Why should businesses invest in a long-term marketing strategy if they’re already seeing results from short-term campaigns? Many companies, notably smaller or younger ones, focus their marketing exclusively around driving short-term sales. However, the reality is that most of your potential customers are not in a position to buy right now. Perhaps they will be next week, next month or next year, but will they remember you? If you are only communicating in a way that appeals to the people who want to buy right now, you’re probably missing a trick.
The difference between long-term and short-term marketing strategies
Short-term marketing focuses on delivering sales information about your products and services. This communication could be provided in various ways, such as email marketing, paid search or social advertising campaigns or direct contact from your sales team. For people that want to buy right now, this information is helpful, and a sales process can be activated. However, for the many that it doesn’t resonate with at that point in time, it is disregarded.
In contrast, long-term marketing such as Public Relations is not about trying to make an immediate sale or get a direct response. Instead, it seeks to build brand awareness and consideration. This type of content could be a series of thought leadership articles, blogs, press releases or podcasts on the latest research and trends, freely shared across media platforms. Sharing your expertise via valuable content encourages your audience to spend time with your brand and develop a connection, which can often mean more loyal, long term customers. Long-term marketing is an investment for the future, where you won’t always see immediate results. But it will help you build a more robust, more sustainable pipeline through building trust and familiarity in your brand, and by creating memory structures. So, when customers are ready to buy, you immediately come to mind.
Two strategies that complement one another
“Long-term results cannot be achieved by piling short-term results on short-term results,” Peter Drucker, Post-Capitalist Society, 1993.
Extensive econometric research confirms that brands are most successful when combining long-term brand building and short-term sales activation. These two approaches work best when they are integrated, with one feeding into the other. This is true for all industry sectors.
If a short-term strategy is used alone, it is short-lived. There is no residual awareness. Your brand is quickly forgotten, and the work needs to be repeated.
As research has shown, a long-term strategy leads to long term growth. It nurtures your leads with valuable content, establishing familiarity and loyalty and creating an optimal buying environment so that when your audience is ready to make a purchase, the sales push works. As a result, the purchase risk is significantly reduced, and a higher-value customer is encouraged. Achieving this optimal balance of long-term brand building and short-term sales activity will then accelerate business growth.
A strategy for both B2B and B2C markets
In the B2B market, sales journeys are complex, and decisions take longer. So, a short-term, repetitive ‘buy now’ message can be off-putting. Instead, a softer approach of maintaining brand awareness will ensure you are front of mind when a company is ready to make a purchase decision.
Integrating short- and long-term strategies works for B2C audiences too. Consumers aren’t always thinking about your brand. By offering valuable content, you maintain engagement and nurture the buying environment for when the time is right.
How to leverage the investment of a long-term strategy
The key to the success of a long-term strategy is having a plan of action. The first step is creating a brand idea – determining your brand’s position, its role in the world and why people should care. This idea can then be brought to life via content delivered through different channels.
As content is shared, you need steps for follow-up. How will you respond to engagement and create a buying environment that might not be right now but in days, weeks or months to come? For example, brand awareness content, such as thought leadership articles, can be used as data-capture tools, encouraging your leads to sign up to download your information and receive future communication from you.
Measuring the ROI
Many businesses skew away from long-term strategies because the results are more difficult to measure. In contrast to traditional advertising, we have become accustomed to analysing clicks and interactions in today’s digital-first society.
To evaluate the value of long-term strategies, we need to take a more expansive view. How are your overall sales impacted? What is your customer retention rate? Look at trends, press coverage, correlations with website traffic, mentions and engagement with your brand. Before and after focus groups are also an effective way to measure awareness.
Furthermore, sales teams need to be determining the triggers that have motivated incoming enquiries, identifying where a lead has come from. As well as informing ROI, this exploration will then also help craft the message to aid conversions.
Making the switch
The more prolonged short-term sales activity is pursued in isolation, the harder it is to make the switch as you grow accustomed to delivering results each week. Conversely, by adopting a change in mindset and accepting that you may not see results instantly, you will be investing in the future.
Social and media channels can be used for an integrated approach of both short- and long-term strategies. Balance your short-term sales incentives with brand awareness content on social channels that requires the investment of time but not necessarily budget. Build a voice on digital platforms, consistently sharing content and offering opinions. Then, as your profile builds, the online algorithms will help ensure that the relevant audience sees your message. Later, you may choose to invest some budget in this strategy to expand your reach further.
As our Director of HeadOn PR, Verity Blake, discusses with guest Chris Moody, Founder of Mobius Strategy Limited, on The Art of PR podcast, many businesses do not have a sales problem but a buying problem. Therefore, they need to refocus on their customers and potential customers, giving them enough information about the brand for them to want or be able to buy. It takes a bold and enlightened business owner to recognise that adjustments in strategy are needed. However, by making these adjustments to an integrated long- and short-term approach, they will see bigger, better and more sustainable results.