Three insider tips to take your marketing plan to the next level
Guest post by Lee Frederiksen, managing partner at Hinge Marketing
Marketing plans are like many projects—easy to begin, but hard to maintain. Before we know it, we’ve slipped back into patterns that are easy and familiar. Unfortunately, “easy and familiar” does not equate to growth and profitability. To achieve those goals, your marketing plan will need to be much more deliberate. In this article, you’ll find three insider tips to make this your year of marketing success.
1. Sharpen Your Differentiators
What came first, the chicken or the egg? In the marketing world, it’s differentiators. Your differentiators are what separate you from your competitors, helping you stand out in the marketplace.
To be successful, a differentiator must meet three critical criteria:
- It must be true. You can’t simply make it up.
- It must be highly relevant to your audience. Otherwise, who cares?
- It must be provable. If you can’t show it, it won’t be believed.
Now let’s take a look at some real-life examples of differentiators used by three very different firms:
Lindquist LLP: Linquist LLP has differentiated itself in the accounting industry by providing services for labor organizations, payroll auditing, and employee benefits plans.
LBMC Security & Risk Services: In the technology industry, LBMC has developed a powerful a niche by focusing on providing IT security for the healthcare sector.
The Alford Group: The Alford Group has set itself apart from other consulting firms by focusing on growth and fundraising solutions for the nonprofit sector.
Hands down, the best way to identify your firm’s differentiators is through research. Without research, you are basing your differentiators on educated guesses—guesses that, in our experience, often turn out to be wrong. And the statistics support our experience. In our recent study, we found that firms that do frequent research achieve higher growth and profitability than firms that do not.
2. Use Proven Techniques
It’s human nature to fall back on what’s familiar or what’s popular. But don’t be sidetracked by techniques that work for major companies, like Apple, or by the newest, shiniest bells and whistles. If you’re going to spend valuable resources on marketing, you should use techniques that have been proven to work, and that are geared towards your specific industry.
The good news is that you don’t need to guess or waste time reinventing the wheel. There is a wealth of well-researched, public information available. You just need to know where to look. Attending conferences hosted by organizations like the American Marketing Association (AMA) is a great way to stay up-to-date on industry research and best practices. Subscribe to organizations that produce primary research, like Content Marketing Institute. With the advent of content marketing (see below), many marketing consulting firms are also sharing research on what works—Matt’s blog, which you’re reading right now, is a great example.
3. Balancing Traditional and Online Marketing
Over the past two years, there has been a strong shift in the professional services industry towards online marketing. Why are more firms adopting these new practices?
In contrast to traditional marketing, online marketing is relatively inexpensive, it works 24 hours a day, and it is highly measurable. All of that equates to greater growth and profitability. In fact, our research showed that firms that generate at least 40% of their new business leads online grow four times faster than firms that generate 15% or less of their leads online.
While we are not suggesting that you eliminate traditional marketing tactics, it is wise to conduct periodic reevaluation. How much time are you spending on offline marketing activities? How many new leads do these tactics bring in? Commit yourself to discarding tactics that are no longer working and replacing them with targeted online activities.
Which online techniques should you incorporate? The following chart shows a ranking of online techniques used by both high growth and average growth firms in our recent study.
Let’s explore the two tactics with the highest ranking:
Blog posts are articles, videos, or infographics that are relevant to your audience. Creating and publishing blog posts on your website is well worth the time investment, as our research shows that firms that blog get 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads than those that don’t.
2.Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO can turn your website into a powerful lead-generation resource. SEO best practices start with a commitment to producing quality, non-spammy content. If the content is also focused around frequently searched terms, it will be easily found on Google and other search engines. For more information on SEO, check out this free guide.
Many of the online techniques on the chart fall under a larger marketing strategy called content marketing. Here’s an example of how content marketing works: consumers find your blog post by searching online. They read your post and visit your website. Next, they register their email in order to download a free whitepaper they found on your website. Now you have their email address, and you periodically send them valuable content and offers. They continue to be engaged and impressed. When they need services, they think of you first.
Putting it all together
Thanks to technology, firms now have a greater power to reach audiences and achieve growth than ever before. Effective marketing is the key to this growth, and the basic ingredients are available to all of us: the time to create a plan, the tenacity to stick to it, the humility to recognize what is not working, and the flexibility to make adjustments. Armed with your new knowledge, it’s time to take your marketing plan to the next level.
Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value.