Bounce Forward – A Guide to Professional Services Resilience in 2021

Bounce Back Forward – A Guide to Professional Services Resilience in 2021

Professional services marketers are at a pivotal time in the development of their businesses. A global pandemic divided their worlds into “before” and “after,” challenged them, and ultimately revealed strengths they may not have known they had. But now come the most significant tests of all: To recognize what will go back to the way it was, identify what may be changed forever, and take the right action to accelerate their businesses – and those of their clients – into a successful future.

At Relish Marketing, our years of supporting law, consulting, IT services, and accounting firms with integrated marketing, external branding, employer branding, and digital experiences have given us perspectives that can help. That’s why we created BOUNCE FORWARD: The E-Guide to Professional Services Resilience in 2021 – including insights into the trends and microtrends driving what’s next for businesses and six action items to help you make the most of them.

Bounce Forward – A Guide to Professional Services Resilience in 2021

Rebuilding Trust: 3 Critical Senior Living Trends + 6 Tactics to Address Them

Rebuilding Trust: 3 Critical Senior Living Trends + 6 Tactics to Address Them

Senior living marketers are in a remarkable position right now. Senior communities and senior serving organizations experienced some of the first and most devastating COVID-19 outbreaks, but they also were among the first to rethink processes and accelerate innovations in everything from engagement to safety and security. Now, however, senior community marketing leaders must face the challenge to reestablish confidence and rebuild trust. It won’t be easy – but knowing three critical trends can ease the path to success.

At Relish Marketing, our years of supporting senior living sales and marketing teams, as well as senior-serving organizations with integrated marketing, external branding, employer branding and digital experiences have given us some critical perspectives that can help. That’s why we created REBUILDING TRUST: An e-Guide for Senior Living Marketers – including insights into three trends essential to rebuilding trust and six tactics to help you address them.

Virtual Events

Project Spotlight: Digital is Here to Stay

How the Lenbrook Senior Living Community Transitioned to Virtual Events for Marketing Results

Rochelle Valsaint
Manager of Brand and Communications
Lenbrook Senior Living

The trend toward virtual events and online meetings is everywhere – even where people didn’t seem ready to adapt to digital experiences. Lenbrook, a senior living community in Atlanta, Georgia, had not tried to engage their primary target audience of seniors with many new media efforts. But as Lenbrook has transitioned from in-person to virtual events, they’ve found new success. They've matched previous attendance metrics and found new ways to continue the marketing conversation with prospects.

We recently sat down with Lenbrook’s Manager of Brand and Communications, Rochelle Valsaint, to discuss Lenbrook's embrace of digital experiences and how their success will help carry their marketing past today’s limitations into the future.


Relish Marketing: Let’s start with the basics. What kind of marketing events did Lenbrook host for prospective residents before the pandemic?

Rochelle Valsaint: Before the pandemic, we would hold two or three in-person events per quarter. At most of them, we would provide lunch, bring in speakers to discuss specific topics related to senior living and create opportunities for prospects to meet residents. We’d have as many as 50 attendees at each. They were great ways to connect people with Lenbrook.

RM:     How did COVID-19 force a change?

RV:      We had been talking about ways to do online versions of our luncheon events even before the pandemic. Then, it became clear that COVID-19 would keep us from bringing people here in person. So, we canceled our March 2020 event. Additionally, we went from talking about virtual events to actually exploring available technologies and producing them. We chose the GoToWebinar platform because of its security strengths. And, with the support of Relish Marketing, we produced our first event in June of 2020.

RM:     What stands out for you about the process of pivoting to that virtual format?

RV:      Looking back, it was an exciting time that pushed us into a direction we needed to go with our digital marketing and experiences! We worked closely with Relish to make the invitation easy to read and follow, no matter how people might read it. We were strategic about scheduling communications and using our RSVP platform to strengthen our connection to our audience, as well as track responses.

Internally, we had to get everyone from the branding and marketing team to residence advisors and sales on the same page about how everyone would use the technology. We also needed to align on how the virtual format would affect things like the way we follow up on leads.

RM:     Can you talk a bit about lessons learned?

RV:      Oh, we definitely learned some lessons. For instance, we learned that today’s seniors - Baby Boomers, especially - are used to tech in a way that previous generations weren’t. Their adult children and grandchildren are very tech-savvy, which motivates seniors to learn new platforms that can help them stay connected and in touch. With that in mind, we saw good reasons to raise our digital marketing efforts to new levels.

We also learned that postal mail gives us better results with some audiences and email delivers better results with others. But an integrated, multiple touch approach can deliver even more. The more deeply in conversation we are with a prospect – across multiple media – the greater the response.

RM:     How have you found producing a digital event different from in-person events?

RV:      They are completely different. In-person means determining food, inviting people to a luncheon, arranging seating, inviting speakers to cover a topic as people eat, and maybe conducting a tour.

Digital events are more of an actual production. We've pre-recorded tour content that’s closer in tone to an HGTV style walk through. We record panel discussions. There’s a whole editing process involved, combining prerecorded content with opportunities for people to feel like they’re participating in something live. But we can also have more attendees. Initially, there was concern that shifting from in-person to virtual experiences might cause a drop in interest and attendance. But we've seen no such decreases. In fact, in some cases, we've even seen increases.

RM:     Do you see this type of event continuing to be part of your marketing, going forward?

RV:      Let me put it this way – digital experiences are here to stay. Even as we have more in-person events, following up with virtual content and virtual events, can only be helpful. In-person events may be more social. But virtual events provide another form of education and engagement that’s simply easier for our prospects. Virtual events are also helping us capture how attendees feel, while they’re still feeling it. We didn’t get that feedback from physical events, even though we handed out surveys.

That said, I don’t think that it’s an either-or kind of thing. Virtual events will continue to give our residency counselors a powerful way to connect with people who don’t attend in person – for any reason. And, the content we produce can continue to support our customers’ journeys. For instance, right now, we’re editing our virtual event about the myths of moving to senior living into searchable pieces that address each misconception individually. The combination of virtual and in-person can only deliver advantages.

RM:     What advice do you have for other marketers looking to transition to digital events?

RV:      First, I’d say that just because virtual events are faster for your audience that doesn’t make them faster for you. Making a virtual event feel seamless requires more energy up front, not less. You still need strategic timelines and strategic thinking to produce something great.

I’d also tell people to work with great partners. Relish’s guidance was invaluable to our ability to execute. Knowing what was required for a successful virtual event, designing for digital and working with our digital team to execute. What it would look like, how it would work and how we would measure success – that was critical to our success.

The senior-serving world has been slow to shift to more digital experiences. But this very challenging time reminded us that we can stay smart and stay aware of what’s possible going forward. If we can stay on our toes, this is a very exciting time for marketers!

Whether you are already taking full advantage of everything that virtual events and meetings can offer or you’re still figuring out the basics, talk with the Relish team about the best ways to make digital experiences work for your business.



Mid-year pivot

Mid-Year Pivoting in the Era of WTF?

To say that 2020 has thrown everyone a curveball is a massive understatement.  Global pandemic. Nationwide protests and demonstrations. Political divisiveness. None of it is simple, but one thing is sure: everyone has been and will continue to be impacted. That includes you, your team members, your customers, and your partners.  And, if you aren’t driving your marketing strategy and communications to a mid-year pivot, you probably need to be. The question, of course, is how to do it.

Under normal circumstances, a mid-year brand strategy audit requires marketers and other business leaders to ask some fundamental questions: What did we plan to achieve this year? Are our results on track with the marketing strategy? If not, why not? And how should we adjust what we’re doing in response?

Today, however, those questions and their answers need to be addressed in five essential ways:

  1. Respond to the obvious. There isn’t a corner of the world untouched by COVID-19. Protests and demonstrations against racism are in every state of the U.S. To attempt “business as usual” could be insensitive at best and might severely marginalize you in your marketplace. Take steps to make sure that your actions and your communications recognize what everyone is going through – from your customers and partners to your employees.
  1. Get beyond the obvious. Telling your audiences, “We’re all in this together” and “We care” will only get you so far. If your business is taking a stand, say so. If you’re changing the way you do business to better serve customers – from holding meetings via teleconference and forwarding office phones to employees at home to compensating customers for order cancellations and postponements – say so. If you’re having trouble getting materials and components from overseas or delivering products on time, tell your customers. They’d rather understand what’s going on and adjust than be unexpectedly disappointed.
  1. Avoid assumptions. You may think you know what other people are going through. But it would be a mistake to allow your experiences to inform how you perceive anyone else’s. You may have many things in common with your employees, partners and customers, but that doesn't mean that your experiences are the same. Do the research – whether through analyzing trends, conducting surveys or simply picking up the phone to ask the questions, “How are you doing through all this?” and “What do you need?”
  1. Listen. Listen. Take great care to do your research with an open mind. People may not want to tell you hard truths for fear of offending you, or simply because they don’t want to reveal an embarrassing or private situation. More likely, they may try to share important information that your personal biases may not allow you to understand. Be aware of your expectations so that when you learn something that doesn't match them, you can explore it, rather than dismissing it as irrelevant. Then, from there, you can explore and determine if and how your business can help.
  1. Balance comfort with courage. Let’s say that your research reveals that the way you have always done business is out of alignment with your customers' current needs. One approach would be to assume that an imminent return to normal will correct the misalignment. But what if you could meet your customers where they are with what they need? It might take a bold shift in strategy. And, if everything in your market stays the same, that bold shift might be what allows your business to stand out and succeed in ways you might never have considered before.

We would be remiss if we didn't remind you that this is our wheelhouse, from brand evaluation, planning and metrics to responding to the unexpected. 2020 may wind up being the year that divides many businesses into “before” and “after.” But the right approach to addressing the “right now” may give your business what it needs to ensure success well after current stressors are behind us.

6 Ways to Help Manage Project Timelines

Marketing Through the Pandemic? 6 Ways to Help Your Agency Work Faster

“How long will this take?” It’s a fair question that we expect all our clients to ask – especially now, as so many businesses are marketing at light speed through the COVID-19 pandemic. Under normal circumstances, we design integrated marketing strategies and project timelines with interconnected components that must work in the context of multiple scheduled industry events, corporate meetings, planned product releases, programs and promotions. Many such plans are being delayed or canceled – but until those changes are confirmed, our clients must be prepared to go on as planned and to be ready to respond to shifts with alternative communications. Likewise, many businesses must suddenly adapt strategic communications programs to online only and virtual meeting formats – which means altering existing communications tactics and stepping up creative workflow.

In short: coronavirus crisis or no, project delays can throw your entire marketing plan off schedule.

Here at Relish Marketing, we aim to pre-empt the “How long will this take?” question by building marketing schedules and communicating timelines based on:

  • Known corporate and industry goals, plans, trends and events
  • Our experiences working on similar programs and projects
  • Our knowledge of the client’s teams and work processes

It’s an approach that should enable any marketing team to balance its workload and workflow with the critical needs of multiple clients – even in stressful times. Even so, some circumstances can jeopardize the schedules of even the most organized, well-planned projects.

What Slows Projects Down?

Successful agencies know how to work rapidly and efficiently enough to stay ahead of deadlines. But project bottlenecks still can develop when a project hits a milestone requiring feedback. You send in your comments and corrections on time. But if you’re not the only person involved in providing that feedback, one of these scenarios might happen:

  • You forward each stakeholder’s feedback individually, as it comes in, which requires the agency to compare similar revisions and make changes multiple times.
  • Most of your reviewers know how to use the build-in revision tools in Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat – but others mimic those changes by using strikethrough, underline and text-color formatting. Or, they write in changes by hand and send them as a scan or fax.
  • You consolidate all edits in one PDF or Word file without resolving contradictory feedback. Unless the agency is privy to your company's internal politics, they won’t know how to determine whose comments and revisions carry the most weight.
  • Some reviewers reach out directly to the agency with feedback that you may never see.
  • Midway through the overall project, new people need to join the review team – and bring totally new perspectives to the table.
  • Someone – maybe a senior executive conducting “final” review – re-opens issues that were previously resolved or even forced a complete change in project scope.

Sound familiar? If so, we understand. It can happen anywhere, even with highly productive teams and talented leadership. But – good news – there are ways to limit unnecessary delays and keep your marketing programs and projects on schedule.

You Can Drive Your Agency’s Productivity Higher. Here’s How.

We know that internal dynamics and politics happen. And there will always be some people who won’t get their feedback in on time. Those are things you probably can’t change. But here are six things you can do – which will go a long way toward keeping your agency projects on track:

  1. Define one point of contact. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s someone else on your team, but that person should be responsible for requesting, collecting, consolidating and providing clear feedback to your agency. Make all your stakeholders know that this is your role. And empower your agency to keep you in the loop when anyone else goes around you to contact them directly with feedback.
  2. Manage your busiest stakeholders. If a project matters to one or more high-level executives, you have to perform a delicate balancing act. They don't have the bandwidth to review every little content point or design decision as it comes up – and you shouldn't expect them to do so. At the same time, if the project goes too far without their review and input, they may be surprised by wording, images or even due dates that don’t match their expectations. And that can derail a project. Define the critical junctures when their input will be necessary, and keep them informed, even as you help to protect their time.
  3. Set internal deadlines in advance of the ones you establish with your agency. Remind internal stakeholders when those deadlines are coming up. And don’t be afraid to communicate how late feedback may have financial repercussions (in the form of out-of-scope revision rounds or rush charges).
  4. Use Microsoft’s and Adobe Acrobat’s review tools. Microsoft’s commenting and track-changes tools and Adobe Acrobat’s annotation tools offer a great way to clearly show recommended changes and share questions, observations and explanations. It's worth taking the time to provide a "lunch and learn" or quick review session to make sure everyone knows when and how to use these tools as fully as possible.
  5. Use the “Compare” tools in both Adobe Acrobat and the Microsoft suite to combine recommendations and comments from multiple stakeholders, when they don’t work on one common file together.
  6. Avoid holdups due to conflicting feedback. Review all the comments before sharing them with your agency. Work with your stakeholders to resolve conflicts and help your agency understand which revisions take precedence over others. And, if you can't do that – maybe multiple points are valid, or the weaker idea comes from someone too high in your organization to ignore – ask your agency for help. They may recognize opportunities to craft a creative solution that makes everyone happy.

Of course, sometimes, the problem is within the agency. It could be a matter of productivity (someone isn't doing timely, quality work). Or maybe it’s a project management issue (agreeing to do work within an unrealistic timeframe). There could be a communications problem (in which they fail to tell you about issues that may impact deadlines promptly). If any of those are the case, you might need a new agency.

Generally speaking, however, the six recommendations above will help you deliver better, clearer feedback and direction to your marketing partners. You'll go a long way toward keeping projects on schedule. Oh - and side benefit – your agency will love you for it.


How to Set Your 2020 Marketing Goals

A 5-step process for leaders of corporate, product and employer brands

Fall always seems like the right time for new beginnings. For some of us, it goes back to the “fresh start” of a still-new school year. Maybe it’s the feeling of crisp cool breezes and brightly colored leaves, or the smell of all those “pumpkin spices” at the coffee shop. And, it’s definitely the time to set your 2020 marketing goals and plan for the coming year. Which sounds great in concept, but doing it is another matter. Is there a best way to set marketing goals? How should you even get started?

Here at Relish Marketing, we’ve got your back, with a proven, five-step process for setting marketing goals that connect to measurable results.

1. Align with Strategic Objectives

It’s likely that your corporate leadership has given you a head start with strategic business objectives. They probably have been asking questions having to do with historical performance and necessary next steps for the future. And, that’s the right place to start when you’re developing the coming year’s marketing goals. Look carefully at those objectives and determine how marketing can best support them.

 2. Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs measure how – and how well – you achieve your objectives. So, if the objective is to improve sales by 50 percent, look at your past lead generation and conversion stats. Consider what your top competitors have been doing and follow industry research aggregators, so you can see how you compare to the rest of your industry.  To what extent should you seek to improve the number of leads you generate and convert? And to what extent will you aim to improve the rates at which those leads are generated and converted? Likewise, if your goal is to strengthen your workforce, define KPIs around the number of qualified applicants you attract in each job category, the rate at which applicants become hires, and the cost of hiring. Either way, define those metrics.

3. Identify Tactics and Deliverables (plus what you’ll need to complete them)

For each KPI, determine what marketing tactics will best accomplish the desired results. Ask yourself: Who are the audiences for each one of your marketing efforts – and what channels will best reach them? What deliverables will you need to support each tactic? And what resources will be required to activate each one? Consider costs – both in the context of what you can afford to do and in terms of likely returns on investment (AKA what you can’t afford not to do). What should your team tackle in house, and what may make more sense to do with an outside partner? This part of the process is what turns specific goals into tangible ways to achieve them.

 4. Prioritize Activation

It would be great if prioritization were simply a matter of organizing your tactics and deliverables according to high, medium and low business priorities. And make no mistake, that scale is important. But you should also sort that same list according to other criteria. Determine what must get done immediately, within the next six months, and by the end of the year. Then sort it yet again on a continuum of ease. That is, which activities are "low hanging fruit" that you can address quickly and easily? And which ones will require more time and effort? Finally, consider dependencies – what projects must be completed before other projects can begin? Look at your tactics and deliverables through all of these lenses. That perspective will help you position your goals to generate as much success as possible.

5. Put it All Together

Armed with all this information, you should be able to set your 2020 marketing goals, including strategies, tactics, deliverables, audiences, responsibilities for your internal and external teams, and budgeting for each. It almost doesn't matter whether you use a detailed time management program or just a simple spreadsheet. Having everything delineated and scheduled for all partners to see makes it easier to get buy-in, track progress and ensure accountability.

Does it still feel a bit daunting? If so, you’re probably doing it right. But you don’t have to do it alone. Full disclosure: This is the process we at Relish Marketing follow to help our clients develop their corporate, product and employer brand marketing plans. But even if you’re tackling this process internally, we’re genuinely happy to help you do it. Email us as you work through thoughts, ideas and concerns. For instance, are you seeing prices for strategic, creative and production work that seem unusually high or low? We deal with these numbers every day. Go ahead and ask us if they're on target. We can tell you if they are – and if they're not, we can help you determine what questions you should be asking about them.

Either way, the time is now to set your marketing goals for 2020. So, grab yourself a coffee (pumpkin spice optional) and get started.


Website metrics

Beyond the Clicks: How to Get More from Your Website Metrics

When you measure website traffic, you probably measure clicks. That is, how many people are visiting key pages on your website and how they are getting there. Or, maybe, you’re looking at the Pay-Per-Click (PPC) costs of your online advertising. Either way, you’re right to measure these things because they can tell you about traffic to your website. But are these website metrics enough?

Probably not. Especially when a deep dive into Google Analytics and other tools can reveal:

  • Who is engaging with your site and how – through commenting and sharing, enlarging photos and watching videos
  • How multiple social media and advertising channels do – and do not – attract site visitors
  • Which social, organic search, paid search and other online touchpoints drive first visits, engaged visits and conversions on your website
  • How these insights should be interpreted to optimize marketing efforts

That’s a lot of detailed information – and it isn’t readily available to most individual marketing directors, consultants, strategists and creatives. Rather, it’s available – but only if you have the knowledge, skill, experience and time necessary to mine and model the data for it, following user paths and touchpoints for different date ranges and activities. In other words – there are good reasons why finding those stats is the bread-and-butter work of digital marketing strategists (full disclosure: that’s part of my job at Relish Marketing).

Acquiring the expertise necessary to do a meaningful, deep data dive demands a long, steep learning curve – especially as analytics software and capabilities evolve. The good news, however, is that you can – and should – expand your understanding of what today’s analytics can reveal about your website performance. Armed with website metrics and perspective, you can better evaluate your marketing agency's ability to help you get the most out of your company’s digital experiences.

For instance, you should expect your marketing agency to be able to answer the kinds of questions that can help you make your online presence more productive for your business, such as:

  1. How much of a role does each of my marketing initiatives/channels play in converting site visits to leads?
  2. What are my top three user paths to conversion? When visits do not convert, where are we losing them? What is the last place users visit on our site before leaving?
  3. What optimizations and strategies can help us convert leads that are falling off?

These questions can be complicated. So, if you get answers that you don’t fully understand, don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper. Challenge your agency to help you think outside the box, partnering with you to strengthen your lead funnel. Digging deep into your digital data will be well worth the effort. And, it should help you drive better, more efficient results when you roll out new marketing campaigns and promotions.

Life at Relish: Summer Reading Picks

With the summer semi-officially kicked off, the Relish Marketing team has their summer reads queued up and ready to go. Here is what we are looking forward to reading next.

I’m looking forward to finishing Oreo by Fran Ross. I discovered it at City Lights in San Francisco last summer, but I got distracted by something else and never finished it. The book chronicles the quest of the title character - born of a black actress and a Jewish student - to find her dad who disappeared when she was a baby. It's laugh-out-loud funny and unexpectedly unconventional in its visual presentation.

I just ordered a copy of After the Miracle by Art Shamsky. I am really excited to read it, since it was my first experience with my New York Mets. It details their incredible and improbable World Series win in 1969 against the Baltimore Orioles. The book is about the players, their experiences from that season and what followed. Since these are players that are near and dear to my youth, it should bring back some awesome memories.

I just started reading Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two former Navy SEALs. They tell about what they faced, and how taking responsibility for actions also means taking responsibility for the actions of those they lead. These are lessons learned through battle experience, but the lessons are meant to be applied in business and life in general. The book was a birthday gift from my son.

Next up for me is Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi. Ostensibly, a riff on Hansel & Gretel (and I do love re-envisioned classic stories), it also looks to be about the power of creativity - particularly when it comes to creating one's own life, as well as the power of food to transport us.

This is my next read - The Pan Industrial Revolution. It talks about the transformative future of manufacturing and 3D printing and everything that comes with disrupting basically how everything in the world is made from nuts and bolts to entire skyscrapers.

I am looking forward to Iron Gold. Pierce Brown has a way of making far off science fiction universes into immersive, compelling worlds. I can't wait to read his latest tale.

I recently binged a Netflix show called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and adopted a new way of organizing my clothes from the show. I was so impressed with how it has helped me that I am eager to learn more from Marie Kondo, so I’ve purchased her book Spark Joy. The author teaches people how to declutter down to things that only spark joy.

I have just ordered Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. It is historical fiction about the real-life quest of Varian Fry to save the lives and work of Europe’s great minds, including Max Ernst and Marc Chagall, from the impending Holocaust. I love stories like this that help illuminate key points in history.

Best Digital Productivity Tools for Marketers

If you work in marketing, you probably feel bombarded by all the digital tools promising to make you more productive. And who hasn’t fallen for the charms of the so-called "best digital productivity tools"? Sometimes, there’s nothing as attractive as the possibility of being more organized, on schedule and on top of details.

But how do you know what’s right for you and your business? We’ve been asking ourselves and our clients that question. And the answer comes down to what you need your digital productivity tools to do. For instance, let’s say you need to…

Manage Projects

If you have to keep an eye on multiple projects at a time, you can probably benefit from a project management tool (e.g., Teamwork, Asana, Slack and Trello). We use Teamwork at Relish because it encourages collaboration, enables asset sharing, helps us allocate time and resources across projects, integrates with our email and billing system, and maps well to our workflow processes. Rochelle Valsaint, Brand and Communications Manager at the Lenbrook senior living community, relies on Asana for similar reasons. Regardless of the project management tool you chose, make sure it includes a calendar, a way of tracking changes between multiple collaborators, and the ability to integrate with your mission-critical applications and work processes.

Create and distribute social content

Like email and the web before it, social media has gone from novelty to an essential component of the overall communications landscape – and it must be part of any marketing strategy. Karen Wilcox, Interim Marketing Director at Taylor English, affirms, "Reporters follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter – and often, that's how they want to connect. And, the talent we represent in our entertainment area is on Instagram and Facebook.” She adds that social media is equally important for her firm’s employer branding. “Millennials are the next generation of legal associates. And if we want them to come on board, we’ve got to be on social media.” With so many different messages and audiences, Hootsuite helps Wilcox’s marketing team pre-load and schedule social posts, and better manage their time, content and cadence for posting.

You might think that the over-75 demographic isn’t on social media, but Valsaint says, “Seniors want the same things that younger generations do – to stay connected and informed, to see what their families and friends are doing, or to share adventures, like the trip to Africa one of our residents just took. There would be no way to keep our posts organized and on target if we didn’t plan ahead.” She and her team rely on Buffer to organize, schedule and post social content.

Connect with People on Your Mailing List

As prevalent as social media has become, newsletters, blogs and email are far from obsolete. Here at Relish, we use Sharpspring to help us manage and track our activity on those channels. At the same time, we’ve developed expertise in other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems ranging from Hubspot and Constant Contact to MailChimp and Salesforce because our clients use them. We’ve learned that all of these systems have different advantages. For instance, HubSpot and Salesforce are designed for large organizations with dedicated “power users” who manage List segmentation, reporting, tracking, and sophisticated content from multiple areas of the company. Other tools are simpler, allowing smaller businesses or teams to start for free (e.g., MailChimp), or pay-by-use (e.g., Constant Contact) as they learn the system’s capabilities.

Consolidate, Integrate and Keep Learning

Our Account Supervisor (and resident productivity junkie) Mia Johnson tells us, “Integration and consolidation enable automation. Consolidate tasks and content. Then integrate that with your communications, scheduling, resource management, billing, and other tools that matter to your business. The more you integrate, the more likely they are to be helpful.”

All of these tools are continually updated and improved – enabling some less expensive options to deliver powerful capabilities previously unique to the larger apps. Follow the companies whose systems interest you on social media – and consider joining one of their online user groups to stay on top of improvements that might make sense for your business.

Still not sure what digital systems make the most sense for you and your organization? Consider starting with sharable spreadsheets and documents (e.g., GoogleDrive or Microsoft OneDrive) which can offer a gateway to shared content and processes. Once you’re up and running with those, you will be able to gain a better sense of what deeper services and capabilities will make the greatest difference in your productivity.

At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward.
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Marketing budget 2019

Working on Your Marketing Budget? Here’s Some Help

What do you plan to spend on next year’s marketing?

If your answer is something like, “As little as we can get away with,” it’s probably going to cost you much more than it should. That’s because when companies don’t develop a realistic budget, one of two things tend to happen:

  1. Marketing efforts aren’t complete or consistent enough to generate results. So, not only are you out whatever money you do spend, you also lose revenues and results that could have been generated through a better focused marketing program.
  2. A flurry of last-minute marketing activity ensues, involving more outside assistance than would have been necessary with a realistic budget and plan, developed before the start of the year. Not to mention plenty of rush charges.

Sometimes, both things happen. And, we don’t like it any more than our clients do. Rushed, chaotic marketing projects are high stress, no fun, and much more expensive than they would have been with more proactive planning.

So, what should you plan to spend on next year’s marketing?

The classic rule says that everyone wants their marketing to be good, fast and inexpensive – pick any two of the three. Beyond that, we’d like to offer a few more substantial tips that have helped our clients:

Money: The amount of money you should spend on marketing depends on multiple factors, including your industry, the size of your business and what phase of growth you’re in. According to Gartner Research, most companies spend an average of 12 percent of their annual revenues on marketing (larger companies spend a little more, smaller businesses spend a little less). But this is hardly a number set in stone; companies engaged in active customer-facing and employer branding efforts often spend significantly more. So, how much should your business spend? If you followed the recommendations we outlined in the third post in this series, you’ve already identified specific goals that you want to achieve – as well as tactics to achieve them. Is this the year when you’ll update or launch a new website? Launch a new product? Hire 20 new executives? Whatever your goals, use them to measure the cost of developing materials and the support you’ll need to achieve them.

Time: How much time should it take to develop a brand update? A new website? Sales support for that new product? Employer branding activity to attract the right new talent? Clearly, these things don’t happen overnight. That said, arbitrary, long-term deadlines can be equally problematic if marketing program components can get put off while seemingly “more urgent” projects get attention – until suddenly, “plenty of time” becomes the 11th hour. Set realistic deadlines based on specific needs, then define milestones and tasks to achieve them. Likewise, do your homework to determine how long it should take to get the quality you want. A magic wand that can instantly turn ideas in your head into tangible, measurable marketing does not exist (although, if you happen to have such a thing, we need to talk right away).

Resources: Do your internal staff members have the time and ability to develop and execute every component of next year’s marketing plan without any outside help? Probably not. But many of our clients have excellent project management skills as well as the ability to supervise a budget and work with an outside creative team. Some of our clients have internal content development or graphics expertise. Ask yourself: How much of what needs to be accomplished falls within your team members’ existing responsibilities, and how much bandwidth do your people have to handle it? Determine where your in-house capabilities will be most effective and what skill sets and services can be best handled by an outside expert.

Don’t be afraid to ask for some advice from a marketing expert, either.  Most of us are pleased to offer a general sense of what you can expect to allocate for specific types of initiatives. More granular numbers usually require deeper research — but may be worth the cost of a few hours of a marketing consultant’s time. Either way, we encourage you to read our entire end-of-year Jumpstart series – including posts about brand planning, brand execution and maximizing your digital presence.

We wish you a new year full of health and prosperity – for you, as well as for your business.


At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward.
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