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Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

There is an endless number of marketing strategies and how-to books on the market, yet rarely is there a simple primer on what every marketer should do or not do. Instead of looking for uniqueness and nuance, it can help to discover the rules that apply equally to every marketing effort.

Here are six marketing do’s and don’ts that are inarguable:

DO: Have a goal measured in money
The most significant, most important, and perhaps the most apparent quality of every successful marketing activity, strategic or tactical, is that it uses money as the measure of its purpose and goal. You’d be surprised at how often this fact is either qualified or ignored. Sales are not just the ultimate purpose of marketing; they are the only purpose. Without sales, there’s no corporate mission, brand, or existence.

Measures such as “awareness,” “engagement,” or any other description of time spent consuming marketing (or any resulting mental states) are interstitial metrics, not goals. If your marketing thinking doesn’t connect to a goal measurable in dollars, pounds, or the currency of your choice, you should revisit your strategy. Goals measured in money also tend to be achievable, since everyone can understand what they’re supposed to accomplish.

DO: Activate existing behaviors
It is far more natural to address and activate an existing behavior among consumers than it is to educate and inspire a new one. People don’t like to get taught, but habits and routines are incredibly powerful. Therefore, the most successful marketing strategies endeavor to understand these facts and then build arguments that require minimal change to existing behavior. That is why offers are usually labeled “better” or “improved,” instead of “different” or “changed.”

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A similar approach works best when addressing the consumer’s problems or issues; the offer still must represent little in the way of challenging a change in behavior or attitude. A solution can improve a situation, but it shouldn’t demand that consumers do too much differently. It might seem like a considerable challenge – changing consumer experience without overly changing it – but every strategy will do so differently. The starting point should be to challenge yourself on the education front. Start with existing behaviors first, and try not to move too away from them.

DO: Stick to the plan

When data are available instantaneously and incessantly, many marketers risk being distracted by short-term or interim information about the implementation or successes of marketing activity. Don’t let this data distract you; stick to your plan, which means allowing it to succeed by the criteria you initially set out for it. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be aware of changing circumstances or that you ignore strikingly apparent developments (good or bad), but any changes below a pre-established threshold for adaptation risk changing the variables upon which you based your initial premises. So you may well improve the outcomes of your strategy in ways that aren’t tied-back to your understanding, and make it next to impossible to decide what happened, or why. Unless something is egregiously odd, stick to your plan.

DON’T: Copy past successes

No brilliant marketing strategy works the same way twice, any more than Hollywood can come out with copies of a blockbuster and hope for the same success. You may see a competitor do something that appears great, or witness a case history of some success at a marketing conference, and thereby think that you possess the criteria to apply those ideas to your next plan. You don’t. The conditions that surround your planned activity are different than those that surrounded the completed work, by definition, so there’s no way to compare the two. Further, you can’t know what factors contributed to the past success, or which ones were thoughtfully implemented versus ones that originated externally to work (for instance, how many campaigns succeeded in large part because of healthy economies?). Finally, you have no idea how the competitor or other company measured success, nor what it cost them to deliver it. Reported figures, especially those produced for consumption by fellow marketers, tend to highlight positives and discount or ignore negatives. What they measure may not be what you value. The key isn’t to copy others’ successes but to extrapolate the principles that you might want to at least test.

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DON’T: Overestimate your ability

Every successful marketer is humble, contrary to the rock stars who write books about some brilliant new approach or talk about their successes at industry events. Remember that consumers give you their business only if you earn it. Nobody outside of the marketing world cares about your marketing prowess, or for the inherent brand values you’ve created. It all comes back to your marketplace, and any reasonable person would admit that the possibilities of failure are far higher than those of success. Such humility enables a different, almost deferential approach to developing marketing content, one in which the customer indeed does feature first, and nothing gets taken for granted. There’s likely a significant correlation between marketers who claim greatness and their great ability at claiming it. That goes for your plans themselves, too. Whatever you believe you can accomplish with your campaign, discount it by some “humility constant” of your choosing. Setting more reasonable goals will also make it far more likely that you’ll reach or exceed them.

DON’T: Stop being a human being

The people you presume to sell to are the same ones who sit with you in your office or answer emails from you at your agency. They’re your family and your friends. Marketers risk using themselves or their acquaintances as the basis for research, but they’re vital as the grounding for definitions of truth, and reasonable expectations of action. Put bluntly, things that wouldn’t be credible, meaningful or acceptable to you in your personal life may well not be that way as marketing content to others, either. You can’t expect your marketing to convince people to do things that nobody you know would ever even consider. It is shocking how many marketers presume these principles don’t apply, and they end up slicing and dicing the truth in ways that they’d never even consider at home. Many marketing campaigns have objectives that require almost a suspension of disbelief to comprehend. What is so simple in your personal life should also be evident in your professional work. Don’t stop being a human being when you get to work.

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These simple marketing do’s and don’ts can set the stage for truly innovative and successful work. Ignoring them helps ensure diminished returns, if not outright failure.

Marketing Dos and Don’ts
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