January 22, 2020

How To Build A Sustainable Marketing Strategy

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Tags: Marketing

The word “sustainable” gets tossed around a lot. Today, we mostly hear it in reference to sustainably sourced products or sustainable business practices. And while I am certainly thrilled that businesses are making more of an effort to reduce their environmental impact, this is not the only meaning of the word “sustainable.”

When we say something is sustainable, that means it can be maintained or continued, hopefully for a long time. Given this meaning, it occurs to me that everything should be done with sustainability in mind. That includes our marketing strategies. If we’re going to build marketing strategies that we can maintain, we’ll need to focus our attention in four areas:

  1. Fostering diversity and redundancy
  2. Not chasing fads
  3. Shunning short-termism and investing in your long term brand
  4. Accepting change and embracing a willingness to learn

Fostering diversity and redundancy

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” turns out to not just be good life advice—it’s also how we as a species have survived for as long as we have. Fostering diversity and redundancy is the first principle of ecosystem resilience, according to the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, and it has broad implications beyond ecology.

If every marketer only focused on producing content targeted at BOFU site visitors, for example, they would miss all the people just realizing they have a need, and businesses would not be around for long. Lasting and resilient systems crave diversity. Why should your marketing strategy be any different?

Let’s say you work in inbound marketing and you make content for a variety of buyer personas. To create a sustainable inbound marketing strategy, you wouldn’t only publish content on your blog. You would create white papers, ebooks, podcast episodes, and videos. Furthermore, you wouldn’t leave it up to a single piece of content to share a message. You would recycle topics across your podcast, your YouTube channel, and your blog.

But don’t stop with inbound marketing. A diverse and redundant marketing strategy is not constrained to inbound or PPC; it employs a variety of methods and channels to boost website traffic, drive more MQLs, and get more signups.

Not chasing fads

It’s important to focus on diversity and redundancy, but doing so can tempt you into thinking you can or should be everywhere at once. This is a trap, and it can quickly sabotage your marketing strategy.

But in a trending world where people react to shocking news one week and completely forget about it the next, it’s frighteningly easy to get distracted and chase fads. The recent rise of TikTok presents an interesting case study. After launching outside China in 2017, TikTok amassed millions of downloads around the world, nipping at Facebook’s heels as the fourth most downloaded app of 2018.

At first this app may have seemed like another Meerkat, but once it became clear that TikTok isn’t going away soon, businesses rushed to get in on the action. This might be a good plan for B2C companies and influencers, but if you’re a B2B company, TikTok is probably just a shiny new thing.

Also read: 6 B2C Marketing Tactics B2B Companies Should Skip

Audience differences aside, the greater risk of relying too heavily on new—and even somewhat-established—platforms in general is the lack of control you have:

  • Instagram might shift to presenting content as stories over posts
  • Twitter might ban the kind of ads you typically run
  • Medium curators might start to only distribute articles that are eligible for monetization
  • Fyre Festival might turn out to be a dumpster fire.

Sure, every method we use for marketing entails some amount of risk, but we can better estimate the risk involved with certain moves over others. Diversify, but diversify wisely.

Shunning short-termism and investing in your long term brand

Another pitfall created by our society’s short attention span is something Emotive Brand calls short-termism. Short-termism is when companies focus too heavily on growth in the short term. We usually think of attention-seeking individuals as those most likely to jump on every single trend for their five seconds of fame, but companies do this too.

via GIPHY

Sure, engaging with certain cultural conversations in ways that don’t seem gross can be valuable, but if you’re devoting big chunks of your time and effort to this approach, you’re making a mistake. In a world where everything changes constantly, there’s something reassuring and inviting about brands that stay consistent and true to themselves.

Create a strong brand identity, and use it as a litmus test for everything your company does:

  • Does this tweet match your brand voice?
  • Is this new product idea aligned with your mission statement?
  • Would this article resonate with your target audience?
  • Do the visuals on your redesigned website fit your brand values?

Accepting change and embracing a willingness to learn

I get it. Change is scary. People don’t like change. But if you want to survive in today’s competitive business landscape, you’ll have to get over that. Author Alan Deutschman puts it more bluntly: “Change or die.”

This is the paradox of building a sustainable marketing strategy. Yes, you should invest in your long term brand, but you should also recognize when your environment is shifting and adapt accordingly. This will be hard. It will require you to learn new concepts and skills. It might require you to stop doing something you’ve done for years.

Thankfully, marketers have a slew of powerful tools at their disposal for detecting big changes. Google Trends, for example, can reveal insights into interest around certain keywords or search topics. Performing a worldwide search for the term “machine learning,” there’s been a clear upward trend in interest around this term over the past five years.

Screenshot of a Google Trends graph depicting an upward trend for searches of "machine learning" over the past five years.

Google Trends works great if you search terms individually, but it’s not helpful for seeing a bigger picture. For this, it’s better to use a paid SEO tool like Ahrefs (full disclosure: we use Ahrefs at TechnologyAdvice). Using the Rank Tracker feature in Ahrefs, you can target certain relevant keywords to see how you and your competitors rank for them over time. Supplement this with a free tool like Google Search Console, and you’ll be much better prepared for when the keyword tides shift.

You may not like change, but it’s a fact. The sooner you embrace learning and openness to new approaches, the more sustainable your marketing strategy will be.

Partnering with a lead gen provider can make building a sustainable marketing strategy easier

Generating more MQLs begins with planning a solid marketing strategy. It’s easy to go wild here—that’s why it’s so important to plan with sustainability in mind. A sustainable marketing strategy can help prevent you from biting off more than you can chew, and that will make marketing, sales, and everyone else happier in the long run.

The first principle of building a sustainable marketing strategy is increasing diversity and redundancy, and partnering with a lead gen provider is a great first step towards doing that. At TechnologyAdvice, we can help you get in front of the right people at the right time through any of our lead generation programs. Contact us today to learn more about which program is right for you.