When times get tough, your marketing needs to get agile

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Uncertain times and changing conditions mean you probably need to scrap your old marketing plan.

Great marketing weaves together an understanding of your customers’ needs and behaviours, a view on the opportunities that will positively impact our business, and an analysis of past trends to foresee future ones.

In these times, however, that certainty and predictability is absent. Business rules are changing. Economic turbulence is looming. Our customers and behaving and working in brand new ways.

You need to change the way you tackle the marketing puzzle and become a more agile marketer. It’s time to develop a new approach to your marketing thinking.

Your aim is to save valuable cash and produce campaigns that minimise wastage. Produce campaigns promptly, and secure results more quickly in response to the rapidly changing environment. Keep your marketing engine operating during these uncertain times so that you continue to advance, even when times are hard. When the time is right you will need to come out with guns blazing.

Plan less. Experiment more.

Let’s be honest – we don’t have a clue what will happen tomorrow, never mind what will happen next month or quarter.

Focus on developing a mindset and a set of processes that will allow you to pinpoint new options and possibilities, and trial new alternatives.

In short, this requires shifting from a deliberate marketing strategy to an emergent strategy. Invent a culture of creating hypotheses and then experimenting with these hypotheses – you will learn something new every day.

What kinds of experiments should you be conducting?

Firstly, take advantage of decreased levels of competition and lower advertising costs. Now is the perfect time to create new offers and present them to specific target markets. You could run A/B split tests on new propositions on Facebook .

If you haven’t tried it, why not have a go at using Google’s free Conversion Rate Optimisation tool, Google Optimize to run CRO experiments.

More importantly: don’t wait – just do it!

Bet small. Win bigger.

One sure-fire way to win is by betting small before making that final big bet.

Professional gamblers know and use this tactic. They understand that small bets equal a smaller risk, and ultimately this will end in a bigger payoff. How can we increase the probability that we end up with a winning idea? Try more of them. If one doesn’t deliver, change your approach and try again.

Now is the perfect time to roll out a micro campaign – we all know that the economic climate is not right to be pushing out those large marketing campaigns. Micro campaigns allow you to do your research, recognise how your target market responds, and begin to develop your ideas for that one large bet.

Here are some small marketing ideas:

  • Take the opportunity to focus on creating high quality content
  • Fine tune your existing lead nurturing programs and marketing automation campaigns
  • Sharpen up your social media profiles and use social to forge new relationships
  • Gain feedback from your current target market and existing customers, and direct focus onto small market research projects
  • Update your website: edit content, messaging and promotions
  • Create highly targeted, miniature advertising campaigns and focus on who is clicking what

Ditch perfection. Strive for progress.

A committed, constant marketing effort will, given time, produce bigger results. It is within our power as marketers to make consistent and continuous progress.

Focus on small actions, even if they are imperfect. Think about the bigger picture – with every small change we deliver, we are making progress.

In these times, you may want to accept “good enough”. Often, our desires to achieve perfection before launching a campaign can hinder our progress. You need to act faster.

Time to market should be your focus. Set a deadline for having your campaign live. Predict factors that may slow you down: out of date administrative tasks; lags in getting worked approved; a lack of crucial information. Try to work around these.

Be conscious of how much you will lose if you delay. If you are postponing the experiment for fear of it not being perfect, weigh up how impactful the delay will be.

Work with a reliable, dependable partner. Make use of an existing partnership and leverage their experience to roll out inventive campaigns more rapidly. If the solution is out there, use it – now is not the time to be reinventing the wheel.

Use your data. Measure effectiveness.

This is the final step in closing the loop. You need to determine ways to effectively track your results as you conduct these small, imperfect experiments, and then share these results with the team involved.

These results are vital in planning the next small bet. The data that you have collated is invaluable, it is based on a real-life experiment, not just opinion or guesswork.

The only way to make smarter collaborative decisions and improvements next time is by assembling and sharing the data in real time. Don’t be tempted to skew the data to make a poor experiment appear successful – learn from the mistakes and work out which parts to tweak for the next campaign. You have precious data available; if it isn’t favourable don’t be afraid to bin the whole campaign and start from scratch.

Susan Hallam MBE, founder, Hallam

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