As the winter months approach, many businesses and organizations, especially those whose products and services don’t quite fit neatly wrapped under a tree, are entering their “down season.” Outbound programs are minimized, advertising budgets are scaled back, and overall marketing activity often heads southward.
While the inclination may be to spend some time planning, reflecting on the past year or slipping into vacation mode, I implore you to resist the urge. No matter what time of year your company experiences a dormancy, please recognize that demand valleys are the perfect time to gear up for your next ROI peak.
Here are ten digital marketing programs, you and your team can enact during the so-called offseason.
1. Website Analytics Updates
If there are lingering questions about just how well your marketing operation is performing, it may be a good time to ensure you are measuring every important behavior on your website or app. Create a metrics matrix that identifies meaningful visitor/user activities and details exactly how they will be measured with your chosen analytics platform.
2. Efforts to Become Mobile Friendly
Providing a website or email experience that is optimal only for desktop users is no longer an option. Just looking at mobile email behavior, nearly 50% open email on mobile devices, and if your email does not render well on mobile devices, around 80% will simply delete it. Ouch. Utilize the offseason to ensure your site visitors and email recipients have a positive experience with your brand no matter what device they prefer.
3. Post-Hummingbird Site Alterations
The latest in a string of important Google algorithm updates is referred to as Hummingbird. The basic premise of this update perpetuates Google’s directive to site owners and SEO professionals for years: “create and promote really great content.” In fact, Google has perfected their process of ranking truly valuable resources highly that a venerated SEO practitioner recently decided to call it quits.
So what does this update truly mean for content creators? Previously we may have focused too much on developing content specifically to target a keyword. We might also have developed multiple pieces of content (pages, posts, graphics, videos, etc.) to assert consistent and repeated emphasis on a unique keyword phrase, while interlinking all those resources to one another. Now with Hummingbird, the focus is no longer on the keyword per se, it is primarily on the concept. Each piece of content must provide a unique viewpoint and act as a stand-alone resource. In essence, all content must answer a customer question. If much of your website content is really hitting the same note with different instruments, it’s likely a good idea to create some new (search optimized) tunes.
4. Content Analysis
If you are fully aware that your organization needs to develop useful, helpful and informative content for customers but have wondered just what kinds of content you should develop, it’s high time to perform a content analysis. There are a number of resources available for planning your content marketing. A sound content analysis will explore the efficacy of existing content and also identify themes popular among your audience which are ripe for the picking. Discover what assets your customers want, and put your content marketing prowess into action.
5. Editorial Calendar Development
A failure to plan is a plan to fail. In today’s marketing climate, we are all publishers and must act as such. An carefully constructed content marketing schedule will save your marketing team from continuous frustration and stop-start-stop-start behavior. Develop a content marketing editorial calendar that maps out the content you plan to produce and the methods you will use to promote and measure it.
6. Site/Landing Page/Email Testing Plans
Down time is a great time to develop testing plans. Consider what pieces of your marketing mix you can improve to increase conversion rates from search campaigns, advertising programs, email sends and your website. Typically the best place to start with a testing program is wherever your metrics are lagging. For instance, if your customer lead in-take is waning, focus testing efforts on the experience, forms and incentives related to lead generation. If your email open rates are declining, create an email marketing testing plan that gauges performance of different subject lines, from names and delivery times.
Below is a sample testing results pulled from Google Content Experiments. Just look at all the fun you could be having.
7. New Advertising Program Experimentation
If you have hesitated to try new methods of customer acquisition such as retargeting, social advertising or real-time bidding networks, use the offseason and a modest budget to venture into uncharted online media waters. Keep your ROI expectations in check, especially during a season in which customers are not typically motivated to buy. But before just throwing money at a display network, consider the audience, message, and methods to convert clicks to customers.
8. Audience Surveys & Segmentation Studies
It is truly difficult to succeed in any marketing venture if you don’t truly know your audience. You can review demographics from website and social analytics tools, you can perform user testing to get a better handle on user behaviors, or you can take the process of understanding your customers a step further. My friend, Susan Baier of Audience Audit, specializes in attitudinal segmentation studies that unveil why an individual makes a purchase decision. Use your slow season to take the necessary time to learn what motivates your customers to choose your offering.
9. Automation Implementation
Marketing automation is not just a buzzword. The ability to create systems that produce efficiencies can save time and money for your business. Think about the little tasks that you repeat every day from social media tasks to emails to checking on campaign performance to reporting. Can you create systems to handle those tasks? Don’t allow yourself or others on your marketing team to get bogged down with the small stuff in 2014. Automate now to accelerate reaction to opportunities during peak season.
Looking for a good place to start? Try automation in email marketing. Whether you plan to create and implement a welcome message post-purchase or sign-up, a sequential communication series to nurture promising leads, or reminder messages to encourage repeat buyers, use automated communication and customer profile development to your advantage.
10. Report Enhancements
If the general consensus is that your reports are completely lackluster, it may be time for a quality spit shine. First, your reporting should provide a realistic reflection of business goals. They should highlights the metrics that have the greatest impact on desired business outcomes. Update reports to streamline communication between marketing and others within the organization including leadership.
Don’t let yourself or your organization go into a period of marketing hibernation. Use your offseason to improve your marketing operations and improve your craft. What other marketing projects do you plan to undertake if in fact your business has a slow season?