2011 Marketing Forecast … or 2011 Marketing Observations?

Wednesday night I attended the 2011 Marketing Forecast event at Charlotte’s Uptown EpiCentre. Although the local panel of marketing pros stopped short of sketching out key trends for the coming year, they did offer bits of useful advice. Here are some takeaways from my little black book:

  • Social media is a tool, not a toy. The “gee whiz” factor is fading, and effective marketers know that social media must be used as a business tool to justify the commitment of time and financial resources. The good news is that technology has enabled connections and relationships with customers that weren’t possible before. For example, some companies are using twitter to answer customer questions quickly – versus having people dial an 800 number and go through a frustrating phone tree.

  • Talk with customers and prospects, not at them. Whether employing social media or more traditional channels, it’s high time to engage your community with great content. Let your target market become part of your narrative. Get them to participate. Transform communication into conversation – and don’t just talk about yourself.

  • Market aggressively even if your budget is limited. Pulling back on marketing during the present economy is not the best move. As one panelist put it, “budget conservatively – market aggressively.” That said, it makes good sense to pilot ideas and understand the potential before making a bigger investment. From a resource standpoint, sharpen the focus on your core mission and bring in outside help if they can provide superior marketing expertise.

  • Creativity solves problems even when budget cannot. Be creative with what you’ve got. See what solutions your team members can come up with on their own. Maybe there’s a whole new way to tackle obstacles that stand in the way of forward progress. Examples might be creating a special event to build prospect interest and awareness – or analyzing your customer data more thoroughly to explore buying patterns and new marketing insights.

Let’s get real. A 2011 marketing forecast it’s not – but street-smart advice is always welcome.

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