For many business, it has been a tough year that has required significant sacrifices, quick-thinking and patience.
If you are in business, the question on your mind will be whether 2010 will be as challenging, or whether it will create a kinder environment. Only time will tell, but if you haven’t started to plan then it’s definitely the moment to do so.
These are my top ten tips for businesses that need to address their planning for next year. You may have your own priorities – so be sure to share them in the comments.
1. Don’t underestimate the power of engagement
If you want to generate a lot of positive consumer behaviour, you must communicate with your target audience. You can do this by using any of the four main engagement techniques (i.e. content, message, platform and experience), but be sure to record and evaluate the response as this will shape the way you present your brand to a mass audience. Your sole objective should be brand engagement.
2. The new generation of consumers expects a great deal more
Too many brands these days are oblivious when it comes to assessing what their customers want. If yours is one of them, revenue will be slipping through your fingers.
Consumers snap up the latest pocket-technology and web wizardry and, if your business acts intelligently on this trend, you should soon introduce lucrative and profitable new revenue channels. Businesses simply have to become more savvy about the digital world – mobile devices and evolved web technology are quickly going to be central to the way we do business.
3. Green is the new black
Climate change and the environment are no longer seen as fringe issues, and your business and brand need to speak and act green. Your environmental activity also needs to be authentic, sincere and likeable – and if it’s not, consumers will give their business to your competitors. Green issues will be more crucial than ever to brand promotion in 2010.
4. Price is more important than ever.
Businesses that failed to adapt during the recession, particularly by failing to change their pricing strategy, usually lost sales. In 2010 you will need to be kind to customers with competitive pricing, and in return you will build up brand loyalty. As many companies have found in recent months, if you don’t cultivate a loyal customer base you could easily go bust.
5. The ‘Three Simplicities’ – websites that are simple to find, simple to understand and simple to use
If a website is simple to find, simple to understand and simple to use, then it will be simple to buy from. By all means focus on price, promotion and brand – but if you don’t keep your website simple, your eBasket will leach sales like a colander. Talk to a web design agency if you need help.
6. Don’t make assumptions about your target audience – behaviour is what matters
There’s no need for generic audience profiling these days. With tools such as Google Analytics and social media platforms, you can tailor your planning to your actual audience. If you interrogate your data properly, then you will have a major competitive advantage – but do employ specialists who have necessary skills in disciplines like web analytics and competitor benchmarking.
7. Give customers that little bit extra
Consumers love knowing they are getting more bang for their buck, so if your brand adds extra value compared to your competitors, then they are more likely to choose you. Adding value can also be a much better option than price slashing, which can spark off detrimental price wars.
8. Give customers customisation and control
Whether it’s a product or a service, customisation options are becoming more visible than before. With many luxuries raised to the status of essentials (e.g. iPods, mobile phones, laptops etc), you need strategies to help buyers personalise their purchases (e.g. offer different colours or cases).
This technique has migrated to the services industry and is strong within the online environment and it’s an effective way to generate a buzz about a product and increase sales.
9. Bring your marketing activity together
Culturally, marketing activity tends to be conceptualised, developed and executed within its department (offline, online, digital, PR), ignoring the activities being created within the other departments. This often results in campaigns that have very little (if any) synergy, which is a strategic no-no. Lack of communication can also result in mixed messages, which confuse your audience – to the detriment of your brand. Bring departments together more often and more intelligently and your marketing will improve significantly.
10. Affinity marketing will see brands coming together for a common cause – more sales
Affinity marketing that brings complementary brands together is nothing new, but in the UK is has predominantly taken place within the ‘white labelling’ sector – mainly supermarkets and financial organisations. However, over the past year a growing number of smaller businesses have joined forces to offer consumers more enticing offerings.
This is a great area to explore, and if the partnership makes sense to your target audience then the potential benefits can be huge. Activity costs can also be split, making it an economical and increasingly popular strategy.
2010 will definitely be a challenging and aggressive year for businesses, particularly as many will want to compensate for the recent downturn and will be competing against new firms that have capitalised on recent opportunities. Although we can’t predict exactly what the commercial climate will throw at the business sector, logical and strategic planning is essential – and if that requires the help of an online marketing agency, then it’s worth talking to one now.