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.

Three Things We Know About Marketing for the Construction Industry

At WHYFOR, we’ve been guiding clients through strategic, insight-driven marketing plans for more than a decade. Over that time, we’ve worked across a number of different industries, from real estate to wellness to tech to advocacy and construction. And within each one, we’ve learned a few truths along the way — because while every business faces the same six challenges, those challenges can include critically important nuances based on the industry. 

Right now, experts have noted that the construction industry is facing challenges related to: 

  • Project delays
  • A shortage of skilled workers
  • Access to supplies and materials

When it comes to the construction industry and the clients we’ve worked with, we’ve seen recurring marketing themes that need to be consistently addressed. They’re that important. 

  1. Relationships need nurturing. It’s important for those in the construction industry, which spans a large spectrum of services, to consistently nurture their relationships — internally and externally. We’re talking about clients, vendors, subs and employees. It’s those relationships that could potentially impact revenue, as leads come in and bids are requested for projects. Personal recommendations, for example, improve conversion rates by 5.5 times. And if those relationships lead to new opportunities, it’s easy to see the connection between relationships and revenue. By understanding and appreciating the relationships within the industry ecosystem, construction companies can maintain a solid standing among competitors who pay less attention to those details.
  1. Reputation matters. A construction company’s reputation could be its lifeline in a close-knit industry. Word travels fast, and negative ones travel the fastest, creating the potential for a company’s reputation to impact its relationships, which would ultimately trickle down to impacting revenue. It’s why the work that a construction company does, establishing its reputation in the industry, is so important to its success. Reputation can be managed effectively in a number of ways, from PR to digital community management, but it starts with the actual work — which means reputation needs to be managed first from within, among employees, before it ever becomes an issue externally.
  1. Recruitment is vital to sustainability. Without the right people, a construction company can’t do the work it needs to do, especially in an industry that is experiencing rapid growth and consistent labor shortages — according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, without the right people, construction companies can’t do the work the way they need to do it to maintain its reputation and its relationships. It’s why recruitment is quite possibly the most important ingredient for sustainability, especially in an industry with 830,000 players, according to statistics. By having a clear understanding of internal needs, streamlining internal processes and targeting the right people with employment opportunities, construction companies have a much better chance at onboarding the type of people who match their culture, share their same vision and understand their importance to the overall success of the business. And when it’s done right, recruitment has the potential to positively impact relationships and reputation — the other two critical keys to success for construction companies. 

There is no secret formula to marketing for construction companies, but there is nothing lost in putting focused energy into any of these three areas. Interested in learning more? Request a case study on one of our construction clients. We’d be happy to share with you what we did for them and how those results elevated their level of success.

Three Things We Know About Real Estate Marketing

Anyone with a pulse will know that the real estate market is hot, white hot, at the moment. Trending topics include discussions about whether or not a bubble exists and if it will burst while potential buyers are offering everything short of their first born to secure a home among a field of bidders. 

In addition, industry experts at Realtor Magazine and CRE are pointing to a list of potential challenges facing the market, including:

  • Inventory
  • Labor shortages
  • Financing
  • Rising interest rates
  • Remote work
  • Affordable housing

At WHYFOR, we get it. When it comes to real estate, every player is challenged to rise above and stand out in a highly competitive space. It can be daunting. But, our real estate experience has shown us a few things about the importance of using insights and integration to influence behavior.

Here are three things we know about real estate.

  1. Understand your personas: It’s important to know who you’re talking to. Are they a young couple looking for a larger home to accommodate a growing family? Is it a newly-single parent looking for a fresh space to call their own? Or, are the owners older, hoping to downsize but still have room to entertain at the holidays? Personas dial in audiences with precision. Understanding them helps brands shape the content, particularly voice and substance, of what they’ll share with each individual persona. And there are so many different ways to understand an audience, from income level to timing to geography to passions. An outdoorsy persona likely wouldn’t be interested in high-rise living, for example. And the same could be said in reverse. It’s that in-depth understanding that makes marketing more powerful and more effective. 
  1. Understand where they are on their journey: Once you understand who your brand personas are, it’s important to understand where they are. A couple nearing retirement may still be a few years away from purchasing a second home, or they could be ready to pull the trigger on a purchase immediately. The details in the circumstances map out how a brand should market to a potential client — from voice and tone, to opportunities to buy to the all-important “call to action” statement. Those same variables can be applied to any type of marketing, from digital ads to blogs to email campaigns. Understanding the point along the journey also helps with user experience elements, from digital ads to landing pages to website development. 
  1. Understand the pain points each persona is experiencing and what questions they may have: Personas are actually mosaic individuals, if that paints a picture of the character traits that are poured into each one. Knowing that, it’s safe to say that a number of different but potentially related pain points could bubble to the surface, with a similar volume of purchase-related questions. When it comes to real estate, consider questions related to:
    • Cost and timing
    • Location
    • Customization
    • Amenities and aesthetics
  • But also consider what, specifically, they may be searching for:
    • Resale
    • Custom estate
    • Condo
    • First or second home
    • Land that could be developed at a later date

By addressing personas with an informed perspective, it builds a stronger relationship and more trust between the prospect and the brand — lending the brand greater influence on the prospect. 

Want to see more? Our case studies bring these truths to life.

Give Retention Front-Seat Attention

Everyone is familiar with a house of cards. And if not, they’re familiar with Jenga, either from childhood or from the play area at your favorite bar.

Both things capture the same theory — that a missing card or a misaligned wooden brick could turn a solid structure into a fragile one and send it tumbling to pieces. The same can be said for business.

And that’s the idea behind H.A.L.O., the proprietary business system developed by WHYFOR’s founder and used to assess and find solutions for one or more of the six challenges every business faces. Because every business, regardless of industry, faces the same universal challenges.

We’ve talked about how relationships can impact reputation and how reputation can impact recruitment. See? Jenga. One loose brick, or one challenge in one area of a business, can hamstring other departments or initiatives.

And sometimes it happens without anyone ever even realizing it. Because not all of the six challenges, the ones we refer to as the six Rs, have the same voice. They don’t all get paid the same level of attention. Some stay in the background, making it easier to overlook their impact.

One example is retention, the last of the six Rs in our H.A.L.O. series. Retention, as in employee retention and client retention — both of which are pretty critical to successful business operations.

For both scenarios, why would a business struggle with retention? Greener pastures, or at least the perception of it, could be one reason. And what’s in those pastures?

From an employee perspective, likely more money, better benefits, better alignment with values, more convenience or more inner fulfillment. From a client perspective, it could include spending less and getting more, better results, improved service and better alignment on values.

Either way, revenue growth depends on retention. Current labor statistics indicate it is a worker’s market with a record-breaking 10.1 million job openings in the U.S. as of the end of July, according to Forbes. And competition for business has never wavered as those seeking service are perpetually interested in receiving the most for the lowest cost possible.

So it’s fair to say that those who cannot retain employees will have a difficult time retaining clients, too. And if retention is a challenge, it’s very possible that reputation will suffer, which will undoubtedly impact revenue.

That was the sound of several cards falling after just one was pulled from its position.

But there are solutions for retention challenges and the H.A.L.O. business system bakes them right in. It begins with understanding why retention is a challenge and then determining how to adjust to improve the situation.

It may mean improved communication or an adjustment of roles or it may involve switching health insurance providers. The point is, everything is unknown until the work is done to dig in and expose the sore spots. And the same goes for client relationships.

H.A.L.O. helps with both. To learn more about our H.A.L.O. business system, download our one-sheet.

Recruitment: A Quiet Influencer

On the surface, recruiting appears to be a numbers game. There are countless statistics attached to workforce development, and let’s not forget an employer’s desire to cast a wide net to attract a large pool of candidates — forgetting momentarily that quality trumps quantity when it comes to filling vacancies.

But recruitment, a critical piece of WHYFOR’s H.A.L.O business system, should be viewed as more than a task that needs to be completed to fill a seat. Consider, for a moment, its ability to be an influencer. Less the Instagram influencer and more the influencer of success for other elements of a business.

We’re talking about revenue, relationships, reputation and retention. Yes, recruitment impacts all of those things — and probably more — which is why it deserves more attention, on a deeper level, than it receives.

Any HR professional knows the numbers.

  • Every vacancy costs an employer $500 a day.
  • Almost half of businesses say their best hires come from employee referrals.
  • More than half of job candidates don’t receive any communication in the months after applying for a position.
  • A staggering three-quarters of employers have said they hired the wrong person for a position.
  • The average job opening receives 250 resumes.
  • About 4 million Americans left their jobs in April of 2021 to pursue something better.

Even for someone who likes math, those are a lot of digits to digest. And, when you tack context on to them, it’s even more challenging to process all of it. But understanding the impact a company’s recruitment efforts have on revenue, relationships, reputation and retention is non-negotiable.

Take, for example, revenue. If a company’s approach to recruitment attracts the wrong people — people who aren’t fully qualified or aren’t talented enough to do the job as it needs to be done — revenue can suffer. If you look at how recruitment impacts retention, there’s a similar theme.

The wrong people won’t stay, which keeps a company on that workforce development merry-go-round indefinitely.

If a recruitment process is cumbersome, devoid of information or handled poorly, it can negatively impact a company’s reputation among job candidates and the market in general. And, once a reputation suffers, the trickle-down effect means relationships could be impacted in a negative way.

In short, poorly executed or haphazard recruitment initiatives could be a sore spot being overlooked by companies struggling to find success simply because recruitment has the ability to initiate a cascading, domino effect on most other aspects of a business. And as part of our immersive and holistic H.A.L.O. system, we ask the questions that get us to the root obstacle.

Most business leaders focus on revenue as an issue, but by understanding how every element of a company is intertwined, our approach very often discovers an alternate influencer for success.

Recruitment is just one of them.

Learn more about our H.A.L.O. business system, our process and how it may help diagnose and solve for recruitment issues, download our one-sheet.

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.