Three Marketing Musts for 2022

It’s a new year, which means new commitments, new focus, and a new tank of optimistic fuel for the months ahead. Just flipping the calendar one page seems to do that to us every year. 

Statistics indicate that about a quarter of Americans commit to New Year’s resolutions, which sounds like a pretty loud minority, since content dedicated to resolutions seems to be everywhere — as if everyone makes them.

We’re not here to convince you to jump on that hopeful bandwagon, but we are here to look ahead, plan for what is to come and strategize how to make 2022 more successful than 2021. Because success doesn’t just happen. It takes planning. 

We’ve been scanning industry trends, reviewing forecasts and plucking insights from the successful tactics we’ve implemented for clients, and in doing so, we’ve come up with a focused grab-bag of strategic suggestions for the year ahead. 

Lucky for you, we were able to boil them down to three key takeaways, because there was some overlap and — let’s be honest — who has time to digest lists that offer dozens upon dozens of different ways to improve your marketing presence? 

You’re busy running businesses and steering brands. And these three are genuinely the keepers for the year ahead.

Look ahead. See what’s on the horizon and strategize how to make it work for you and your brand. Augmented and virtual reality are gaining traction at an exponential pace — hello, Meta — so it pays for brands to think big, scope out that high-tech curve and see how to maximize it. Along the same lines, research and understand potential challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, such as changes to digital privacy and cookies, that may diminish the efficacy of digital advertising. Once you dig into that intel, you may decide to go in a different direction. 

Double down on what works. Understand what makes your business grow by looking at what has worked for you previously. How do you do that? By scouring the data you’ve collected from different campaigns. You may find that specific messaging on display ads are leading to more click-throughs or you may see that the ROI from influencer-supported campaigns isn’t as great as you had hoped — or vice versa. This type of strategic post-game analysis is exactly how we inform our upcoming campaigns for clients, two of which are finding that targeted and segmented email campaigns are leading to improved engagement and off-the-charts click-through and conversion rates. 

Invest in the experience. Focus on experiences, no matter where they are. Online algorithms are optimizing for user experience, which means if you want your brand’s content to be seen, it needs to offer an experience the targeted user is craving. That may mean that hard and fast SEO tactics could and should take a backseat in favor of user experience. The same goes for a user’s interaction with a brand — at every point, no matter what that point is, the experience during the interaction needs to be something the user may enthusiastically tweet about. 

Want to continue this conversation, with specifics, for your brand? Reach out — we’re happy to talk about 2022 tactics that could help you!

From Rob’s Desk: Unsuccessful Strategic Plans Outnumber Successful Ones

If you’re just starting to develop your strategic plan for 2022, you’re cutting it a little close. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to add to your stress. I’m just being completely real with you.

You should really start this thing a little earlier next year.

Ready for a little more honesty? Most strategic plans fail.

By most, I mean 67%, according to statistics. What does failure look like? It doesn’t mean brands disappear or go out of business. It means they don’t reach their goals, which means they’re also not achieving their potential — some, by a longshot.

It could manifest in different ways, across different departments. It could also mean a company continually faces the same challenges, year after year.

Will the strategic plan you developed months ago fail this year? You should know by now, as the end of the year approaches.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve been there. And as someone who works with business executives, owners and leaders to develop practices that improve revenue generation and operational efficiencies, I see it happen to others every day.

It means you’re not alone. It helps to know that.

Most business leaders don’t even believe the strategic plans they develop will succeed. Isn’t that a shame? I’ll answer that — yes, it is. Maybe that’s why some (not naming names or pointing fingers here) wait until the last minute to develop one.

Just a theory.

Before you crumple up that plan you’re working on and toss it in the trash, please know that strategic plans don’t fail for lack of vision or ingenuity. They fail, most often, due to a missing link down the line.

When you look at a strategic vision, imagined at 30,000 feet above the daily operations of any given business, it begins as a crystal clear mission but it can become increasingly grainy as it finds its way to the ground. Adoption and execution become the missing links.

It’s why, when I work with CEOs and other business leaders, we unpack everything. We work top to bottom. We get inside an operation, sift through every department, examine internal and external communications, analyze data and take a deep dive into process. It’s the only way to target pain points, uproot inefficiencies and carve out new paths that lead to revenue growth, efficiencies and allow an organization to actualize its potential — from a financial and operational perspective.

What if your company could make a bigger impact? What if it could make a more meaningful one?

It all starts with the strategic plan, developed with support from actionable data, and it isn’t finished until it is disseminated throughout an entire organization — from customer service to IT to HR, finance, marketing and beyond.

Everyone, everywhere needs to be on board in the same way leadership is. If they are, that vision that can become grainy maintains its clarity.

Need guidance with your strategic plan? We’ll help, no matter what time of year it is.

How To Build Better Content Marketing Campaigns

There’s a lot that goes into our Campaign Builder. But it has emerged from development as an easy-to-use tool, despite the deep insights and the wealth of background data it’s able to harness.

That was part of the idea, as we talked about in a recent blog that detailed the origin story of our Campaign Builder, an informed, efficient content marketing tool that makes editorial planning and content development a breeze.

Our Campaign Builder essentially distills all the branding and persona work a client has completed into a tool that helps sort and determine desired messaging based on content themes, persona pain points and stages of the customer journey. Because who has the time to go searching through different reports and presentations to find all that information and piece it all together?

Nobody does. It’s part of the reason that information doesn’t get used the way it should, if it’s ever used at all. 

For us, our Campaign Builder so easily picks up where our Audience work leaves off, dovetailing perfectly into the creation of an informed Avenues plan. Each piece works together, whether a client is building a multi-step email campaign or planning blogs for the quarter. 

Besides being easy to use, our Campaign Builder works across any industry — as long as the information it contains is properly informed. Are the pain points right for the persona at that stage of the journey? Will that persona ask that question at this point of engagement? 

Our Campaign Builder aggregates all of it, using simple drop-down menus to target a very specific audience with a very specific message. We’ve used it to: 

  • Develop lead nurture campaigns for a client that specializes in healthcare staffing 
  • Inspire messaging and tone for digital assets aimed at recruiting
  • Determine tone and focus for healthcare whitepapers
  • Craft lead generation campaigns for a specific audience
  • Plan quarterly editorial content for ecommerce, food and beverages clients, and more 

There’s no doubt in our minds that this approach is what leads to more targeted campaigns, which ultimately leads to better engagement. Think about it. If someone is speaking your language, hitting your specific needs with solutions tailored to you, you’re more likely to listen — and take action.

With this approach, we’ve seen click-thru rates improve (in the 20% range), we’ve seen engagement increase, we’ve seen conversion rates increase (to more than 8%!) and we’ve seen visits to certain webpages extend — to more than eight minutes!

While open rates of 67% and asset downloads of 50% are honestly just numbers, as are the stats above, they represent what’s possible with an informed approach — which our Campaign Builder providers.

Business, afterall, is a numbers game, right? It’s an overused quote, for sure, but one our Campaign Builder brings into focus in a new way. Yes, it’s a numbers game, but with targeted outreach, the numbers that mean something are those associated with ROI.

And with our Campaign Builder, when it comes to time, the investment is slashed by 75%. To get a good feel for how our Campaign Builder works, and how much time it will save, try it for yourself!

Origin Story: Campaign Builder

At WHYFOR, we’re always looking for ways to work smarter instead of harder. Not because we’re lazy, but because we actually aren’t — and we truly need to build in efficiencies wherever we can. 

Our Campaign Builder, a tool built by WHYFOR’s Director of Strategy, Dustin Diehl, is an example of one of those efficiencies. He tells its origin story best, and explains how it saves clients time and money while putting the strategic planning and branding work they’ve done to use!

Q: Can you explain what the Campaign Builder is?

Luckily, the Campaign Builder is pretty much what it sounds like: It’s a tool designed to help marketers build campaigns! More specifically, it aggregates important information from a brand’s unique Anatomy (voice, tone, values, attributes, etc.) and a brand’s specific Audience (personas, customer journey map stages, and key questions and pain points) to create focused and tailored marketing messages.

Q: How did the concept for the Campaign Builder come about?

Content marketing has been around since the dawn of advertising, and it’s certainly not going away … so we asked the question, “How can we save time (and therefore resources and money) during our editorial planning process?” While creative brainstorms are an important part of marketing, there’s also a need for a focused, actionable approach to content planning, one that accurately maps back to key strategies and goals.

While our initial goal was to save time/resources/money, we quickly saw two important additional benefits: efficiency and efficacy. We saw an opportunity to take key, foundational strategy documents like brand guidelines, voice/tone/style guides, personas and customer journey maps and distill their core elements into the Campaign Builder.

This increased efficiency by taking sometimes overwhelming strategy documents and making them integral to the campaign building process, removing the need to sift through dozens (sometimes hundreds) of pages of documentation to find the insightful nuggets you’re looking for to build a specific campaign.

It also increased efficacy — the more we’re able to stay true to the strategic core of a brand through the execution of our marketing tactics, the more likely those tactics are to perform.

Q: What is it designed to do?

Two things in particular: 1) It ensures your strategic documentation (which you’ve probably spent a lot of time and money on) actually gets used in your tactical marketing campaigns, and 2) sets your marketing and content teams up for success by helping them identify their “north star” for any campaign.

Q: What makes it so great for clients? 

Clients love the Campaign Builder because it saves a ton of time on editorial/content planning — in fact, we’ve found that it cuts up to 75% of planning time for our clients!

It also puts clients at ease knowing their strategy documents aren’t collecting dust in the proverbial desk drawer. As mentioned, these are usually labor-intensive strategies that cost significant amounts of money — clients are relieved to know this tool relies heavily on those insights, connecting the oft-missed dots between high-level brand strategy and “in-the-weeds” tactical execution.

Q: Is it complicated to use?

So far the feedback has been: “It’s a breeze!” We wanted to keep the user interface as simple as possible — it’s one of the reasons we use a relatively ubiquitous platform like Excel/Google Sheets. Most people are familiar with filter and sort functionality (from website to apps, etc.), making it simple for anyone to use.

But we’re always looking to improve, and we’re constantly collecting feedback from our internal and our clients’ teams to make it even more powerful, without losing usability.

To learn more about our Campaign Builder, contact our team. 

Three Things We Know About Marketing for the Healthcare Industry

Marketing within the healthcare industry takes a nuanced, strategic approach in part due to the regulations that govern healthcare marketing in general but also due to the complexity of the audiences, subject matter and pain points. Based on our experience, we know the “sales cycle” in the healthcare industry takes time, content marketing is a must and technology is the industry’s golden child at the moment. 

Industry statistics back up those anecdotal points, including:

  • 47% of healthcare organizations expect to expand their use of technology in the coming years.
  • About 20% of B2B healthcare sales take a year to close, while just 43% close within six months.
  • Only 58% of healthcare marketers are using blogs as part of a content marketing strategy.

Successful healthcare marketing, be it for a service, a product or an organization, relies on a true understanding of pain points and an ability to leverage that understanding in ways that move prospects through the conversion process to ultimately become clients. Here are a few ways to make that happen..

  1. Segment healthcare marketing campaigns. As with most industries, the healthcare industry has multiple audiences dealing with a variety of pain points. And even if two different audiences have the same pain point, they could experience it differently. That’s why it’s important to segment marketing campaigns based on audience, be it B2B or B2C. The messaging, the tone and the CTA could all change based on the target audience. And since healthcare is personal, the messaging should reflect that. When it does, we’ve seen improved outcomes in the form of increased conversions for healthcare clients across the staffing, technology, care delivery and education sectors.
  1. Initiate healthcare marketing campaigns based on data. Content marketing campaigns reveal a wealth of insights, and those insights should be used to drive future strategy. Healthcare marketers should take note, for example, on whether a 10-step or a three-step campaign receives better engagement or which asset — a blog, brochure or whitepaper — performs better over the course of a campaign or several campaigns. Testing, and performance analysis, should guide a future tactical approach. And when they do, it shows.
  1. Consider needs-based marketing. In the healthcare industry, the landscape can change quickly. The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of how quickly needs can change, from equipment to staffing to treatment to the entire delivery of care. When needs change, messaging should, too. By leveraging a solution to a known need for a specific audience, we’ve seen clients expand their reach, improve their sales pipeline and close deals that may not have been available previously. Look no further than the telehealth industry for its ability to capitalize on a known need to grow by more than 4,000% from one month to the next during the height of the pandemic.

Interested in learning more? Request a case study on one of our healthcare clients. We’d love to go over with you what we did for them and show you how the results of our strategic marketing campaigns improved their success.

From Rob’s Desk: Tough Times? Don’t Toss Your Anchor

It’s easy for me to think of marketing as a journey. Or, better yet, an expedition. And for the sake of analogies, imagine we’re on the water right now, emerging from a trying season filled with loss and struggle and walking a tightrope of hope that we experience a sustained recovery with few earth-shattering hiccups.

That’s where we’re at. And the best advice I can give any business owner is, even if the wind changes and the water gets choppy again, don’t drop your anchor. Don’t do it. Even if it feels right and safe.

From a marketing perspective, with a view from the leadership suite, putting a stop to forward progress in the face of tough times does nothing but stifle success. Instead of dropping anchor, adjust the sails.

Why? Because it’s effective.

I’ve seen it time and again. Those who pull back on marketing efforts during troubled times sit still. That’s what an anchor does — it chains you to one spot. But those who double down and ride out the storm find themselves closer to where they need to be when it’s over.

It makes perfect sense, in the real world and even with this maritime analogy.

At WHYFOR, the marketing agency I founded just before the Great Recession, we watched this analogy play out in real time during the height of the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we all have high hopes that the coast is clear, cases are climbing again and restrictions are being reinstated in different ways across the country.

We’re not out of this yet.

What that means is business owners can take actionable advice from the very recent past and apply it to their strategies moving forward, and that number-one strategy should include a commitment to continuing to move forward at all. Because, during tough times it can be a tough thing to do.

I don’t remember saying it was easy. I’m just saying it’s necessary.

Three of our clients experienced phenomenal years in 2020 by following that advice, and I can’t be accused of being biased on this one. Since we only implement strategies at WHYFOR that can be measured, the outcomes are truly, objectively successful.

One, a luxury developer, worked with us to develop more targeted messaging and saw a 40% increase in leads and a 248% increase in SEO traffic. Another, a telepsychiatry provider, partnered with us to adjust messaging, launch a new website and institute a strategic external communications strategy, and their growth is outpacing even bold forecasts.

And a third, a fine art event, responded to a need for social distancing by launching an online marketplace — only to go on and experience the most robust year of the event’s 30-year history.

These aren’t anecdotes. These are case studies in strategic development and implementation. It could also be said that these are case studies in how to adjust your sails when you really want to drop anchor.

Results don’t happen at a standstill. So, even if the tide turns, don’t touch your anchor.

To better understand how you may need to adjust your strategic marketing approach, schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

Relationships Are Everything. Really.

Relationships are funny things. In life, the way we categorize our relationships generally runs along a spectrum, from loathing to loving — for any number of reasons. In business though, it seems there are poles.

There’s little room for indifference, especially when it comes to the end user. Something or someone or some brand is either loved or hated. There is no in between.

Think about it. In general, we’re hot or we’re cold when it comes to the relationships we form with brands. If you doubt this theory, read any thread of comments on any brand’s social media. The opposite ends of the spectrum will jump out immediately, as will the quality of social media’s collective sarcasm.

And that’s just one type of business relationship. What about the ones formed within an organization? And what about the ones that organizations form with other, like-minded or like-missioned organizations?

They’re all important. They’re important because business is built on relationships, but also because every kind of relationship has the ability to impact revenue. And every relationship has the ability to influence a brand’s reputation.

This should start to sound familiar if you’ve kept up with our series of blogs detailing our proprietary H.A.L.O. business system. And if it doesn’t sound familiar, let’s just say every business leader should recognize that the obstacles a brand or business is facing is no different than the same six challenges every other brand or business faces.

Everything is connected, including relationships, revenue and reputation. One weak link can create slack in the proverbial chain allowing progress and forward movement to bottleneck. No one wants that.

It’s why an inward look, as part of our H.A.L.O. process, is so crucial. And it’s why that inward look needs to be holistic instead of reserved for only certain departments. Nothing should be overlooked, since everything has the potential to influence revenue.

When it comes to relationships, we look at an organization’s:

  • Internal marketing and communications
  • External marketing and communications
  • Internal processes such as HR and benefits
  • External, B2B partnerships
  • Client-centered, or B2C, exchanges — including the sales process
  • User experience across all platforms and interactions
  • Referrals and testimonials

When you think of your brand’s relationships, and cross reference that list, have you covered all those bases? Because, if we’re being honest (and good relationships are built on honesty), that’s just a short list.

Relationships run deep. Not unlike the ones in our personal lives, business relationships have context and history and future implications. Sometimes they result in exciting collaborations and immediate referrals and sometimes they take time to marinate before they turn into something unexpected down the road.

But one unwavering variable is the truth that they are always important, in every setting and across every platform. Because relationships impact revenue.

To better understand how your brand’s relationships are impacting your organization’s reputation, revenue and retention, dig in to our H.A.L.O. business system a little deeper. Our one-sheet offers more details.

From Rob’s Desk: But Why Is Revenue The Problem?

Cash flow. Finances. Liquidity. Whatever name you give it, most business owners keep at least one eye, at all times, on revenue. It’s part of almost every conversation. It’s pivotal to success. It’s a perpetual holy grail. And most times it seems there isn’t enough of it.

It also might be the answer I hear most often when I ask business leaders about their most pressing challenge.

Here’s the thing about revenue though — it’s codependent on so many other factors. It doesn’t stand alone. Revenue by itself isn’t a thing. It is unequivocally influenced by at least one of five other challenges that every business or brand faces.

So instead of asking how to solve revenue challenges, the real question to ask is this: Why is revenue a problem?

Yes, revenue could be a problem. But there’s always a reason for it. And that reason is the actual root. Revenue is just a symptom of something bigger.

This is the part of the conversation where most business leaders I’m working with release one of those exaggerated exhales, because as part of the proprietary business system we’ve developed at WHYFOR — known as H.A.L.O. — things are starting to unfold in front of them.

H.A.L.O., which stands for Holistic Approach Leveraged Outcomes, dissects the six potential challenges every business or brand faces, singles out the most pressing and then develops insight-driven strategies to overcome them. Here’s how.

  • Let’s say revenue is the perceived problem.
  • As part of H.A.L.O., we know we need to ask why revenue is the perceived problem.
  • Once we ask, we learn that a brand is trying to gain traction in a crowded market.
  • So, perhaps recognition is actually the problem leading to revenue challenges.
  • Based on those and other insights, we develop metrics-anchored strategies to solve those recognition challenges.
  • Then, we implement. We measure. We adjust. And we celebrate a positive revenue trajectory.

To be fair, our H.A.L.O. system is much more comprehensive than six relatively simple bullet points. But it’s just an example. The bigger moral of the story is that every business faces one or more of the same six challenges, which means we don’t have to devise a new cure every time.

H.A.L.O. is built to solve for those six challenges in ways that are unique to each brand or business, incorporating operations, marketing, communications and internal processes. And what would internal operations or processes have to do with marketing and revenue?

Because your perceived revenue problem may actually be a retention problem. And with H.A.L.O.’s holistic approach comes a recognition that everything is connected and everything has the potential to impact revenue.

Your business deserves a deeper, more comprehensive look, like the one H.A.L.O. offers. Why? Because your success, and your revenue, likely depend on it.

To gain clarity on what may be impacting revenue for your brand or business, schedule a complimentary, 30-minute consultation.

A Holistic Approach to Building Brand Recognition

Brand recognition is that seemingly eternal marathon. Unless you’re Nike or Uber, it’s tough to stop running in search of the finish line where everyone knows you. And then when you become the Nike or Uber, your recognition efforts morph into reputation management.

To gain the brand recognition they’re looking for, business leaders may think they need to sink large sums of money into advertising, blow up their social media feeds or score some PR hits.

And then what if none of that works?

Recognition is one of the pillars of our proprietary H.A.L.O. business system, the one we started talking about in a previous blog. It’s one of the six challenges faced by every business. Why?

Because statistics indicate it takes up to seven interactions for people to remember a brand, yet it takes only seven seconds to make a first impression. That means that any efforts to build brand recognition that aren’t rooted in strategy could seriously backfire in the most detrimental of ways.

Which is to say, you could turn someone off before they even give you a chance to prove yourself – as a brand.

Where many agencies may dive directly into tried-and-true tactics promising to solve recognition challenges, we take a different approach. Our H.A.L.O system requires that we go deeper to understand the root causes of recognition challenges — and, spoiler alert, the root causes may be something other than what is expected.

Brands may not know where their audiences are, and even if they do know where they are, they might not be speaking to them in a way that fosters brand loyalty. That creates problems which result in inefficiencies and leads to losses and frustration.

Because banner ads and social media posts only gain traction if they include strategic messaging and are deployed in a way that meets a target audience exactly where it is.

We’ve seen it happen with a number of clients. We’ve watched them come to the table with revenue struggles, which we discover are actually tied to recognition problems, which — through our work — we find are rooted in outdated, misaligned messaging for an audience that isn’t fully understood.

As an example, of course.

Recognition challenges might also drive back to a subpar visual presence involving lackluster creative, missing or deficient SEO initiatives or misaligned relationships. Solutions may involve creating strategic partnerships, investing in insight-driven SEO strategies and reimagining the brand’s look and feel.  

So, if it’s starting to sound like everything fits together, there’s a reason for that. Everything does fit together, which is the very essence of H.A.L.O. It’s a Holistic Approach that produces Leveraged Outcomes.

More than that, a well-researched strategy gives a “why” to every marketing move. And at WHYFOR, we only like the moves we can measure. Despite popular opinion, recognition can be measured.

We’ll show you how.

To learn more about how our proprietary H.A.L.O. business system can help your brand recognition, download our one-sheet.

H.A.L.O. Sets Us Apart

We’re not angels at WHYFOR, and we don’t think we are, so don’t let our fun wordplay fool you. H.A.L.O. is our system. It’s how we do what we do. It’s what sets us apart from every other agency out there.

And we figured it was time to pull back the curtain on it.

Because we don’t need anyone assuming it’s an actual halo. It’s not. H.A.L.O. stands for Holistic Approach Leveraged Outcomes. And we’re going to pull those concepts apart to make sure brands and the professionals leading them understand how and why our approach to marketing is different and, most importantly, effective.

For starters, H.A.L.O. is not a marketing scheme. It’s not a plug-and-play or a template. It’s a business system, one that looks at an organization or brand on the inside and out, from operations to communications and everything in between. One that examines a brand’s DNA, analyzes its audiences and researches the best way to reach them.

And that’s just the beginning. Actually no, that’s all more toward the middle. That’s more like the thick of it.

H.A.L.O, from the get-go, recognizes that every business, every brand, every organization faces the same five challenges. No matter what — business leaders face the same five issues. (Yes, that was worth repeating).

And each of those five issues have the ability to impact revenue, which is a universally accepted goal. Increase revenue, period. It’s what every sales meeting boils down to, what every forecast points to, what every organization needs for growth and prosperity.

Our H.A.L.O. system is also our logo — that geometric shape with a Y in the middle. It’s the platform we use to connect the dots, to show business leaders how one issue influences another and how any deficiency can negatively impact revenue. If we could have two logos (which we’d never advise) it might include a light bulb, because those are the moments we experience with business leaders as we work our way through our H.A.L.O. system.

Our approach boils everything down instead of building everything up. It bypasses all the marketing buzzwords and formulaic philosophies used by most agencies in favor of terms everyone understands.

We use words like “relationships” and “retention,” “recruitment” and “reputation.” Clean, simple, universal concepts that can easily be understood across any organization.

Because simple doesn’t mean “less than.” To us, it means it’s accessible. And accessibility is key to adoption and adoption is key to success.

So over the next few weeks, we’ll dive into each of the five issues we know every business and every brand is facing. Yes, we understand there is nuance and context to different industries and different products, but the root issue is always one of five things.

We’ll unpack it all and illustrate how our H.A.L.O. system unearths the obstacle and ties together tailored solutions. So, check back for our next installment, and until then, take a look at our H.A.L.O. one sheet.

It summarizes our unconventional approach.