Why your strategy stagnates, and how to re-energize results
Have you been disappointed by diminishing returns and lack of interest by prospects when marketing your technology products? There’s a lot of noise out there, and the industry leaders can be pretty loud. Combine that with prospects who have limited time and shrinking attention spans along with technology that’s in a constant state of disruption, and marketing becomes a significant challenge. Just when you feel like you’re hitting your stride, something shifts, and your campaign success crumbles.
There are many ways to market a product, and with continually evolving technology, new channels crop up regularly. However, no company is gifted with unlimited marketing funds to make use of every avenue. In order to maximize your budget, you may be tempted to repeat successful efforts for fear of wasting money on experimentation that may or may not yield results.
We’re here to tell you there’s a way to experiment without crippling your budget. By taking a prescriptive approach to balancing your marketing mix, you will be able to leverage your best strategies to get maximum results while experimenting with fresh ideas and cutting edge technology to find new avenues of marketing success.
Set a Solid Foundation
The underpinnings of marketing success haven’t changed regardless of what’s shifted in terms of delivery. Your efforts need to be driven by three distinct levels of definition:
- Objectives define why you are marketing your product. Your objectives should be concise and measurable, and they need to align with your overall company objectives. They don’t prescribe strategies or define campaigns. Rather, they form a framework for your efforts.
- Strategies describe what you are doing to achieve your objectives without going into minute detail.
- Tactics are your clearly defined steps for how you will execute your strategies and measure the results against your objectives.
It’s critical to clearly define your objectives before starting any marketing campaign, no matter which strategies you define and what tactics you employ. Make sure your objectives are clear, concise and most importantly—measurable. By creating a framework for your marketing efforts, you will have both a starting point and a reference for reflection once you reach completion of a campaign. You’ll also have a strong foundation for choosing both tried-and-true strategies and experimental concepts, and you’ll have a measuring stick to validate your efforts and verify your effectiveness.
Make Failure an Option
Business success stories are everywhere, complete with a photo of the executive-in-charge and an interview that talks up the teams, efforts and innovations that led to success. What’s harder to find are the anecdotes that demonstrate the failures that form the foundation of those successes. But failure is an important factor in success. In a 1985 study of 150 products, Maidique and Zirger noted that “the knowledge gained from failures [is] often instrumental in achieving subsequent successes… In the simplest terms, failure is the ultimate teacher.”
In modern business, people are terrified to admit failure. Poor results are reflected in personal performance reviews and can cost people their bonuses, promotions, pay raises, and sometimes even their jobs.
But failure is how we learn. Failure isn’t the same as lackluster performance; it’s a sign that your team executed on an idea. Your marketing team must be allowed to try new things—and to possibly fail in the process—if you are to advance your company forward.
In order to continually hone your marketing success, it’s imperative that leadership embraces the reality of failure. If your objectives are defined to be measurable, marketing failures can offer valuable, quantified insights into your personas, the market and your own effectiveness.
Bake Experimentation into Your Roadmap
Marketing campaigns need to include some form of experimentation in order to avoid stagnation caused by diminishing returns. When you repeat tactics, executing more of the same, you will ultimately generate less leads while spending more money in the process. However, leadership may not be easily sold on spending money on new tactics that might fail. That’s where building a marketing mix that includes experimentation comes into play.
The most effective way to make sure your marketing team feels free to experiment, and your management team understands both the potential risks and rewards of experimentation, is to bake the concept directly into your marketing roadmap in a conservative, yet effective manner. If, for example, you continually devote 20% of your overall budget to experimentation, while focusing the majority of your budget on your proven strategies, you’ll still see success from your efforts, and you’ll grow your portfolio of strategies over time.
In order to make experimentation effective, you must devote time and energy to analysis of not just your experimental strategies, but of your “tried-and-true” efforts as well. Hold each campaign to the standards set down by your objectives and determine which strategies are producing the best results. If an experimental strategy takes off and generates leads, move that concept to your “proven” bucket and replace it in your “experimental” strategies with something new. Alternately, if a “proven” strategy is showing diminishing returns, take it off the table. It can always be re-introduced at a later date as another experiment.
The result of your marketing mix is a diverse set of strategies and tactics that continually support your objectives and achieve the highest potential return on your investment. Additionally, through experimentation, you’ll learn new strategies to propel your business forward, and you’ll quickly recognize those that are producing diminishing returns. You can eliminate the non-performing strategies and replace them with new ones that provide the best results.
Choose Budget-Friendly Experiments
When searching for experimental strategies, it’s important to keep these things in mind:
- All strategies should align with your objectives.
- All strategies should be measurable and produce quantifiable analytics
- Campaign analysis should be applied to both your proven and experimental efforts.
- Experimental strategies should fit within 20% of your budget—including the resources and manpower it will take to both execute campaigns and analyze results.
The idea of experimenting with your marketing efforts is undoubtedly exciting, but you might be unsure where to start. Here are some experimental ideas you can work directly into your next marketing push that won’t break the bank.
Virtual reality (VR) offers your customers the chance to experience your products first-hand through a simulated world. The VR approach is gaining momentum as reality gear becomes more available at the consumer level. You could offer VR experiences at trade shows, in your show rooms, or even through a customized phone app. By gamifying your interactive campaign, you’ll create a highly engaging and memorable experience that your customers will not only enjoy, but that they’ll want to share with others. And while VR does require specialized programming, it’s not as costly as you might think!
Social and Website Chatbots
Interaction with prospects is imperative for your business success. Facebook and other web platform providers now offer easily-integrated chatbots that allow machine-learning systems to interact on your behalf, answer questions, point prospects toward helpful content, and even close sales. These chatbots can provide valuable, 24×7 self-service for technical support, quick access to product materials and manuals, and answers to commonly asked questions. They also harvest profile information, record questions asked and rank the quality of answers given vs. actions taken—all valuable analytics for determining the effectiveness of your bot. While there are companies that will charge you to create and integrate your chatbot, enterprising marketers who enjoy dabbling in technology try it out for themselves using Facebook’s Messenger Platform or any one of the available WordPress AI chat plugins.
New Social Media Concepts
Many marketing teams in technology companies get stuck in a social media rut, posting so many photos of their products and solutions that they eventually get ignored by users. In order to draw your audience in, take your social campaigns in a new direction. Use interactive concepts, storytelling, contests and audience involvement to make your audience a part of your social media campaign. Be creative! Encourage people to take selfies with your products, or show themselves at your trade events. Give them a compelling reason to comment, like and share your posts. Additionally, keep an eye out for emerging social platforms that gain popularity. While sites like LinkedIn and Facebook may be among your “proven” strategies, try experimenting with sites like Snapchat, Instagram, Quora and Tumblr.
Old Dogs; New Tricks
Sometimes, experimentation comes in the form of a messaging shake-up. If your campaigns have historically focused on product features, try shifting to messaging that highlights your corporate culture or harness the authentic moment of joy that comes from using your technology solution. If you’ve been serious for far too long, inject some humor into your words. Been using the color orange since forever? Try blue instead. Play around within the constraints of your brand standards. And if your standards are failing to attract, make the case for breaking free. After all, you’re experimenting, and failure is an option.
The account-based marketing (ABM) strategy of growing accounts by considering and communicating with individual prospects as “markets of one” has been around for a while, and has driven many marketing team successes. As CRM tools embrace machine-based learning and big data analysis, ABM is going to become easier to implement. By basing your experimental marketing off of your most successful accounts, and then investing in improved marketing tools that can help you target similar accounts, you could potentially fast-track the conversion process.
Optimize and Keep Going
Running marketing campaigns is a lot like running a race. You have a starting line, a finish line, and someone tracking the progress of each runner. But unlike athletes, marketers tend to forget their previous races. The runners who achieve greatness are in constant competition with themselves, running drills and working toward beating their own times. They remember what worked, they fix what didn’t, and they apply cumulative lessons to become the best athlete they can be.
As a marketer, you can apply this idea of constant evaluation to your efforts to achieve maximum effectiveness, but only if you keep eyes on both the future and the past. Through prescriptive experimentation, analysis and examination, acceptance of failure, and adherence to your objectives, you can avoid stagnation and continually build the best possible marketing mix to maximize your results.