We’re closing in on the end of 2015, so it’s a good time to reflect on the year that was and get ready to rock it in the year to come. Here’s a checklist of five strategies the smartest entrepreneurs (that’s you!) should be thinking about to make 2016 their most successful year ever.
1. Do less marketing.
What? This is a marketing column. But I’m talking about undertaking a more focused, strategic marketing effort, not gutting your marketing programs and budget wholesale.
This means intentionally doing less marketing in places where your customers aren’t, or when you don’t have the ability to support a long-term effort, or if you are spreading your resources too thin. In 2016, focus on mastering one marketing channel instead of several.
You might aim to have the best podcast in your niche or the most useful blog. You might try to create the most vibrant community in your space. The point is to become indispensable to your audience in one specific area via a specific medium or channel.
2. Focus on subscribers.
The smartest businesses in 2016 will de-emphasize one-and-done campaigns and seek to become a relevant resource for customers. You can do that by creating valuable content that people want or need, and by ensuring its predictable, regular delivery.
Marketing expert Andrew Davis (akadrewdavis.com) says the key to expanding your subscriber base is to make an appointment with your audience. Just as your newspaper shows up at a predictable time each day, so should your subscription content be regularly scheduled for customer consumption. Davis suggests releasing content during morning and afternoon drive times, and notes that lunchtime might be the ideal hour to send an email newsletter since people often eat at their desks and browse their inboxes.
Test what works with your audience, based on your own open and engagement rates. The larger point is to create episodic content that an audience can anticipate and rely on.
3. Ramp up distribution.
As much as I’m a proponent of creating ridiculously good content as a cornerstone of your marketing program, that is only part of the equation. The other part is distributing and amplifying your creative efforts. Focusing on subscribers and audience will help build momentum, but you’ll need to consider other methods as well, including paid promotions or distribution through influencers or your existing audience.
Research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that B2B marketers use an average of three paid distribution methods -- including search engine marketing, print promotion, banner ads, promoted posts, social ads and content discovery platforms (like Outbrain) -- to amplify the content they produce.
Nonpaid is another avenue: Consider how to harness the power of influencers in your industry to help grow your marketing footprint. I like how the Slack Variety Pack podcast from Slack, a team communication platform, maintains two distribution channels. Borrowing a page from broadcast radio, Slack slices each 30-minute episode into smaller “Slack Single Servings”; one channel distributes the entire episode, and the other the segments. Short segments tend to get more traction on social media with niche audiences, says the show’s producer, Steve Pratt of Pacific Content in Vancouver, British Columbia.
4. Get your assets in alignment.
Take an inventory of your online marketing efforts: your website, Facebook pages, Twitter presence, LinkedIn groups, Instagram, YouTube, blog, SlideShare, email newsletter and so on. Now look at your list: Are all the assets aligned from the perspective of branding and tone of voice? (In other words, if your company logo fell off your marketing material, would people know it’s yours?)
If yes: Carry on. If no: Ask yourself whether you need to maintain all these efforts or whether they’re distracting you from doubling down on something more fruitful. Also consider how you might tweak your messages in these channels to perform more robustly. Marketer Stephan Hovnanian (shovi.com) suggests starting with the button text, call-to- action text and placement, writing and tone of voice. Doing so will boost the profitability of those channels, Hovnanian says, and will improve the user experience of your website and social channels.
5. Go mobile.
For real this time. The coming year is without a doubt when the gap will widen between sites that are optimized for mobile and sites that aren’t. Optimizing for mobile is particularly critical if you sell anything directly online. But it’s also imperative for any business that offers signups or downloads from its site: Some 52 percent of smartphone and tablet users say a bad mobile experience makes them less likely to do business with a company, according to research from DirectBuy. What’s more, smartphone and tablet users are five times more likely to abandon a task -- including shopping -- if a site isn’t mobile-optimized.
By 2020, user experience will surpass pricing and product as the main differentiator between brands, according to Walker, an Indianapolis-based customer intelligence consulting firm.
At the same time, don’t neglect mobile opportunities on your social channels. As social media emerges as a commerce vehicle (most recently, Twitter’s “Buy Now” button makes it easier for people to purchase via a tweet), e-commerce retailers should be gearing up to be part of the movement.