Where should you be investing?

One of the more interesting realities of 2021 is that many organizations started the year flush with cash, partially because of federal and state support. There was a flurry of spending in the first and second quarters, but it was mostly around infrastructure, staffing and shoring up what was damaged in 2020.

But now that work is done or well underway and it’s time to get back to building the business. Exactly where should you be focused going into 2022?

Existing customers: If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to be grateful for the loyalty of our best customers. Now is the time to reward and reinforce that loyalty. Many organizations are beefing up their rewards programs, client-only perks and privileges, and exclusive access programs.

The most efficient marketing dollar you can spend is on your current clients. They’re receptive to your messages, their referrals pack a potent punch, and it’s easier to get a larger share of wallet than that first dollar.

Your online presence: We cannot deny how critical it is to be findable online and for our clients and prospects to be able to actually connect with us there. The buying patterns were established well before the pandemic, but they were set in stone during the lockdown. Having a robust website and social media presence are table stakes today. It’s almost impossible to compete without it.

But it goes far beyond just having a website. The real investment is time. Time to create content that is valuable to your prospects and clients. Time to engage in conversations in the comments section of LinkedIn or social platforms that are unique to the industries or customers you serve. Time to monitor customer service through your digital platforms.

This needs to command your attention and a decent portion of your budget.

Being findable: It’s not enough to be online if your prospects don’t know you’re there. COVID accelerated the inevitable shifts in the media landscape. Cord-cutting, a move away from traditional media delivered in a traditional way, and more time spent online were all heading our way. They just got here a little faster than some were expecting.

Very few organizations today can avoid investing in being findable. For some, that might be a robust organic SEO strategy. For others, it’s a digital media spend. But despite the recent success of the Field of Dreams game here in Iowa, in marketing, building something does not mean anyone will discover it or show up.

Polish up your brand: Another reinforcement of a powerful marketing tenet was delivered in 2020. Your brand matters. What you stand for and stand up for matters. As we all fight for the attention, respect and love of both our customers and our employees, having a clear understanding of your brand and how you communicate it has never been more vital.

Understanding your brand is just the start. You also need an activation plan. How will you communicate your core values, your vision for the future and your commitments around what matters to you? These can’t just be words on a wall anymore.

We have four months to hit our 2021 goals and set ourselves up for success in 2022. While these four areas are not the end-all and be-all, they are also nonnegotiable. Get these locked down before the end of the year so you can make the first quarter about capitalizing on your advantages, as opposed to teeing them up.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.