It’s the season for resolve. In fact it’s all around us. But the odds of these resolutions becoming nothing but pipe dreams by the time we reach the end of January, let alone the end of the year, are high. The reason? Fairly simple, it takes time to change your habits.
We’ve been following the business media and it’s full of resolutions too. Top ten trend prediction lists litter my incoming news streams, followed closely by things you absolutely must do in business this year. Because this year is going to be oh so different from any other year running a business. Well, surely it is?
Let’s buck the trend, shall we? Let’s talk about the past. Why? Well past behaviour is one of the best predictors of future behaviour (hate to say it, it’s those pesky habits that play a part). But it’s also the key to success. Shelve the trend articles (for now) and forget the “must do’s” and let’s take a look at what really may make a difference.
Here’s our take on the 7 habits of what makes some companies highly successful marketers.
1. We know it’s not the strategy behind the plan that counts, it’s the planning behind the strategy
A lot is currently being said about having goals, having a clear strategy. That’s all very well, but most successful marketers know that – although the strategy may be important – it’s the planning behind the strategy that ultimately counts. In other words: We don’t just think. We do.
If your strategy is to have 1 million customers over the course of the year, it’ll be nothing but a pipe dream if you don’t know how you’re going to get them and, most importantly, what you need to do to make it happen.
So do yourself a favour, simplify the strategy and focus on the plan. The what, where, when and who of it all is ultimately what makes the difference.
Want an example? Then take a look at the strategy for fashion retailer Next – an on and offline retailer experiencing growth in all facets of its business. It’s directories arrive like clockwork, you can set your watch to the date and timing of their annual sale, and their email marketing strategy is gentle but firmly in your face throughout the year. None of this happened by accident or because they suddenly found themselves with some clothes to sell. It was elegantly implemented, a feat of exceptional planning and efficiency.
2. We believe consistent branding is not up for discussion
Really, it’s not. If you are not proactively investing in your brand then you are letting it stagnate. Your brand needs to be at the centre of absolutely everything that you do. Any marketing media that is not adding value to your brand needs to be updated or removed. There truly is no middle ground. Don’t just leave it there, festering. Invest in quality design, maintain and develop your visual presence and don’t cut corners – it costs just as much to print a bad design as it does a good one.
Successful marketers brand everything. From the pens to the soap. If it can be branded, it will be.
So who’s leading the way? You can’t beat an overnight stay at a Citizen M hotel for a prime example of how you can be steeped in a branded experience without it, necessarily, taking over your life. From booking, to check in, even the signage is gloriously branded, leaving you filled with a joy that very few other hotel chains can achieve. All that, and at a reasonable price too.
3. We evaluate our performance as we go along
Data is key. We all have it. Some of us have it in bucket loads, others in just a smattering. Successful marketers pull it together, make sense of it and track their performance. If the data is deviating from the pattern, there’s a reason. Look for it. The stats don’t lie, they tell a story. That story can sometimes help you direct your business out of the way of danger. It may even indicate there’s choppy waters ahead. Either way, there’s a pure army of tools out there to help you evaluate what’s working and what’s not.
We insist on tracking the performance of all our client’s digital activity using sophisticated reporting tools that have been invaluable in tweaking and honing their business strategies to greater impact. But, at the risk of sounding a little like Stephen Hawking, beware of hasty interpretations, the law of unintended consequences in data analysis can be high indeed. Always step back and ask yourself if your knee jerk response is strategic. If it’s not, ditch it and move on.
So who’s doing it well? Not many companies hit the mark when it comes to data driven marketing implementation. Amazon, love ’em or loathe ’em, seem to be one of the very few that a) know what I’ve looked at online; b) know what I’ve bought before; and c) try to sell it all to me by email – in a personalised sort of way. To be fair, they probably have the technology to support this level of personalised marketing. But, even at a very basic level, most companies have the data to address customers by their first name. They just choose not to.
4. We communicate daily, not just when there is a campaign
Too many agencies are focused solely on campaign marketing tactics. The Christmas campaign. The Spring campaign. The Autumn campaign. Very few are engaged in the (much less flashy, but oh so important) day to day communications. But let’s be serious here: marketing is not something that neatly fits into a 6 week campaign. Communicating with your customers is actually something you do daily. By social media, by email, online, by phone, by letter, in media releases, by old adverts, with new ones.
It’s an ongoing thing. As such it needs to be treated as an ongoing conversation, not a rare public performance of some carefully chose lyrics that suit the message. The clarity of your brand voice is just as critical as it’s visual presentation. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t go quiet. Say something.
John Lewis is probably one of the most consistent communicators out there with ongoing quality and thorough on and offline communications underpinning a series of exceptionally executed creative campaigns.
5. We accept there is such a thing a “hygiene” media and don’t always try to be flashy and new
Successful marketing is not all about the next big thing, but a lot more to do with delivering the hygiene factors. Not of the keeping clean variety, but the basic “must haves” that customers expect to find when they look for you. Some of these differ from industry to industry, but there are universals that transcend all. They should not be up for debate with regards to inclusion in your annual marketing plan – they form the foundations of any controlled marketing communications. Basically, if you don’t have all of the following forms of media in your business, get them now:
- Company Website
- Facebook page
- Twitter Account
- Yellow Pages/Yell.com Listing (Free)
As for industry specific must haves these can vary but to identify if it’s a “hygiene” media for your industry, ask yourself the question: Do customers expect us to provide this?
Consider an online retailer without a website. A mail order company without a brochure. A visitor attraction without an information leaflet. A business consultant without business cards.
6. We repeat ourselves. All the time.
It’s true. We repeat ourselves. All the time. Believe it or not, not everyone is listening when you deign to speak the first time round. Despite what some experts tell you, it really is OK to repeat yourself: on social media, on advertising, on print media, on billboards.
You’ll probably find your use of media more effective if you do.
Some of the best campaigns are those that are repeated. In fact, traditional advertising works solely on the premise that it must be repeated to have impact. A single advert, however well placed, is just not going to cut it.
Somehow, in our transition to digital, we seem to have got ourselves caught up in a trap that everything we say must be an original piece of literary art. Stop it. Decide on your message, consider several different ways of saying it and then roll that message out – at different times of the day, on different days, to different audiences.
7. We’re obsessed with systems
Dull, we know. But marketing is (should be) a well oiled machine. It should be constantly rotating, like machinery, to drive your business forward, to drive sales, to drive growth. The key word here is drive. It’s a forward motion, it’s a mechanical process, it’s an effective method of transportation.
We will always look at all “new” ideas with a view to whether they can be systematised. Why? It’s the doing that counts, right? We don’t like it when someone sticks a spoke in our wheel. Things stop turning. It’s not ideal. Similarly, if we’re diverted from driving perpetual motion, it usually leads to, well, stagnation or – worse – ever decreasing circles.
But when the wheels are turning, and the sales are rolling in, and the customers are happy, then – well then, we have time to be creative and really build on our successes.
The most successful companies out there are the ones who got the basics right first, then built up their exceptional creative brands around those systems and processes which underpin the business.