Marketing Challenges in a Challenging Time

Following the Nov. 7 presentation for advertising and marketing professionals at PlexPod, a number of attendees gathered along with presenters and Ingram’s editors for the Marketing Industry Outlook assembly to reflect on how trends apply for their companies or clients in the event of an anticipated economic downturn. 

Gordon Borrell followed his earlier presentation by co-piloting that gathering with Ingram’s publisher Joe Sweeney.

Hallie Mannon of Country Club Bank fielded an opening question about how the previous session might apply to marketing strategies as a new year approaches. “One of the biggest take-aways for me is going into budget forecasting and solidifying that for 2023,” she said. With the threat of a recession on the horizon, bank officials have not declared any cuts in their ad buy yet, she said, “but we have been told to assess it for future spending.” Particularly informing, she said, were Borrell’s recommendations on ad/marketing expenditures by company revenue size.

Chelsie Fanders, vice president of marketing for Summit Homes KC, also found the guidelines increased spending interesting. “Going into a new year, for us in a level market, it’s about how can keep people coming in the door and not shy away from traditional outlets, where we didn’t spend as much in the last couple of years, and how those could be beneficial going into 2023.”

Liam O’Malley, the youngest participant  from JNA Advertising, said he was surprised to learn about the continuing relevance of traditional advertising platforms. “Coming into this industry, I expected a shift to digital, especially among younger consumers”. 

With regard to digital platforms, Shelley Porter, media director for Trozzolo Communications Group, said she appreciates the ability to connect with target markets, but is sometimes challenged to help executives from client companies understand that it’s just one piece of a larger strategy. “When clients wanted strictly digital, I had to let them see what it would do and inform them that it wouldn’t work as well without the traditional side,” she said. 

A shared concern for everyone at the table is the issue of data—the sheer volumes of it that are being created, the disjointed nature of those repositories, and the challenges of helping executives and clients understand how it can transform marketing efforts by reaching the rightr audiences.

“When I joined Midwest Health,” said Allie Ellis, the first thing I did was sit down and audit where these businesses may have hordes of data.” That can be challenging with a diversified enterprise that owns and operates golf courses, as well as 80 senior-living sites in six states. But the potential data connections were huge.

“Golf, for example, every time someone makes a tee time, we get their name and email,” Ellis said. That went into the billing system software, memberships into another silo, and expired memberships into yet another. “All these data touches were not being leveraged by marketing,” she said, but they are now.

The most frustrating thing about data, attendees agreed, is the data you’re not using. A close second was the need to follow industry-specific protocols—HIPPA as it relates to health-care providers, for example—or internet regulatory processes requiring recipient opt-in to receive communications.

Shelley Porter was surprised to hear Borrell talk about radio’s value on a CPM basis; that may be true on a national level, but the Kansas City market is considerably more expensive, she said. “This reaffirmed for me that traditional is still very important. Looking at cost per point, TV and radio are almost equal in Kansas City.”

More refined tools for measuring radio reach, she said, have shown it was not nearly the levels previously believed. Because of that, “you have to buy so many stations, so I don’t feel radio is the most cost-effective.”

To the question about how innovation is changing the marketing game, Angela Ridpath of AEG Advertising said the reduced costs of contact-management systems was making a huge difference for clients. “There are so many different tech platforms that can plug into the CRM now,” she said. “And so many affordable CRMs that a small business can use.”

The data challenge will only grow into 2023, Borrell said. It’s therefore important for companies and agency clients to focus on managing it, and putting it into the hands of someone who knows how to use it.
Too often, he said, “smaller businesses want to hand off their marketing expertise to the last person they hired, someone who might be 30 or 28, because they seem to know a lot about marketing. That does occur.”

But decisions about effective marketing will either dictate the growth of the business, or the collapse of it, he said. “You have at your disposal as agencies or direct advertisers lots and lots of information,” he said. “A data scientist would not be a bad hire.”