Why You Need to Focus on Improving Your Marketing Department

marketing-dataOne of the biggest advantages of digital marketing is how much data is available to you. It lets you better understand your customers, track every important KPI through the entire marketing funnel, and measure the performance of individual marketing campaigns.

Focusing on constant improvement in your marketing will help you optimize your campaigns. Small changes will multiply over time, resulting in big changes in ROI.

To get that focus, you need to make sure your marketing department is firing on all cylinders.

Questions to Consider

marketing-team-questionsAs you go through the list of 15 tips for improving your marketing team’s results, keep the following questions in mind.

Do You Have the Resources You Need?

Deciding on what KPIs (key performance indicators) and goals you’re going to use to measure your success won’t work if you don’t have the resources to implement your strategy.

Do you have the talent in place or do you need to think about recruitment? Is your technology stack up to the task? Have you figured out your marketing strategy? If so, is the whole organization on board with it? Do you have a CMO or other high-level marketing leader to drive the necessary strategy and thought leadership? 

Are Your Targets Driving Growth?

If you look below the surface of your targets, are they driving growth over the long-term? Or are they all focused on short-term wins with no scalability or longevity, possibly to please your business owners or upper management?

Short-term campaigns have their place in your overall strategy but you need to balance them with longer-term campaigns as well. We’ll dig into this a bit more in tip #13 below.

What Are Your Biggest Weaknesses?

Where are the weaknesses in your company and your marketing strategy? Even the best marketers’ plans have room for improvement so don’t let yourself get caught thinking everything is perfect.

You might uncover some of your weaknesses when evaluating your resources, such as gaps in talent or your tech stack. But there could be other danger zones as well.

  • What does your competition do better than you?
  • Where are your company’s blind spots?
  • Are there problems that different departments get defensive about?

If you’re afraid you’re overlooking some of your potential weaknesses, ask your customers for their input. They’ll be happy to tell you what they think you could do better or where your competitors have an advantage.

Do You Have the Right Partner Relationships in Place?

Unless you’re working in a large corporation with a wide range of internal expertise, you’ll need to work with partners. These could be partners that offer complementary products and/or services or it could be agency partners that fill gaps in your internal team.

You’ll likely uncover partnership opportunities when you’re reviewing your existing resources and weaknesses.

What Can You Offer That Your Competitors Can’t?

In addition to looking for gaps in your marketing, you should also look for strengths that you offer compared to your competition.

These strengths can become one of the foundations of your marketing campaigns. Even if your competitors can develop those strengths in their organizations, you’ll have a chance to brand yourself as the market leader in those areas before they can improve on them.

15 Tips for Improving Your Marketing Department

The following 15 tips are some of the most effective ways to improve your marketing results but don’t get discouraged by the number. Small gains add up to large improvements so focus on one or two at a time.

Once you start to see results from those, add some more to the mix. Keep iterating on what you’ve already done while you add more layers.

Taken separately any single change might not seem like much but each tip can multiply the results from the others.

Include Multiple Stakeholders

When you’re assessing your marketing strategy, include as many stakeholders as you can from within your company. Talk to every department, not just the customer-facing ones. For example, include the following:

  • Sales and marketing
  • Executives
  • Customer support
  • Technical staff
  • Designers
  • Content producers

Everyone in your company should have a chance to provide their input. You never know what kind of insights you’ll get from a department that has little or nothing to do with the marketing campaigns themselves.

Identify the Gaps in Your Marketing Strategy

gaps-in-marketing-strategyWhere are the gaps in your current strategy? Is your existing infrastructure up to the task? Do you need to develop more efficient processes to support your marketing plans?

Do you need better technology or are there gaps in your team’s skillset?

Once you identify the gaps, focus your short-term efforts on filling them. If you launch your campaign with those gaps still in place, it won’t be as successful as it could be.

Double-Down On Your Core Strengths

What are the core strengths of your current marketing department? Look at factors like:

  • Brand awareness
  • Social media footprint
  • Website traffic
  • Email marketing
  • Partner relationships
  • Customer satisfaction and goodwill

If you’re already strong in certain areas, commit to them fully in your marketing strategy. You won’t need to do as much work to develop them. Instead, you can look for ways to optimize what you’re already doing well.

Identify Your Most Important KPIs

important-kpisDigital marketing lets you track virtually any kind of data you can think of. It’s tempting to track everything but if you spread yourself too thin, it’s hard to stay on top of any of it.

Instead, pick 5 to 10 metrics that you feel are most important to your business. They should directly relate to your business goals.

Once you decide on your most important KPIs, all of your marketing activities should focus on getting results in those areas.

For example, if one of your KPIs is qualified leads, you should focus on driving traffic to your website, optimizing your lead generation funnel, improving your follow-up process, and targeting the most qualified audience.

You can always change your focus if you decide some of those KPIs aren’t as important as you thought. Staying focused on fewer things will help you make those decisions faster.

Set Your KPI Targets

Once you decide what KPIs you’re going to focus on, set targets for each of them. You can look at this on whatever timeframe makes the most sense for your business - weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.

If you’re having trouble working out a specific goal to aim for, it could be a sign that KPI isn’t a good metric to target.

Create a Reporting System to Track Your KPIs

reporting-systemKnowing what KPIs you’re focused on and having goals to aim for won’t help if you don’t have an effective way to measure your results.

There are lots of dedicated analytics packages to track this data, such as Google Analytics. These tools let you track visitors from the point they click on an ad through to a sales conversion.

You can also use an application like Excel or Google Sheets to set up your own KPI dashboard. They can both pull in data from web pages and databases to automate the reporting process.

Don’t get caught up in making a “pretty” dashboard with all sorts of bells and whistles, especially in the beginning. Having easy, quick access to up-to-date data is the most important thing.

You’ll likely think of ways you can improve your dashboard reports once you start digging into them anyway. It’s better to get a framework in place then build it out once you iron out the bugs.

Create Audience Segments and Personas

There are very few products or services that appeal to everyone. Most have a narrow target market, to varying degrees. Some products might even appeal to different people in different ways.

One of the biggest advantages of platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads is the ability to target extremely specific groups of people with your ads. But to do that, you need to define the audience segments to target.

You can use factors like age, location, income, and other demographics to narrow your target audience. But you can also do things like target groups that “like” your competitors’ pages on Facebook or have visited particular websites recently.

Develop customer personas, also known as avatars, to help you identify those target audiences.

Identify Internal Barriers

barriersAs you gather more and more data about your marketing campaigns, you’ll likely identify barriers in your process. That could be landing pages with a higher-than-average bounce rate or a gap in your follow-up process, for example.

It’s hard to argue with good data so once you identify those gaps, use the intelligence you gather to define your action plan.

Look for Efficiencies

Are there areas where you’re doubling up on efforts between two departments? Or is there a way to streamline a process to get the same results in less time?

Look for these kinds of efficiencies in your processes. This is one of the reasons you need to get multiple stakeholders involved in your marketing plans. A non-marketing team might immediately see a way to do something more efficiently that the marketing team members are overlooking.

If you can get the same (or better) results with a more efficient process, you’ll immediately improve your ROI.

Recruit Top Talent

now-hiringYou should always be on the lookout for “A” players in your market.

Hiring and retaining talent takes work but there’s always the danger of losing someone. If your talent pool is deep, those losses won’t hit your bottom line as hard.

Develop your existing talent as well, giving them new opportunities. Keeping things fresh and interesting for your staff will help stop them from looking for other opportunities.

Of course, you can work with a partner like our digital marketing agency to fill some of those gaps as well.

Develop a Performance Mindset Throughout Your Organization

Everyone in your company, from the customer-facing teams to the lowest-profile job, should be performance-driven. They all need to understand your strategy and goals so they can do their part to help the company reach them.

You may want to consider implementing the Lean Methodology in your organization to help facilitate this process. Lean is a methodology that focuses on providing value to your customers through two principles - continuous improvement and respecting people (staff and customers alike).

Encourage feedback from all members of your team, including upward feedback. Nobody should be afraid to share their ideas and make suggestions, regardless of what their role is in the organization.

The feedback process should include cross-departmental feedback as well. Different departments may have conflicting goals or ideas that will only come to light if they have the opportunity to discuss them.

For example, the customer support team might have some ideas for the marketing team that could both improve their message to prospects and reduce the amount of support needed from the support team after they close a sale.

Create Your Marketing Funnel

marketing-funnel austin-distel-goFBjlQiZFU-unsplashYour marketing funnel is the path your customers take from the point they first land on your website to becoming a paying client. It gets its name from the visualization of how the process works.

At the highest level, you’re casting a wide net to get as many visitors as possible to your website. This is the top of the funnel — the widest part.

As you move through the funnel, your process qualifies those visitors to weed out the people who aren’t a good fit for your product or service. This could be through content marketing or an opt-in process to move to the next stage.

The further down the down you go, the narrower it gets until you reach the narrowest part at the bottom. This is where the most-qualified prospects filter down to and, if all goes well, convert to paying customers.

In practice, this may look something like this:

  • Drive traffic to your website through ads, social media, and SEO (top of the funnel)
  • Send that traffic to a landing page where they can opt into your email list
  • Create content such as blog posts and shareable infographics to get your visitors interested in what you have to say and to build your authority (mid-funnel)
  • Segment your email list into smaller groups of qualified leads and drive them to your sales team
  • Convert leads into customers (bottom of the funnel)
Balance Short-Term and Long-Term Marketing Campaigns

Short-term marketing campaigns can be quite profitable. If you can tap into a current event or something happening in your market, you might be able to generate a lot of traffic and sales.

The problem with these types of campaigns is they’re usually short-lived. Once the excitement passes, you need to find another campaign to replace it if you want to keep the cash flow going.

Long-term campaigns take a lot of time to set up and may need to run for a while before you start seeing results. But done right, they can be evergreen, meaning they’ll keep generating results month after month and year after year.

Ideally, you should have a mix of both types of campaigns in your marketing. The short-term campaigns will generate cash flow that you can use to fund the longer-term campaigns.

Once those long-term campaigns start showing results, you’ll have a foundation to lean on during gaps in the short-term projects.

The longer-term projects are also the ones that will help cement your brand in your customers’ minds.

Make Sure You Have the Right Tools in Place

marketing-toolsOnce you have your initial strategy planned out, make sure you have all the tools you need to execute it. This is particularly important for your technology stack since the tools need to be in place before you’ll be able to gather certain types of data.

 

 

 

Some of the tools you may want to use include:

If you want to get actionable insights from your marketing, you need to have the data to work with. If you wait to add the tools to your funnel, you can’t go back and gather it from past visitors.

Stand Out From the Rest of Your Market

At the end of the day, one of the best ways to improve your marketing department is to be remarkable in your industry. If your company is the first one that comes to mind when your customers need the products or services you offer, you won’t need to do nearly as much work to generate new business.

Make value creation your top priority. Don’t worry about “giving away” too much information — overdeliver on everything you provide to your audience.

The fact is, you could give them a complete do-it-yourself guide to everything you offer and most of them would still prefer to pay you than to do it themselves. But by giving them all that information, they’ll recognize your expertise and the value you offer.

Lessons Learned from Marketing Department Optimization

Having gone through these types of marketing transformations, there are several key takeaways that we’ve seen over and over.

Marketing Isn’t a Separate Process

The best marketing strategies integrate all the key departments within your company, including sales, product engineering, technical support, and human resources.

Treating your marketing as a separate thing can lead to mixed customer messaging, poor out-of-the-box experiences, and product development that misses the most-requested features.

Don’t Overthink Your Marketing

You might want to target every possible marketing channel — SEM, SEO, social media, content marketing, etc. But trying to do them all at once usually ends up with none of them working as well as they could.

Start simple and get one channel working before you add another. Spend some time optimizing the first one so it’s getting a good ROI. That will let you scale back the time you spend on it while you’re rolling out the next channel.

Market Research Is an Ongoing Process

When you create customer personas, audience segments, and do other market research in the early stages of this process, it’s not a one-time thing. Markets evolve and your customers’ needs may change.

Make market research an ongoing process in your marketing. Use the data you gather from your marketing funnel to identify areas that are showing a downward trend and dig into those some more.

Systematize Your Processes

Turnover is inevitable. You will lose staff at some point or another. Having documented systems in place for all your ongoing processes and workflows will make it easier for someone else to take it over or to train a new employee when the time comes.

This is useful even if you’re a small business and you outsource a lot of your marketing work to an agency. A good agency will be able to work within your existing processes as well as suggest ways to improve them. Having good documentation in place will make it easier for everyone involved.

Where to Get Help for a Struggling Marketing Department

When you’re trying to improve your business from within, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. A partner may be able to help you better identify the gaps in your marketing department so you can decide where to focus your efforts.

O8 is here to help. We offer a range of digital marketing services to help you develop a solid marketing strategy. We can help with everything from campaign optimization to growth marketing.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you take your marketing efforts to the next level.

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O8 is a web and digital marketing consultancy based in Minneapolis, MN offering expert-level UX Design, CRO, and strategic consulting, as well as highly-technical capabilities in Drupal, WordPress, and HubSpot

We work differently from traditional agencies in that we extend your team with ours.