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Revenue & Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience
February 8th, 2021
For many of us, 2020 was a year to make us question everything — with a global pandemic, social unrest, and a volatile marketplace throwing every part of our lives into disarray.
Even though many challenges remain, 2021 could be a year to level set, take stock, and chart a new course forward. With a new year before us, how can we best allot our annual marketing budgets to assure we reach our business goals?
Make sure you invest in your team and invest in their training
If you proceed with these two tenets in mind, you can avoid those selling the quick fix that promises too-good-to-be-true results. If you’re ready to work for your success, here’s how Chris recommends you get started.
2020: Looking back, looking forward
John: So, 2020 was a year that threw everyone for a loop. What’s the right mindset to approach a recovery?
Chris: The right mindset is this: You've got to do the right things. It's the fundamentals that get you through tough times and set the foundation for the future.
That way, instead of peaks and valleys, you have stable growth. So, it’s all about having fundamentals in place. Be sure you're still educating buyers. Be sure you're still being relevant. Be sure you're still adding value, even though the economy might be doing some weird stuff.
John: With so much uncertainty, is now the time to wait and see?
Chris: “Wait and see” is the fastest way to die. So, if you have a bad product, you’re going to struggle in any economy — especially a volatile one. But if you have a good product, now is the time to be setting the foundation for growth by educating people.
Maybe you've got a good product that people don't know that they need. Educate people so they understand it. This way, they can realize how it will solve their problem.
John: But businesses are going to be cautious about doing things like hiring right now, right?
Chris: So here's the deal: what's going to make change happen — doing nothing or taking action?
We can either allow ourselves to be controlled and moved by circumstance, or we can take action to change whatever is in front of us right now.
John: How can an SMB best invest its marketing budget in 2021?
Chris: They need to invest it in their team. If you don’t have a team yet, you need to get one.
How should you assemble that team? You need to start with a content manager (who is actually more of a content writer at the beginning). So, you have somebody that can produce content. Then you get into a videographer. Then probably a designer/developer. Then probably a marketing leader.
The idea is that you start to build a team so that you can own and control your own assets: Your websites, the content that you produce, the videos that you produce.
The first step is getting those people on board, the second step is to train them. Even if you get someone with experience, they’ll need to learn your industry, learn your culture, and learn your playbook.
You fall short if you hire them and don’t train them. It’s got to be both together.
John: By contrast, what are the less prudent, short-term fixes that businesses might be tempted to spend marketing budget on in 2021?
Chris: Two things that come to mind for me. One is this: businesses think they need to redesign their website without thinking about a content strategy and a video strategy. You need a strategy to make that website valuable to your customers. If you think that just a refresh of your site is going to solve your problems, that's not the case. It's got to be a “whole package” approach. Again, you've got to start with the team.
The other thing is dumping money into ads without having a strategy behind it and without having a site and the tools that can actually help you establish relationships with customers and build trust.
John: So, how do businesses know the difference? How do they not get swayed by the shiny objects?
Chris: Just be cautious. If somebody promises you a whole bunch of leads right away, that's probably a red flag. If somebody promises you any kind of golden ticket or magic pill, it’s probably not right.
At the end of the day, a successful digital sales and marketing program is going to be a lot of work for your organization. It just is. What separates people that thrive from people that simply survive is that the people that thrive put in the effort and do the work. They build the team. They train the team. They get the right tools. Then, they rinse and repeat — at the right time.
Does it make sense to redo your website? Yes, but at the right time. Should you use ads? Sure, but with the right strategy.
You have to get started by building the foundation. If someone tells you otherwise, be skeptical.
Different results require different actions
John: Considering everything that's going on, is now a good time for undertaking these kinds of big initiatives?
Chris: I deal with companies of all different sizes and they're saying, “Hey, 2020 was a really rough year.” And they thought December, January were going to be better, but they weren't.
The question that I always ask is, “well, what have you done differently?”
If you’re still doing things the way you’ve always done them, then of course nothing has changed for you. If we want to see different results, we have to put in different inputs, we have to do different things. That means taking action. That means hiring the right people. That means actually looking at your company from a buyer's perspective.
What does a buyer really care about?
I think buyers do care about design, but a buyer wants to find the answer to their question. Much more than they want the sexiest design in the universe, they want an answer.
John: Is there one piece of advice you have for businesses in the first half of 2021?
Chris: For me, it’s simple: Hire the team, train the team. That’s how to really invest in your success.
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