You may have noticed that marketing has changed — quite a bit — in the past few years.
Smartphones, social media, and pandemics all played a role, but the end result is that even hyper-local marketing has gone digital. If people can’t find you using their smartphone, they’ll find someone else.
Many business leaders are understandably feeling overrun by the sheer number of options available today.
While pursuing marketing excellence and efficiency will require becoming conversant in modern technologies, it will also be necessary to renew your commitment to common sense business strategies. As you allocate resources and make some tough decisions, return every now and then to some basic, overarching guidelines that have stood the test of time.
Five Things You Should Embrace
1. Know who you are…and are not.
If you’re the primary marketing decision-maker and you don’t know your strengths and weaknesses, this represents a huge organizational blind spot. Perhaps you started a successful business but quickly feel as though you’re in over your head when it comes to modern marketing techniques. There’s zero shame in that, so be quick to admit it and ask for help.
If you tend to make a lot of gut decisions or act impulsively, the patience required for achieving a successful ROI may be something you need to work on…or outsource. The most successful people are quick to recognize where they’re weak and take steps to counteract their deficits.
2. Know who your people are.
In the quest to bolster the bottom line and outsmart competitors, it’s easy enough to blow right past the people who are helping you achieve your dream. Successful marketing efforts tend to flow from well-managed companies with happy employees.
Customers are quick to pick up on companies with miserable workers. Many will choose to shop elsewhere.
Assure employees that they work in a safe, supportive environment. After that, bring the same sharp focus to them that you brought to yourself in Step No. 1.
If an employee responsible for marketing just isn’t cutting it, go ahead and have that difficult conversation and make every attempt to fit them in at another position within your company. Put your people in a position to succeed by playing to their strengths as well.
3. Know your USP cold, then develop a mantra.
What is your unique selling proposition? Why should anyone, regardless of demographics, choose to do business with your company? Have you developed a catchy shorthand way of repeatedly communicating your USP to staff, customers, and friends? An example might help.
Many are familiar with the motto made famous by the City News Bureau of Chicago: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” In that short, pithy sentence, everyone working for the bureau instinctively understood that they were not to accept any one person’s account as unvarnished truth. It was their responsibility to dig up at least one or two corroborating sources.
Similarly, your business can keep everyone focused by leveraging your USP into a memorable catchphrase or motto. As this will be the filter through which all of your marketing efforts pass, it makes sense to spend a great deal of time and attention on its development.
4. Factor your time into marketing costs.
To this day, some business owners eschew hiring outside marketing help simply because they have someone working in Shipping who knows how to use Photoshop. Compounding this mistake is viewing that employee’s time — or yours — as “free.”
Of course, in our saner moments, every manager knows that there’s no such thing as “free” marketing.
If you or someone else in your organization is spending more than 30 minutes per week on marketing efforts, be sure to keep accurate records of this expenditure. Factor it into any decision you make to move forward (or not) with an outside agency. Being realistic about what you’re spending in terms of time, talent, and treasure internally will also help you deal with any “sticker shock” that may come your way.
5. Listen. Listen a lot.
Whenever someone brings something negative to our attention related to our business, it’s very common to put out the immediate fire and forget to ask ourselves why it started in the first place. One of the simplest solutions is to go through your workday with at least one ear open to multiple channels of feedback.
Document customer complaints and compliments. Spend a few minutes listening to employees who offer suggestions, even if you’ve already considered their idea and previously discarded it as unworkable.
If your budget allows for it, invest in social media listening solutions to see what people say about your business when they think you’re not around. You might want to spend some time at the end of every week asking others, “What are people saying about us?”
Five Things You Should Avoid
1. Don’t attempt to please absolutely everyone.
One of the benefits of knowing who you are, who your people are, and your USP is that you can quickly set aside temptations to enter markets that run contrary to that data. Even if the money looks good, be cautious. You might end up diluting the effectiveness of your primary area of expertise and excellence. Be the best at one or two things rather than be “so-so” at 15.
2. Don’t try to be everywhere, all the time, with your marketing.
Avoid the common mistake of overextending yourself. One common marketing misfire is repurposing content for multiple social media channels. If, for example, most of the people you serve prefer LinkedIn to Reddit, trust that your message will be received well by your LinkedIn customers. If you hit the mark, they’ll pass it on to friends and colleagues as needed. Again, it’s better to have an absolutely stunning digital footprint in one channel than to “phone it in” over multiple outlets.
3. Don’t occupy the “bleeding edge” of any marketing tool.
It seems as though some new and shiny marketing tool gets released every week. Maybe even multiple times per day. Resist! Unless you possess deep qualifications with a new marketing tool, let other businesses jump on the bandwagon the first time it passes through town. Follow up your initial reluctance with sustained review and assessment. It may well be that Version 1.0 of whatever is perfectly acceptable. However, more often than not it’s best to wait for Version 1.4 or later.
4. Don’t copy your competitors…outmaneuver them.
No one likes a copycat. Most of us learned this in grade school. However, we can be quick to forget it when we see something working for the competition. Instead, lay the foundation for who you are and what you have to offer. It’s better to speak from a platform of expertise rather than take shots at anyone else…or try to be someone you aren’t. Expertise, authenticity, and innovation ought to go hand-in-hand as you position yourself in every marketing campaign.
5. Don’t make marketing decisions without data.
Empirical data is your best friend when it comes to making marketing decisions. If that witty campaign you really like falls flat with test groups, relinquish your stranglehold on it. Take the time to conduct a deep dive into your website analytics, sales numbers, and expenses. Entrepreneurs, in particular, tend to have achieved success by making more than one gut-level decision. However, in today’s digital realm, gut instincts can get extremely expensive in a hurry. Let the numbers guide you as you decide which campaigns to abandon and which to double down on.