2023: Hang on for the ride!

There’s nothing like an economic crisis to make marketers earn their keep – Ashgrove Marketing’s Terry van Rhyn offers some advice to keep the show on the road in the coming year

It’s traditional in January to look to the year ahead – although in a fast-paced industry like marketing there is always a danger that one’s observations are out of date at the end of January, never mind December!

With things changing so rapidly in the world, businesses constantly need to figure out how their product or service will be affected by these ever-shifting micro and macro factors in a very fickle marketplace.

Marketing plans and business plans are in need of constant tweaks and adjustments as the environment changes. I have always believed these plans are living documents and in need of ongoing attention, not just every few years when there is someone in charge with a new broom, or at the start of a calendar or financial year.

In the nimbler SME environment, these adjustments can be identified and implemented more rapidly than in the case of larger organisations. Early adopters of change typically have the advantage over their competitors who are slower to react. The latter is normally due to either not reading the signals correctly and in a timely fashion or simply being resistant to change for one reason or another.

The past year has been tough for everyone. Coming out of lockdown followed in quick succession by the war in Ukraine has led to the current economic crisis and the ever-looming potential of a backbreaking recession. The media is not helping by “promoting” the recession at every opportunity, but even without that we will see many industries and businesses suffer under the weight of ever-increasing cost of living.

The consumer drives any future trends, and it is up to businesses and brands to adjust and adapt accordingly. Five things on my to-do list for 2023 are:

Be happy – customer satisfaction and creating or maintaining trust will always be the most important element of any shift in trends. More than ever before, your customer needs to be at the centre of everything you do.

Define what drives customer trust in your market environment and half the battle is won. Once you understand this, you should be able to articulate how you meet it in a compelling and believable manner. Customer trust is not a trend in itself – it should be ingrained in your business DNA as standard operating procedure – but it’s important to think about this with every new step you take.

It’s all about me” – personalisation is closely linked to customer satisfaction. It requires a focussed effort to custom-fit your brand marketing efforts to enhance your customers’ experiences. Using various data analytics and insights to your advantage is key to success.

We all want to believe that sharing personal data will result in more relevant and tailored engagement with brands and products. The more the messaging feels like it is talking to you as an individual, the better.

There is a lot of data out there you can gather from various channels, but it’s extremely tricky to analyse the information so that your marketing messages adds value – don’t be tempted to rush to any initial conclusions.

Keep the lights on” – as we all know marketing budgets are the first to be trimmed down during troubled economic times. I’ve been an active advocate over the decades of not falling into this trap. It’s better to be more selective in how you market rather than to go completely dark.

It’s hard to say at present if we are looking at a short or long-term economic crisis but, either way, assessing and adjusting your marketing priorities and employing a surgical and targeted approach will help with efficiencies while, at the same time, being more effective.

Take care of the basics and make your budget work hard to generate value and deliver to the bottom line.

Show me” – good content will be ever more important in 2023. The increasing use of video content is very apparent and the results are there to justify it. Channels like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube are extremely compelling as storytelling mediums.

Podcasting is also gaining popularity as a way for organisations to distribute their content and, in conjunction with influencers, you can kick it up a notch and increase brand awareness to a wider, but still relevant audience.

One interesting development is how businesses are using “behind-the-scenes” livestreaming or video as a way to enhance a deeper personal connection with their customers.

Easybreezy” – as a concept, “omnichannel marketing” is essentially an integrated marketing plan that employ various channels at the same time to make the user journey as seamless as possible. As a customer moves from social media to traditional advertisement to your website or online shop, the experience should be natural and easy flowing, not clunky and awkward.

As marketing people, you need to tap into your own experiences as a consumer. You instinctively know how you would like to be treated or what it feels like when things go smoothly during a transaction or interaction with a brand. Apply these same principles in your own business to improve and enhance the customer journey.

In summary, I could quite easily have made this list longer but my underlying advice during these troubled times is to keep things simple. In attempting to do so, you will realise very quickly that it is way more complicated and difficult to simplify.

Take the time to plan and focus only on those things that will contribute a positive financial return on your marketing investment. A happy and prosperous 2023 to you!