well for ad platforms. Some of Zenreach’s own ads use them and we’ve had great results with them.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for individuals. Businesses can use January to reset and get things moving in the right direction. This is a month for new beginnings and setting goals. Pick a few things for your organization to focus on, commit to them, and get ready for a successful 2019.

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