5 Red Flags that Mean it’s Time to Change Up Your Marketing

Once you find a marketing plan that works (or that you’re comfortable with), it can be hard to consider anything else. Some businesses don’t even make it that far. Instead, they identify what needs to get done in that moment in time and then move on to the next emergency, never finding their stride with a well planned marketing strategy.

Either way, continuing to do what you’ve always done can lead you to a marketing rut.  And when you’re there, it can cause some serious damage to your business.

There’s a quote that you’ve probably heard before:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
– Albert Einstein

Effective marketing can be hard to achieve, but results are even harder to attain when you repeat the same marketing mistakes again and again.

A small business might see the benefit of running action campaigns to push a new product, but maybe they don’t think branding or a website are important or even necessary. When properly designed, action campaigns can be helpful to drive immediate sales, but both branding and a website are critical to enabling long-term growth.

Think about a local restaurant that sees decent business thanks to its direct mail marketing. If things are going well enough, it may seem like adding radio or digital ads is unnecessary—it’s extra budget and a risk they don’t think they need to take. However, a well executed expansion of their marketing that stays on budget could turn decent business into great business, and even build on the existing marketing expenditures.

How Do You Know if You’re Stuck in an “Insane” Approach to Marketing?

First and foremost, ensure that you’re making your marketing decisions based on solid data. If you don’t have the tools in place to measure results, identify trends, and really understand your customers, then you’re going to have a hard time developing a meaningful strategy that’s designed to generate a return on investment.

Next, you can review this list of red flags to help you determine whether your marketing is stalling out.

Red Flag #1: Sales Are Down

Be sure that you’re looking at different aspects of sales, including new sales, sales volume, and average sale value. If sales are dipping, you may not be reaching your target audience anymore, or your message and creative may be failing to build a connection and spur action.

Red Flag #2: Traffic Is Slow

It’s hard to convert a visitor into a paying customer if they’re not coming to your business. This will look different depending on your industry and store format. For one business, it may refer to foot traffic at their brick-and-mortar location. For others, traffic could refer to web visits to their ecommerce site or calls received to start the sales process. Marketing is what brings customers to your business, and if the traffic isn’t there, it’s time to take a hard look at your strategy.

Red Flag #3: Your Customer Base Is Stagnant

Is the traffic coming in from long-term, loyal customers? If you have regular traffic and steady sales but lack new customers or referrals, then your marketing is still failing you. Alternatively, if all of your customers are new customers making small, one-time purchases and you aren’t retaining them or seeing any referrals, then you may have a different but equally dangerous flaw in your marketing, such as not reaching your target audience or not leveraging remarketing and incentivizing referrals.

Red Flag #4: Your Marketing Strategy Has Dust on It

Perhaps you’ve invested in market research and developed a winning marketing strategy—but you’re still not seeing results. The question then becomes, are you actually adhering to the strategy you built? Do you have processes in place to ensure that the strategy is being used, and to adjust it if it isn’t working the way it should? Your strategy is only as strong as your dedication and commitment to following it and making it work for your business.

Red Flag #5: Your Marketing Strategy Hasn’t Changed Since 2008… or Earlier

It can be a hard truth to learn that the market changes quickly. What customers need, which channels they use, and even the way they want businesses to speak to them changes radically as new technologies continue to develop. In 2008, most businesses were concerned about how to market to customers during a recession, and social media marketing and SMS marketing had yet to fully gain traction. A strategy developed then isn’t going to consider all the channels currently available or the best practices required to adhere to modern regulations. Plus, Millennials didn’t have the purchasing power they do now, and Gen Z wasn’t even on the horizon as a spending power. The older your strategy is, the less likely it will be to maintain the results your business needs.

Red Flag #6: Your Marketing Choices are Based on What Everyone Else in Your Industry is Doing (or Simply What You’ve Always Done)

For some industries, this is really obvious. Many home improvement companies have a hard time moving away from the Yellow Pages, even though they don’t have the evidence to prove it’s working. Or maybe it is working, but they’re stuck in investing only in that medium because it’s all they’ve ever known.

Just because others in your industry are doing one type of advertising, that doesn’t mean you have to. Thinking outside the norm might actually be to your benefit because you won’t be battling for attention with all of your competitors in one place.

Tips for Taking the Leap

If those red flags sound familiar, then it might be time to change up your marketing. Yes, it may be a risk, but not being agile is an even greater risk.

The tips laid out below will help to ensure you develop a smart strategy to meet your needs.

  • Uncover Your Goals. You need to understand the aspects of your business and marketing that you want to change before you can make that change happen. Your overall strategy needs to align with your overall business goals, and campaign goals need to align with benchmarks that achieve that. How you approach improving brand awareness won’t be the same way that you approach improving sales, but a holistic strategy needs to take both into account.
  • Make a Commitment. If you’re serious about giving your marketing a fresh start, you need to treat it like a business imperative—and so does your staff. Change cannot be achieved passively. It requires active effort, teamwork, and solid leadership.
  • Brainstorm. It’s time to think outside the box. That means involving your whole team, along with staff outside the marketing department (within reason). This can help fuel excitement about breathing new life into your marketing and your business. Remember that brainstorming sessions should inspire creativity, and everyone in the session should be treated as equals to ensure all ideas can be heard. Focus on quantity, not quality—the good ideas will emerge from the mix, but strive for a long list to start.
  • Leverage a Media Partner. You don’t have to be in this alone. Bringing in a media partner means bringing in a team of experts that already understand how to identify target audiences and keep up with evolving best practices. They can help determine the best channels to use and develop winning creative to meet your goals.

When it comes to marketing, the definition of insanity is realizing your business is in a rut and choosing not to change up your marketing in hopes that trying the same thing again will work. Effective marketing is too important for your business to let a stale strategy weigh you down or cost you ROI. Put the tips we’ve shared to use to refresh your strategy.

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