Marketing Wisdom: Digging for pearls from 2010 and applying them to 2011

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I’ve learned a lot in the past year.  I think we all have.

Due to a wealth of factors – most notably the economy – marketers were asked to grow, evolve, adapt and even take new risks to stay afloat in 2010. That being said, there’s a lot to be learned from the past year’s struggles … for all of us. If 2009 drove us down to unanticipated professional lows, 2010 taught us how to re-tune our marketing strategies and conform to a changing economic landscape.

As I prepare to cull through hundreds of submissions for the MarketingSherpa 2011 Wisdom Report, I felt it was only right to take one last look at the 2010 edition, to see where we were a year ago, and where we made strides along the way. While combing through the pages, many of last year’s submissions evoked some forward-thinking questions for 2011. I’ve highlighted a few of these below. If you have the same questions – or can provide some answers – I would love to hear your insights.

Below are some of the more commonly shared thoughts from last year’s report. Read on to see if last year’s wisdom still proves valuable as you prepare for 2011.

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Social media wasn’t optional in 2009, much less in the year to come

Compared to past years, during which most marketers were optimistic, but still uncertain about how social media might fit into their plans, it’s now clear that those who have embraced social media aren’t looking back. In 2009, social media joined the mainstream. In 2010, marketers dug deeper into the more productive side of these outlets.

Facebook and Twitter continue to grab users. Foursquare has come onto the scene in a major way. LinkedIn has incorporated Twitter feeds, share links, more intuitive business listings and revitalized Groups. Twitter has redone their interface and improved overall usability. Businesses seemingly advertise their social media presence more than they do their company websites.

As demonstrated in the quote that follows, learning the importance of building relationships and developing a social following has paid off very real dividends. Marketers who took the time and resources to implement social media programs seemed to share a common story of success.

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Sometimes the latest hot thing is really useful. I was skeptical of social media marketing.  While I signed up for many of the social networks in 2008, I didn’t do much with them. In the spring of 2009, we tried an experiment by opening a presence on Twitter and Facebook …Within a matter of weeks Twitter became one of the top referrals to our website. And Twitter visitors would spend more time in the site than others who came from other marketing programs. If we didn’t experiment, we would never have known that social media could be as helpful as paid media in drawing visitors. I think the social Web is where the Internet was 10 years ago.

Howard Sholkin, IDG Communications

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And, of course, even with newer tactics, it’s always wise to remember that social media marketing is still rooted in core marketing principles, and is more effective for it:

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…stay relevant and useful. Never spam or abuse your networks. The cumulative effect of the social media lens is to cast a very wide net on the Web, to develop links to the site from hundreds of contextually relevant sites, and to garner referrals from the louder voices that are followed by your market. This results in visitors to the site, as well as in getting search engines to give the site good rankings for those targeted search terms.

Godfrey Parkin, Britefire

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Likewise, while no one can deny the impact social media had on marketing over the past year, no solitary tactic is an “end-all” solution, and not everyone is ready to dive into the pool feet-first:

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Just because 90% of the buzz is about social marketing, Twitter and Facebook doesn’t mean that 90% of your media should be allocated to social marketing. Traditional media is not dead but ongoing re-evaluations and re-balancing of audiences. Spending is a “best practice” that doesn’t go out of style.

Michael Sick, Sick Consulting

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Dismayed but not defeated [by a less-than-successful new technology initiative], I focused on my second opportunity to spread the word at an emarketing workshop I was conducting later in the week for approximately 20 of the community centers. Two days after educating the workshop participants to update their profile on the new site, the completed profiles nearly doubled. I learned a valuable lesson with this project. Despite the advances in communication technology, nothing will ever replace spreading the word in person.

Chris Strom, Marketplicity

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Key Questions for 2011: Have you fully embraced social media tactics as a part of the marketing mix, or are you still waiting for more concrete proof of its effectiveness? Has your company seen few, or even negative results from social media outreach?

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The time is (always) right to optimize

With all this talk of social media, it’s easy to forget that your website should still be a (if not the) focal point of your marketing efforts. In 2010, many marketers did just that, opting to spend portions of their limited budgets on revamped, optimized Web experiences.

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Ask yourself the necessary questions – do you need more updated content? Perhaps a complete redesign?  Is your site easily read by both humans and search engines? Your site should be regularly updated, be easy to navigate with a friendly user interface, and most importantly, accurately reflect the image and core values of your organization.

Anonymous submission

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Given the increasingly short attention spans of today’s Internet user, it takes more effort to gain attention to your site, encourage visitors to spend some quality time and sign up for correspondence. Having a functional site is no longer enough. You need to offer users something unique to get them to come to your site, stay on your site and return to your site.

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“Ranking, ranking…I want our site to be ranked number one.” Sound familiar? Many site owners fall into this. And they could rant on and on with debates on keyword rankings, without even realizing if the ranking actually correlates to targeted traffic and successful conversions tied to overall business goals and objectives. Having ranked number one for a keyword on an individual’s search result doesn’t correlate to that particular keyword being ranked number one or even present in the top 10 or 20 search engine results on Google – which renders ranking reports useless or irrelevant.

Deric Loh

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Google Website Optimizer has radically transformed our online marketing efforts.  Extensive testing has become the norm and I am regularly surprised about what resonates with our customers and what doesn’t. Copy, design, layout…running multivariate or A/B split tests has resulted in some eye-popping results and incremental improvements across the board.

Michael Pizzo, Agora Financial

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Key Questions for 2011: Has your website taken a back seat to social media marketing efforts? Do you plan on updating or redesigning your site to make it more of a focal point down the road?

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2011 is the right time to put the focus back on Marketing

Not to dwell on the negative, but the economy’s impact on marketing budgets can’t be overstated. And though the signs of recovery are minimal at this point, perhaps this is the ideal time to give a little more money back to marketing for 2011.

This isn’t to say that you should throw piles of cash into social media (or any one tactic, for that matter), but rather to highlight that lessons learned during the recession can only help you moving forward.  Though it seemed as if marketing dollars decreased across the board, it was those who strategized, reallocated and got creative with budgeting who derived the most success from a very tough year.

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Drastically cutting back on marketing during a bad economy is the last thing one should do. As a relatively young agency (almost five years) being very strategic helped us stay focused on building upon our existing foundation. We often shared our expertise and experience without expectation, hoping to help others through their struggles. Hopefully, as they recover and require marketing assistance, our agency will be one they consider.

Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing & Consulting

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Another theme we noticed from last year’s report was that many marketers used limited budgets as the basis for testing new ideas – borne solely out of necessity, yet valuable as their companies moved forward.

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Combating ad blindness, we switched several of our online newsletters to a text format. This instantly increased revenue without adjusting rates. When we recognized the increase in video viewership online we transformed several of our newsletter formats to include instructional video. This not only enhanced the reader experience but also increased our subscriber list. Our mission, our expertise is in delivering outstanding news and entertainment by email. Knowing what we do best, allowed us to GO; even when most were still stuck at the light. Lesson from 2009: Stay focused, forecast, and build solid!  So you too can go!

Scott Wolf, President & CEO, ArcaMax Publishing Inc.

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Things you knew about your customers this time last year may not be the same this year. Buying tendencies, price points and even purchase desires may not be same. The point: You need to track and analyze your past and current customer data regularly … Track everything. When every penny counts, look at what is bringing in the best return on investment and get rid of other marketing that’s not bringing in money; possibly your outdated yellow page ad.

Joy Gendusa, CEO, PostcardMania

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…and remember, as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, Marketing can’t always do it alone…

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Even though it’s a rule as old as time, many professionals do not apply it: PR and marketing MUST work together, for the same purpose. It’s mandatory for any healthy organization to have a synergy between these two “heads” and try to align all their strategic objectives to run at the same speed. People in marketing/PR teams need to understand that lack of communication between them it only damages the company’s image, the corporate message loses its continuity and strength and the market is flooded with ambiguous actions that do not return any profit for anybody.

Simona Bogdan, BitDefender

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Key Questions for 2011: If you reduced marketing budgets due to the recession, do you plan on once again increasing them for 2011? If your company plans to increase the marketing budget, will there be a different allocation of funds? On which tactics do you anticipate spending most of your marketing budget?

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Here’s hoping that the wisdom you gained in 2010 proves worthy for 2011, and in the years that follow.

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Related links

MarketingSherpa 2011 Wisdom Report submission page

Online Marketing: Your peers’ top lessons from 2010

Top Online Marketing Lessons of 2010: What worked and what didn’t in the last 365 days of experimentation

MarketingSherpa Members Library Consumer Marketing Trends from 2010: Social is here to stay, mobile is on the way

MarketingSherpa Members Library – Inbound Marketing: Looking back on a year of Great Minds articles

The MarketingExperiments Quarterly Research Journal, Q3 2010

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3 Comments

  1. Rajesh Vinaykyaa says

    Brad, what according to you will be the main focus if we look to make a Marketing Strategy in 2011?
    How this would differ or should differ as compare to 2010.

  2. Cheryl Smithem says

    The key element to take from this is that research, measurement and continual evaluation of the user experience and resulting conversions is the foundation of a successful search/social marketing plan.

  3. Katie @ SM Workshop says

    Great thoughts Brad. I think things will continue to evolve for 2011 and we are always working make our marketing strategy better.

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