In-person events have traditionally been a vital component of a good marketing strategy.
In 2019, Bizzabo released a report revealing that 95% of marketers believed in-person events provided attendees with a valuable opportunity to forge connections. What's more, about 50% of companies were allocating 21% of their marketing budgets toward hosting events, 30% toward sponsoring or exhibiting at events, and 19% toward attending events.
But when COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2020, we practically lost an entire marketing channel overnight. Yes, companies have pivoted to virtual events, but if we're being honest, the in-person experience can't truly be replicated online. So companies that typically go all-in on events are having to rethink their marketing mixes for 2021 and future-proof their strategies in case another piece disappears from the marketing puzzle overnight.
Of course, we hope in-person events reenter the arena as a safe and effective marketing tool. But as marketers, we need to be prepared for whatever comes next. A key component of that? Insulation through diversification. That's why I've outlined some tangible steps marketers can take to insulate their marketing strategies with multiple effective tactics that work in tandem to drive measurable business results.
If you've been doing meticulous reporting, you probably have a good idea of your average sales cycle and the demographics of your target audience. This is valuable information, but what we learned this year is that historical data isn't always king. It's time to add a check-in.
Each quarter or every six months, do a deep dive and evaluate the customers that have signed on and stayed on. Do these types of customers align with your historical data? What new insights can you pull about your audience?
For example, our sales and marketing teams had a killer Q2 in 2020. We weren't necessarily expecting this, because when COVID-19 hit, many businesses pulled spend from marketing and placed their focuses elsewhere. Because of this anomaly, we decided to do a deep dive to understand the similarities between the new clients who signed on during COVID-19 and the ones who stayed with us and even grew their accounts when the pandemic hit. This information is helping us refine our marketing strategy.
Even if nothing as unexpected as a pandemic happens, this is a necessary step to make sure the things you assume about your audience based on historical data are still true in the moment.
Once you have a solid understanding of your audience members, it's time to find multiple formats for keeping in touch with them at each stage of the buyer's journey. A great way to do that? Content marketing.
At the top of the funnel, people are probably performing Google searches and looking at trusted publications for information. So earned media, such as guest-contributed articles and press mentions, can be great options to position your company as an industry expert and establish brand awareness among those who are looking for the type of information you can provide. Search-optimized blog content can also help with this.
Those in the middle of the funnel might be continuing to look for resources to meet their specific needs — this is where owned media really comes into play. Publishing educational blog content, whitepapers, and other resources consistently can provide more value to your audience and establish deeper relationships.
Once leads are at the bottom of the funnel, it's getting close to decision-making time. This is the point when you can use sales enablement content and creative emails to blast through any lingering reservations and seal the deal.
By having multiple touchpoints in multiple formats throughout the buyer's journey, you're setting yourself to be protected in case one of your marketing channels suddenly goes out.
I get a lot of cold outreach emails. In fact, it's getting to the point that I can't possibly read them all. Marketing automation is great, and I love that it allows marketers to easily personalize mass communication. But having a living, breathing human being behind your marketing is so important for providing a truly personalized experience.
For example, there have been several instances during the COVID-19 pandemic when our inbound salesperson received multiple (and by multiple, I mean upward of 12 in a week) positive responses to our inbound and outbound emails. Our contacts were impressed by how valuable the communication has been. While not every interaction has resulted in sales calls, our team was directed to the appropriate decision-making contact to continue to nurture. All because the human behind our marketing automation provided a stellar experience.
If you have a product or service that drives results for your customers, you can build part of your strategy around customer referrals and partner referrals. In second-quarter 2020, we outperformed previous quarters' sales numbers, and a big reason for that is the uptick we saw in partner referrals, client referrals, and past clients interested in returning.
And Influence & Co. isn't the only company that's reaping the benefits of healthy referral programs. In fact, 60% of marketers say referral programs generate a high volume of leads for their businesses, and 54% say referral programs are more cost-effective than other channels.
So provide a customer experience that's so good that your customers and partners will be excited to send new business your way.
When you take the above steps to build out a diverse marketing strategy, you can also measure your strategy more holistically to get a better picture of the impact your marketing is having on your business.
When you're measuring your content marketing ROI, be wary of focusing solely on vanity metrics or limiting yourself to paying attention to only one metric. Instead, take a holistic approach by tracking multiple metrics consistently. For example, depending on your goals, you might consider keeping tabs on organic traffic, call-to-action clicks, marketing-qualified leads, time on site, and your website's bounce rate.
As marketers, we rely on people's behavior, and that can change at the drop of a hat based on factors completely out of our control. So as much as we want to learn and plan, we can't predict the future. With these marketing strategy development tips, you can set your company up to have maximum opportunities to meet prospects where they are in their journeys, convert them into leads, and engage them to the point of nurture — and hopefully a sale.
I'm the director of brand and content for Intero Digital. I'm a wife and mom to two beautiful girls, and I'm a big Missouri sports fan and lover of sushi. I have a passion for using marketing to educate, tell stories, and drive business results.