Brad Herd—Professor & Program Coordinator, Advertising Media Management & Marketing Management Graduate Programs, Humber College
David Soberman—Marketing Professor, University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management & Canadian National Chair, Strategic Marketing
In the constant arms race for attention, businesses are quick to adopt new marketing tools to eke out an advantage. But even in the trend-driven world of marketing, some advice never goes out of style. Bringing years of marketing experience and expertise, Professors Brad Herd and David Soberman share their take on what should be the foundational basis of all marketing efforts.
“Whether an established brokerage, or just starting out, there are many core marketing concepts and strategies that remain true,” says Prof. Herd. “If your clients demand more traditional approaches or are on the leading edge of social and digital trends, the following steps should be part of any marketing activities.”
Create a Plan
Whether you’re putting together a comprehensive multi-year marketing strategy or considering a single event, create a plan that includes your goals, is researched, articulates your message, has a budget and properly measures results.
Growing revenue and profitability are obvious goals but aren’t enough. Do you want to increase the number of clients, or increase revenues per client? Do you want to sell more of the same products or introduce new ones? If you’re trying to build brand awareness, define it as the number of leads generated or use an online tool to measure website traffic.
Research Your Target Market
Are you targeting a new demographic or building out your existing client base? Either way, brokerages need to know who they’re selling to and what their habits are. What’s the best way to reach your clients—print, in-person, online or a combination?
Create Clear, Consistent Messaging
On average it takes five to eight touch points to convert a lead to a paid client. To be on the low end of this range, it’s important to clearly articulate your message. It’s too hard, and often unprofitable being everything to everyone, so keep your value proposition consistent across all messaging.
Once your plan is created, determine the cost of accomplishing your goals. Proper planning and research will allow you to do the most you can do with the money you have.
Good marketers are continuously evaluating the results of their efforts. It’s okay if your first instincts don’t work out. Did your mail or email campaign, event, luncheon or social media activities achieve the goals you set? Which ones worked and which didn’t? Use this data to adjust your plan and always remember—a marketing plan is a living document.
“Brokerages should examine their customer journey,” says Prof. Soberman. “Map the stages the consumer goes through—from brand awareness to final purchase—when marketing’s conducted successfully. Then try to identify places along that customer journey where customers are being lost.”
DRILLING DOWN FURTHER
The importance of research prior to undertaking marketing activity can’t be understated. Marketing requires a lot of time, energy and money, and without solid data to build from, it won’t be spent effectively.
Getting the necessary data may require conducting surveys or hosting focus groups. Depending on a brokerage’s resources, conducting more in-depth research may require commissioning a marketing firm. But if you’re working on a smaller scale, you can use your existing network to get started.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking your best clients for advice,” says Prof. Herd. “How would they like to be contacted? What new products/services would they find beneficial? What extra value can you add? Companies often assume, I know my client, I know what they want, I know what works. There’s certainly some truth to this, and the tried-and-true methods often work best. However, clients’ needs, wants, habits and product knowledge are constantly evolving. What worked five years ago may not be the case today.”
Prof. Soberman adds: “You need the time and support to examine your business on three levels:
- What are consumer perceptions and feelings about the product that may affect their behaviour?
- Why are some competitors doing well and others aren’t?
- What are useful examples of success within the industry and outside it?
“Unless managers assess their businesses on these levels, they’re likely to miss crucial changes that will affect the business.”
ADJUSTING FOR NOW
The pandemic has caused seismic shifts in the business landscape, though Prof. Herd says, “the core principles of marketing haven’t dramatically changed. It’s just a matter of how you go about it. Obviously during the pandemic, more marketing went online than ever before.”
Prof. Soberman recommends: “As we come out of the pandemic, there are three things that any business should consider to thrive in a post pandemic world:
- Has a home-based alternative to what you offer developed, and will it continue to thrive in a post-Covid world?
- How easy is it for your business to reduce the fears people now have (justified or not) to return consuming what you offer?
- What are the measures you need to take to provide world class safety for your employees and customers?
“If anything, the pandemic’s taught us that businesses need to be flexible in their approach and be ready for change,” says Prof. Herd. “By keeping abreast of current marketing trends and client behaviours, marketers can more easily shift their dollars in short notice to the most cost-effective activities, never skipping a beat.”