The beginning of a new calendar year marks the time when many reflect on the past 12 months and set goals for the coming year. In the practice of marketing, we often examine what methods worked in promoting our company’s products and services. To help us better understand what marketing practices have been helpful and what’s coming for the industries we serve, Constructive Communication Inc. recently surveyed our clients in the construction, architecture, engineering, chemical and electronics sectors. Our purpose for the online survey was twofold: to identify challenges and determine how the marketing sector is responding.
The survey’s results reveal an emphasis on digital strategies to address marketing challenges. The biggest of these challenges facing companies in 2017 include shrinking profit margins (27 percent) and finding qualified employees (24 percent). To overcome these challenges, 88 percent of respondents plan to maintain or increase marketing spending in 2017. And where do they plan to spend their time and money? Three of the most important marketing technologies follow.
Invest in technology
According to the CCI 2017 Marketing Trends Survey, technology is on the forefront of many marketers’ minds. In 2017, 48 percent of respondents plan to invest in new marketing strategies, including technology. A key priority for technology investments is making updates to the company website.
This comes as no surprise, as many companies realize the increasing demand for mobile-friendly content. Reports such as SimilarWeb’s State of the Mobile Web US 2015 have indicated that half or more of website visits come from mobile devices, and approximately 55 percent of all emails are read on mobile devices. Marketers are responding to these changing needs by developing more mobile-friendly websites and emails.
Other companies are simply realizing a need to update their websites for the sake of maintaining a current image. In the fast-paced world of web design, a website developed just two years ago may have some features that appear outdated today.
Could your website use a refresher? A few of the most important best practices in today’s web design include:
- Google algorithms currently favor sites with abundant content. Experts recommend a word count of 400 to 800 words for each page.
- Singular messaging is important, especially on home pages. In three seconds, explain what your company does. Put all messages on a fourth-grade level, even if your audience is very technical and highly educated. Keep the message simple, as Google favors simplification.
- Rotating carousels are no longer in fashion. A number of studies have shown the “carousel” style of home-page messaging is distracting.
- Minimize the use of accordions, vertically stacked lists of items that when clicked on expand to show associated content.
- Current design styles incorporate bright colors and flat design.
Keeping your website design up to date and ensuring your site aligns with Google’s current algorithm preferences will ensure your clients find your site in a search.
Approximately 52 percent of respondents named newsletters as the most effective marketing tactic for their company in 2016. Many of these newsletter programs are digital. As companies continue or intensify their efforts in email marketing, remember the key to a successful newsletter program — whether email or print — begins with a clear strategy and defining your goals.
As you plan the content for your newsletters in 2017, the most important thing to remember is your content isn’t about you — it’s about your customer. In other words, don’t tell your customers only what you want to say. Tell your customers what they want — and need — to hear.
Brainstorm and ask probing questions that will help you get inside your typical customer’s thought processes. What problems do your customers face and how can you help solve them? Have you recently completed a unique project? Showcase your work in a case study. But even a case study can take a wrong turn if it’s all about you. The case study has to pass the “so what” factor, with the customer’s benefits clearly stated.
As you plan your content, keep in mind that a simple structure is best. Your customers are bombarded by messages every day, and research from Constant Contact shows that most people only deem 14 percent of their email as something they must read immediately. The most effective e-newsletters are short and to the point.
Social media and LinkedIn
Marketers in the concrete industry continue to see social media as a necessary part of doing business. New for 2017 is a resurgence of interest in LinkedIn. The survey revealed that social media platforms businesses most expect to use in 2017 include LinkedIn (91 percent), Twitter (70 percent), Facebook (65 percent) and YouTube (57 percent).
As you plan your social media strategy for the coming year, here are a few items to consider:
- A content strategy is just as important in social media as in other forms of communication. Plan an editorial calendar in advance of topics to cover, with flexibility that allows adjustment for covering breaking news or trends.
- Videos and graphics are important to gaining reach.
- Unique content for social media typically comes in the form of an image. Take your own original photos and post them for the most engagement.
- Tag others when possible to increase reach.
- Reach tends to be best during off-business hours.
- LinkedIn has become a primary content portal — post your original articles and content there.
Companies can no longer ignore the importance of social media in marketing strategy. An intentional social media strategy helps companies build brand awareness and reach their audiences where their audiences spend time.
As marketing plans are made for the coming year, it’s important to take note of current trends. Reviewing survey data enables your company to evaluate its efforts against others in the industry. Such benchmarking practices increase effectiveness while identifying areas for improvement.
No matter the strategy employed, good marketing practices focus first on the customer’s needs and pain points. Let your message always be about how you help customers solve their problems.