Small And Midsized Company Marketing And Marketing Communications – Actionable Forecasts For 2018

You’ve probably been inundated recently with macro forecasts on the growth of digital media, artificial intelligence, mobile communications, videos, drones and more. But, as a small or midsize B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer, what forecasts should you actually pay attention to, and which might be used to improve your profitability and ROI?

I believe 2018 will be a bumpy ride and hope that my forecasts will smooth out the journey for you. Here goes:

Improving Marketing And Marketing Communications By Paying Attention to These

1. Considerable thought and time will be spent creating new website language to meet the explosive use of voice activated Internet searches. Voice activated searches, using “personal assistants”, accounted for twenty percent of searches in 2016 (ComScore) and are projected to reach fifty percent in 2020. Your website pages need to understand and reflect how people actually speak.

2. Greater attention to brand transparency, complete truth and face-to-face interaction with customers and prospects will take center stage. Cybersecurity breaches, as well as eroding trust in media and institutions, has led to a significant and wide spread quest for truth. Events and interactions at the point-of-purchase provide opportunities to build (or re-build) brand trust.

3. Reducing merchandise returns by e-commerce consumers will receive increased focus and require new strategies. While online sales are growing at about three times the rate of those for brick and mortar stores (in part, because of free shipping), almost one-third of e-purchases are sent back (versus nine percent for stores). As shipping is twenty to sixty-five percent of an e-retailers cost of goods (UPS), it’s all hands on deck to reduce this cost.

4. While digital marketing will continue to grow, there will have to be significant improvements made for its continued development. Consider the following:

– P&G has challenged Google, Facebook, YouTube and others to adapt safeguards against the existing fraudulent traffic reporting and inappropriate content by the end of 2017 or they will stop advertising with them; P&G has already pulled $140 million from them in 2017.

– Walmart is also no longer advertising on YouTube.

– Facebook claims it can potentially reach 101 million 18 to 34-year olds, but the Census Bureau counts only 76 million of this demographic.

– The ANA is attempting to start a six-month, $50 million pilot study with 35 marketers in a test of 30 premium online publishers to determine their actual value.

– Added to these, there have been accusations of social media kickbacks, while over 600 million consumers worldwide have ad blockers installed.

It is clear dramatic improvements must be made and made quickly.

5. As another outgrowth of the mistrust in the marketplace, employees, reps and distributors will become the new marketing communications “influencers”. Of necessity, these people will become “the brand”, and management will recognize the importance of an engaged workforce. In their quest to develop brand champions at every level, savvy leaders will foster authentic and open internal communications.

6. Although it might seem to be a throwback, direct mail will receive renewed emphasis. According to Compu-Mail, average response rates for direct mail (5.1%) is far higher than for email (0.6%), paid searches (0.6%), social media (0.4%), or online display ads (0.2%). In fact, direct mail is even stronger among millennials, with response rates of 12.4% among those aged 18 – 24. Data also suggests that direct mail is better than email for generating longer term customer engagement.

7. Bloggers will continue to be a factor, but writing longer posts, spending more time crafting them, and publishing less frequently (Orbit Media). Specifically, posts went from 808 words in 2014 to 1,142 words in 2017, with the average post taking nearly 3 ½ hours to create. The current regimen shows 3 percent posing daily, 22 percent posting weekly and the majority posting only several times a month or less often.

Changing Your Strategy, Planning And Tactics

1. Marketers will recognize that – in the face of a changing marketplace – the most important aspect of profitable growth and improved ROI is developing a meaningful marketing and marketing communications strategy. Having experimented in recent years with a vast variety of tactical resources (in large part because they’re easy to grasp), marketers have learned that, without any realistic measurement of their worth, these efforts may have been counterproductive. Putting tactics before strategy never works… “ready, fire, aim” comes to mind.

2. Marketers, in fact, will spend much more time determining whether their marketing communications tactics are working. Admitting that clicks don’t inherently lead to increased profitable revenue, they will establish strict measurement and ROI of digital marketing the same way they do with traditional marketing.

3. Beyond a focus on the efficiency of an advertising medium, considerably more thought will be built into selecting a specific medium based on consumer trust of the medium. A recent study of 1,030 consumers by Clutch showed television/broadcast video as the advertising medium most trusted (61%) and social media and online mediums as the least trusted (38% and 41%, respectively). Trust of all mediums is strongest among millennials and weakest among baby boomers.

4. There will be a focus on transitioning from a marketing specialist environment, to generalists who can integrate and lead these specialists into an ROI driven team (Korn Ferry). This will be challenging as there is a shortage of marketing talent with broad experience, leadership and capability that can gain the trust of specialists who work together for the brand and not their specialty.

Using Consultants For Improving Marketing And Marketing Communications ROI

Most probably you’ve already put a lot of hard work into developing your 2018 plan. But perhaps these forecasts have raised some questions and concerns that you may not have thought of, and perhaps you don’t have the experience, time or staff to address them. If you’re concerned about marketing, you’re not alone. In fact, Infusionsoft surveyed 1,000 small business owners and found that nearly two-thirds feel that they “don’t know if their marketing strategies work” or “know that their strategies aren’t working”. So, what can you do?

Consider tapping into an established, media neutral consultancy or person, with broad experience across industries, companies and nonprofits, both large and small, who are also willing to “tell it like it is”. Don’t settle for someone selling you one particular marketing discipline or experience in just your niche or industry. What is needed in these complicated times is not a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality, but rather a broad view of your business and opportunities.

Like trained accountants and lawyers, a marketing professional will bring you fresh eyes, apolitical candor and a disciplined approach to today’s uncertain and untrusting marketing environment. Trust is the new black, and a knowledgeable consultant can help you build a meaningful and profitable business.

But remember, “Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who put them into action are priceless.”

Vital Marketing Concepts

Marketing is nowadays a vital aspect of every business. The price of an item increases on account of marketing, but reliance on it has attained an inevitable aspect of buying/selling behavior of consumers/producers due to multiple reasons such as competitive market structures (e.g., monopolistic competition, oligopoly, and niche markets), economical communication technology, information revolution, MNCs, globalization, battle for competitive edge, and Brand Identity phenomenon. Marketing is the managerial effort through which goods/services move from producer to the consumer. The Effective Marketing is “The right product/service with right way, in the right place, at the right time, at the right price and making a profit in the process”. The American Marketing Association offers the following formal definition: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Encyclopedia Britannica defines, “Marketing is the sum of activities involved in directing the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers.” According to Kotler, the shortest definition of marketing is “meeting needs profitably”.

Marketing is required for increasing sales and achieving a sustainable market segment for product or service. Customer gets satisfaction from the product or service, entrepreneur gets profit on sale, and business achieves reputation or goodwill. Effective Marketing materializes reputed business, profitable sale, and satisfied customer. The investigation of demand behavior is focal area of marketing. Consequently, marketing has two parents, economics and psychology. Economic considerations of demand behavior are pull or visible factors while psychological leanings are push/invisible factors behind any demand behavior. A marketing effort concentrates on customers’ propensities for psychological satisfaction and designs multiple incentives of economic benefits for customers. An effective marketing approach accommodates economic rules of selling/buying and psychological tendencies of sellers/buyers. There are seven major reasons of marketing:

  • To inform about new product/service or product awareness
  • To introduce a new business or business awareness
  • To motivate/persuade someone for buying or demand creation
  • To create stable customer account or achieving customer loyalty
  • To attain Sustainable Competitive Advantage
  • To achieve reputation or Goodwill,
  • To realize Brand Equity

Marketing vs. Selling: – The aforesaid concept of effective marketing covers the full experience of a business deal between seller and buyer; however, there are two distinct aspects of effective marketing, i.e., selling and marketing. Perceptually, Sellers and Marketers are two different groups in a marketing activity. They have distinct views towards the customers. Harvard’s Theodore Levitt drew a perceptive contrast between the selling and marketing concepts: “Selling focuses on the needs of the seller; marketing on the needs of the buyer. Selling is preoccupied with the seller’s need to convert his product into cash; marketing with the idea of satisfying the needs of the customer by means of the product and the whole cluster of things associated with creating, delivering, and finally consuming it.” The strategic alignment between marketing and selling is vital for better results. “A study from App Data Room and Marketo found that sales and marketing alignment can make an organization 67% better at closing deals, reduce friction by 108%, and generate 209% more value from marketing.”

Marketing vs. Branding:-Branding is the marketing process by which a marketer or brand manager reduces a company’s reputation to a single word or phrase or design. The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors.” There is a well-known rule in marketing: “Sell what people are buying.” Similarly, the well-performing rule in branding: “Brand the attributes that people love.” An established brand creates consumer trust and emotional attachments; as a result, brands foster relationships among consumers, products and business that lead to the valuable benefits to a producer such as premium pricing, low promotion cost, loyal customer and constantly growing market share. In a nutshell, a branding effort enhances Brand Equity for sellers. Brand Equity is the brand’s power derived from the goodwill and name recognition that it has earned over time, which translates into higher sales volume and better profit margins against competing brands in the market. The vital strategic aspect of Brand Equity creation is internal branding. “Internal branding consists of managerial activities and processes that help, inform and inspire employees about brands.” In a branding effort, a marketer or an entrepreneur adopts four perspectives for an effective branding – Consumer Perspective (to ascertain desirability of product/service by multiple consumers), Company Perspective (to improve, technically and aesthetically, presentation and delivery process of product/service), Competitive Perspective (to understand and exploit differentiability/parity content of products/services with respect to competitors), and Brand Perspective (to work on creation of possible brand equity). It is noteworthy that, in branding, you create a perception of product/business while, during marketing, you motivate or persuade someone for actual buying. Branding is who you are while marketing is how you affect consumers’ decision process. More specifically, “Branding or Brand Management is a communication function in marketing that includes analysis and planning on how that brand is positioned in the market, which target public the brand is targeted at, and maintaining a desired reputation of the brand.”

Marketing vs. Advertising: – Marketing deals with multiple business efforts to realize ‘Profitable Sale’ such as market research, pricing & distribution of product/service, branding, selling and public relations. Advertising is just one component of marketing. In advertising, an entrepreneur or business communicates to the potential buyers about his/her products or services. Advertising is defined as:”Any form of communication in the paid media”. The prominent advertising mediums are, print media, electronic media and social media. Conceptually, marketing is the way or strategy to convince potential buyers that you have the right product/service for them, while, advertising is conversion of marketing strategy into specific communication media. In advertising, you tell the potential customers about the existence and availability of right product/service for them. The greatest issue of present-day advertising is Cluttering. “An Advertising Clutter refers to the excessive amount of ad messages consumers are exposed to on a daily basis.” It is vital responsibility of a marketer to manage the clutter. The clutter management means to find the right time and place to connect with target customers and to send impeccable messages to them about your business or offerings.

Marketing vs. Networking: – Networking is a systematic human interaction with fellow human beings to exchange information and opportunities. Business Networking is dynamically linked with effective marketing. Business networking is an outcome of socio-economic interactions of an entrepreneur. The networking efforts shape a business circle. It is noteworthy; a business circle is a sub-circle of a big socio-economic circle of an entrepreneur. A business cannot survive or flourish, at least with full potential, without proper interaction among all economic agents/stakeholders. Executives’ presence in a big socio-economic circle and related associations is vital to develop an effective business networking. The business networking, BtoB and BtoC, is the crucial aspect of effective marketing.

Concisely speaking, the effective marketing is combination of networking, branding, marketing, advertising and selling. The networking earmarks areas of targeted customers, branding prepares ground through shaping/reshaping of perceptions/emotions of prospective customers, advertising informs them about product/service through multiple media, marketing motivates them for buying, and selling materializes the actual profitable sale.

The Coast Is Not Clear – Signs of an Impending Major Stock Market Crash

Despite the recent correction, and regardless which popular metric you use; PE, Shiller’s CAPE Ratio, or Buffett’s Market to GDP comparison; this is one of the most expensive markets since 1923. The other two were the 1929 and 2000 markets and we know how those turned out. Incidentally, 1923 was the year the “Composite Index” was introduced, the S&P 500’s precursor.

The record shows that, while stock prices can continue at elevated levels for a long time, they eventually reverse to the mean. That can happen in one of two ways. Either the market goes sideways for a long time until earnings catch up, or there is a sharp drop to bring prices in line with historical PE ratios – a reversal to the mean. History has shown that investors are not a patient bunch. They will put up with a sideways market for a while, but eventually they will tire of meager returns and put their money to work where they believe will yield greater gain potential. Once that ball gets rolling, the market exits en masse and a severe bear market takes hold. The upshot: there is a big market drop in store.

The question is when and was this past correction a hic-up or a prelude to the big plunge. A study of major bear markets indicates the latter is more likely. Indeed, a review of 28-plus -percent market drops since 1923 reveals there is always a preamble to every major bear market. Some folks are under the mistaken impression that stock market crashes occur at market tops. That is far from the truth.

The stock market may well be fickle, but providence is kind. It always gives us advance notice of a coming crash, grabbing our attention amidst our complacency with a surprise drop and providing an opportunity to get out before it crashes in earnest. This is shown in the analysis below for each of the following major bear markets (28% decline or more): 2007, 2000, 1987, 1973, 1968, 1962, 1946, 1937, and 1929. Intraday prices and daily closes are only available for the S&P 500 from 1950 on. Therefore, Dow Jones Industrial Average closes were used for the markets before that.

2007
The initial top for the 2007 market came July 17 when the S&P 500 had an intraday high of 1555.90. The index would drop the next week and eventually settle to an intraday low of 1370.60 a month later on August 16 – a drop of 11.9%. Henceforth, all highs and lows are intraday unless otherwise stated. The market would climb for seven weeks to reach a market top for the index of 1576,09 October 11, 2007 – 1.3% higher than its previous high. An initial 5.5% dip was followed by a quick recovery to 1552.76 October 31, before succumbing and dropping 10.8% to a low of 1406.10 November 26, 2007. The index would recover to a high of 1523.57 and continue on a series of lower lows and highs until its nadir of 666.79 March 9, 2009 for a 57.7% decline.

2000
The 2000 market gave plenty of warning before the Dot.com plunge. The market faltered right after opening the New Year January 3rd. After reaching a high of 1478, the S&P 500 dropped to 1455.22 at the close. It dropped below 1400 the next three days and recovered to 1465.71 – the high January 20, 2000. From there it did a roller coaster ride down to the 1329.15 low of February 25 – a 10.1% drop from its high thus far. The market finally climaxed at 1552.87 March 24, 2000. It would drop precipitously April 14 to a low of 1339.40 – a 13.7% drop – but then slowly recovered to 1530.09 by September 1, 2000, only 1.5% below its all-time high. Thereafter it steadily went down with some sharp drops followed by rallies but only to the downtrend line. The market bottomed at 775.80 October 9, 2002 for a 50.1% decline.

1987
The 1987 bear market was a swift one. After vacillating to a high of 337.89 August 25, 1987, the S&P 500 dropped to 308.58 by September 8 – an 8.7% hit. It quickly recovered to 328.94 by October 2, only 2.6% down from its high. It wobbled to a close below 300 October 15 before crashing the next Monday to close at 224.84 – a loss of 20.5% for that day. It would close lower December 4, 1987 at 223.92 but the low point for the move came the day after the plunge, October 20, when it dipped to 216.46 for a loss of 36.0% from the August high.

1973
This, along with the 1968 bear market, were part of the mega bear market that spanned 1967 – 1982. The S&P oscillated within the 100 and 110 range for most of the year. It cleared the 110-barrier in late summer only to dip below it again before making its final surge as the year closed. It peaked at 119.79 December 12, 1972 and then dropped 4.3% to 114.63 December 21, 1972. The New Year propelled the index higher reaching a top of 121.74 January 11, 1973 – a 1.6% gain from the previous high. It quickly dropped to 111.85 by February 8 and then proceeded to careen downward over a series of bumps until hitting bottom at 60.96 October 4, 1974 – a 49.9% loss.

1968
After an initial drop to start the year, the market climbed steadily from March through November finally topping December 2, 1968 when the S&P 500 maxed out at 109.37. The index dropped to 96.63 by January 13, 1969 (an 11.6% drop), fizzled in its rally coming within 0.43 points of the low March 17, and then rallied all the way up to 106.74 May 14, 1969. After coming within 2.4% of the top it succumbed finally hitting bottom May 26, 1970 at 68.61. That was a 37.3% haircut.

1962
The stock market steadily climbed from October 1960 to December 1962 when the S&P 500 topped out at 72.64 December 12, 1962. Then it dipped to 67.55 January 24, 1963 for a 7.0% loss. The index quickly went back to 70 the next week and eked out a small gain the next month finally peaking at 71.44 March 15, 1.7% below the high. Thereafter, the index plunged to 51.35 June 25, 1962 for a 29.3% decline.

1946
The market had been on a tear since the latter part of World War II and started 1946 the same way gaining 8% by February. Intraday highs and lows for the S&P 500 were not available for the analysis so, hereafter, Dow Jones Industrial Average closes will be used. The Dow Jones closed at 206.61 February 5, 1946. The index then plunged 10% to close at 186.02 February 26. It quickly recovered its previous high and surpassed it on a bucking horse ride up to 212.5 May 29, 1946 – a 2.9% gain from its previous high. The bumpy ride continued until August when the index reached 204.52 on August 13 and then fell in exhaustion finally closing at 163.13 October 9, 1946 for a 23.2% decline. Despite a number of rally attempts, the market would continue to struggle until February 1948 with a maximum loss of 28%.

1937
After a precipitous drop from 1929 to 1932, the market seemed to be on recovery mode until it plateaued in early 1937. The Dow Jones closed at 194.4 March 10, 1937 to mark the end of the uptrend. The index then drifted lower for three months until bottoming June 14, 1937 at 165.51 for a 14.9% loss. It spent the next two months on a steady climb eventually topping at 189.34 August 16, 2.6% below the previous high. That was its last hurrah as the market plunged 49.1% to its 98.95 March 31, 1938 Dow Jones close.

1929
Much like the 2000 market, the Big Crash of ’29 gave plenty of warning. After going sideways for the first half of the year, the market went through a 10.0% correction when it swanned from a 326.16 Dow Jones close May 6 to 293.42 May 27. Thereafter, it rose undaunted until reaching the market top close of 381.17 September 3, 1929. It drifted lower, slowly at first, but then gained momentum until reaching a low point Friday, October 4 with a 325.17 Dow Jones close – a 14.7% loss. It made a mad dash effort to recover the next week but was only able to manage a 352.86 close October 10. At 7.4% lower than the September high, this was the lowest percentage close to a previous high of any of the major bear markets. Then again, this was the granddaddy of all bears. Ten trading days later, on October 24, the index closed below 300. It dived Monday, October 28 and again the next day closing at 230.07. The market continued its plummet until eventually reaching bottom July 8, 1932 when the Dow Jones closed at 41.22 for a record 89.2% decline.

Conclusion

Historical data shows that every major bear market since 1923 always provided investors with a warning. After seemingly peaking, they went through a significant decline before rising again only to plummet thereafter. In two instances, 2000 and 1929, it gave two warnings; the first a correction months before peaking, and the second after peaking.

Declines after the initial peak ranged from 14.9% to 4.3% with an average of 10.8% and a median of 11.6%. In three out of the nine cases, 2007, 1973 and 1946, the second peak was lower than the first. The range was from a loss of 7.4% to a gain of 2.9% with an average of -1.4% median of -1.7%. Taking out the 1929, 7.4% outlier, the average was -0.63% and the median -1.6%. The time between the two peaks ranged from 30 days to 5.4 months with an average of 96.7 days and a median of 93 days.

Starting from the premise we are in the beginning stages of a major bear market, and having gone through a 10% correction, what is in store for us? Surveying the data, it turns out we are average. There seemed to be no relationship between the severity of the bear market and the time lapse between the two peaks. However, five out of the six times the market went through a bonafide correction, 10% or more, it took months, between 2.9 and 5.4 months, for the market to top and begin its downturn in earnest. The notable exception was the Crash of 1929, which only took 37 days between the first and seconds peaks. Although there was no consistent pattern for depth of the initial decline and the total decline, it is notable that the four largest initial drops led to declines of 49% or more – a level only achieved by the 1973 bear market after only a 4.3% decline. There is no discernible relationship between the initial decline and second peak level, nor the total decline and second peak level.

It could be that Morgan Stanley’s prediction this Monday, that a slowdown may loom starting in the second quarter, may be correct. We have already gone above the -7.4% level from 1929, so it would seem this market does not correlate all that well to that one and the wait to the next decisive peak will be measured in months. Regardless, I would caution all to watch the market’s advance very carefully. If the S&P 500 gets within 2.6% of the 2872.87 January 26 top, i.e. 2798, that is your signal to exit the stock market. No sense being greedy about the last 1 or 2 percent gains and risk losing much more.