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CMO Pitfall: Ending the Year with a Bang!

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Author: Mark Nardone, Chief Marketing Officer at PAN Communications, headshot
Mark NardoneChief Marketing Officer

Q4 is upon us and marketers are challenged with a strong close to fuel the 2018 momentum engine. As with all integrated programs, the customer is king and building out an engaging experience is essential for your brand. While you’re measuring annual goal achievements, you should also be ensuring you are well prepared for the next year’s challenges and opportunities. Now is the time to focus, analyze and realign marketing strategies to company goals.

So, how can your team best prioritize these efforts leading up to the end of the year push? Below are four key activities to execute as you close out your marketing year.

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1. AUDIT & ASSESS. Marketing accountability, the ability to measure the marketing organizations’ contribution to enterprise value, remains one of the core elements that CMOs should be bringing to the table, as it ensures that an organization achieves their yearly growth objectives. Challenge your marketing team to look back at your measurement, analytics and insights from the first three quarters. How far are you from reaching your annual goals around awareness, MQLs, engagement and revenue? Now is the time to evaluate your programs and identify the ones helping you drive impact while replacing programs that yielded minimal results. Remember, Q4 must end strong.

As you begin the review, ask these hard-hitting questions:

  • Based on analytics, should you be spending more money or time on paid, earned, owned or shared?
  • Is your content resonating across these channels? Do you see good traffic coming from these campaigns with improved engagement?
  • Make the tough decisions. What should we STOP doing and where can we make the big push or investment to finish out the year strong and hit our marketing goals?

2. LEVERAGE EXISTING INVESTMENTS. The fourth quarter is typically strong for events and brand awareness. Is your team set up for success? Think creatively about your next, and potentially last, event of the year. Make the most of your investment with other assets – social amplification, videos, email campaigns, blogs, podcasts. This strategy doesn’t just apply to the day-of; leverage existing marketing functions to capture demand gen and ensure a cohesive message.

For example, your regional marketing efforts might be in need of that extra push. Location-based marketing has come a long way, just this year alone via personalization. Take advantage of this to get in front of the right customers with value. Use your last quarter to finish any anchor programs and take ownership of the customer experience by building a strong advocacy bench for 2018.  This will provide tremendous lift in your marketing efforts next year.

3. DON’T SIT ON A STALE STORY. Your brand’s story and messaging are both big components to the success of your marketing programs. However, these are often neglected and are rarely re-assessed. Today’s marketers need to stay tuned into their customer’s path and consider activating micro-moments of content along the way. If you’re a B2B tech marketer, keep in mind that your prospects are trying to meet their own year-end objectives. They’re going to make smart technology purchasing decisions to use up their yearly budget. Ensure this is reflected in your messaging. Acknowledge and make a statement about year-end pain points. Your customers are most likely ready to take action and solve problems that they’ve been struggling with all year round. Narrow down their purchasing decisions by being informative, empathetic, timely and relatable. This will drive them further down the funnel and make them more interested in a purchase.

4. PLAN FOR 2018. While you and your team might be focusing on finishing the year out strong, don’t neglect planning for 2018 – especially Q1 and Q2. What have you learned this year through your audits, assessments and analysis that you can apply moving forward? What programs and failures can you learn from to either improve or not repeat? Your marketing resources and money needs to be headed in the right direction to start the year off on the right foot.

Start thinking about programs that may have been lacking or are potentially non-existent. Have you started an influencer program yet? Have you implemented your employee advocacy initiatives? What martech tools do you need to invest in to help streamline these efforts? I then challenge you and your team to look at current programs that need to be amplified come 2018. How is your pace and quality of content? Is your brand engaging on all the right channels? Do you need to step up personalization and segmentation in email campaigns and workflows?

Once you have a plan and you’ve acknowledged your priorities, set attainable goals. Perhaps your team just doesn’t have the bandwidth to take on all of these initiatives. If you have come to this cross-road, I encourage you to look at options that don’t stifle your marketing goals. Investigate some outsourcing options or integrated agency packages. Remember to: Set. Measure. Attain. when it comes to your goals, and most importantly, be agile as a team so that you can make necessary adjustments in your strategies.

As you embark on a search for better ways to leverage your investments and to re-vitalize your brand’s story and messaging, take the time to be critical of your marketing initiatives. Speak to other marketers in your industry and find out if there are new ways to tackle old problems. As you continue to strive for maximum marketing accountability, keep measurement and communication top of mind all the way through.

What do you feel is your biggest marketing challenge heading into 2018? For us – looking for better ways to capture the employee passion and customer experience across our brand. Give me a shout @MarkCNardone to continue the convo.

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