by Rachel Allan
Winter nights are closing in and as we plunge into the Christmas season, let's spare a thought for all the marketing directors who are deep into Q4 and planning furiously for 2024. It’s fair to say the sluggish economy won’t be making their life easy. And on top of that, budgets across the health sector are being squeezed - with some serious knock-on effects in tech and services.
Frustratingly I sometimes hear other business leaders underestimate the importance of marketing, as if it is something you only do when you have the wind in your sails. This ignores the fact that marketing is, in fact, the wind you need to get behind your sales. As marketing teams fight for budget and the team to deliver it, I wanted to reflect on a few things which are important to bear in mind for 2024 planning.
(And if you are one of those folks who are sceptical about the importance of marketing, I would ask you to think about what you are buying friends and family for Christmas, where you are buying it from and how marketing has influenced your choices.)
1. Identify your challenge
What is it really? Customer perception, a terrible website and bad customer service, no differentiation in a crowded market? What can you do in your planning which is going to address that challenge in the long term? Don’t wait until the Q4 dust has settled before you get cracking on that planning. Don’t just do the easy things. Get that big problem sorted.
2. Stick close to your audience
Insight should be regular and acted upon. Really listen and then utilise that insight to improve consistently. Organisations often happily spend money on insight when there is a problem, but I would argue regular contact with customers is the game changer.
It doesn’t have to be complicated; reviews, complaints, customer panels, surveys, focus groups, through to dedicated tracking and deep dive qualitative research are all techniques to be considered. Just make sure you are creating insight – not just information, and then deploy that insight across the business. Customer insight doesn’t just stop and start with marketing.
3. Use an agency (😊)
Be smart about what you do in-house and how you utilise external experts. Remember agencies are out there hearing from all sorts of organisations going through a range of challenges and they can bring all of this know-how to your problems. Building long-term relationship with your agencies means you’ll be able to draw upon their thinking and consideration all year round.
4. Fun, fun, funnel!
So much chat about funnels these days - digital funnels, marketing funnels, bow tie funnels, email funnels and even webinar funnels. Regardless of the funnel you adopt it is likely to be built via an audience process of awareness, consideration, and activation. Take a step back and be clear about what you are doing at each stage of the funnel for each of your customer types. And get the basics right - have clear KPIs for each stage and each audience and track it all, amending and improving as you go.
So here’s to universal appreciation of marketing and a bigger and better year in 2024!