The last few mornings in our town have been foggy. And it’s been dense fog. Very low visibility.
Of course, when you can’t see much past your own windshield, it’s tough to know where you are, even if you’ve driven the road you’re on for years. It also means you can’t tell if you’re close to your destination or not.
If you run a business, you may feel like you go through foggy patches now and then. They can make it hard to see a clear path to success or may cause you to miss important turns and detours.
When driving in thick fog, it makes sense to use GPS, a tool that helps you stay on course and avoid potential danger.
A marketing plan is like GPS for your company.
It ensures that every member of your team is moving in the same direction by defining your marketing goals, strategies and tactics. It prevents you from merely hoping the marketing decisions you make will get you close to where you want to be.
April Rietzke is the Director of MadAve Marketing Management. Her team creates and executes marketing plans. “Our plans have allowed clients to streamline their processes, increase sales and improve retention, all while saving money on advertising,” she said.
“We’ve also helped clients identify and seize marketing opportunities they never considered before. A solid marketing plan makes it easier to maintain consistent messaging, too.”
And all that intention and focus can lead to a more engaged audience.
Working without a marketing plan is like driving through fog. With no clear vision of where you’re headed, it’s easy to lose your sense of direction and make costly blind turns.
Yep. The following reminders are, in fact, basic. But there’s a good reason to read the list – the “basics” are foundational.
Even the most accomplished musicians warm up by playing scales. Even the best hitters in the Major Leagues take batting practice before each game.
Likewise, reviewing and applying these basic thoughts can help you maintain your strong foundation.
Here we go…
1) On your business cards, résumé and email signature, use the name you want people to call you. If you prefer Bob, don’t refer to yourself as Robert on your LinkedIn page and other public profiles.
2) Make your emails easier to scan and read by using bullet points. Change important ideas from black to red. And highlight any requests that require action.
3) Include all your company’s contact information on your website. Don’t just make potential customers enter their personal info, submit it and then wait for your response.
4) Writing a blog post or a longer email? Start with an outline. Jot down the main points you’d like to make in a column. Add basic details under each point. Then, build your content around those points. Move your blocks of content as necessary to create the most logical flow for your audience.
Also, when writing website and email copy, apply this journalism principle: don’t bury the lede. Position the most important information near the top of your content.
5) In a meeting? Keep your phone or other device out of sight. Turning it over isn’t good enough. The presence of your phone or tablet suggests to others in the room that, at any second, you could be attending to an email or call that’s “more important.”
6) Never lie – or even exaggerate – with your marketing. Making outrageous claims about your product is an obvious type of lying, but there are more subtle misrepresentations, too. For example, the marketing emails that include this type of copy:
“I’ve been reviewing your website, MadAveGroup.com. I really like it, and I’ve been thinking about ways that we could help you generate even more traffic.”
The person who sent that email didn’t review our site. He didn’t form an opinion of our site. And, on a whim, he didn’t start pondering ways to improve our site. Lies have no place in any type of relationship. Make sure your marketing messages are accurate and honest.
7) Edit your business writing so it’s as concise, yet as effective as possible. Cut the fluff and repetition to show respect for your audience’s time. Whether you’re crafting emails, reports or blog posts, it’s your job as the writer to make your content easy to navigate, digest and retain.
8) Always say “thank you.” For a client’s time or trust. For a customer’s purchase. For a colleague’s insight. Thank people when they hold the door, when they pick up the tab, when they do good work. Look people in the eyes, say thank you as often as you can and mean it. There’s neither an easier expression of gratitude nor one that’s more meaningful.
Thank you for reading.
Bob Fosse was one of the world’s best-known choreographers. Over his 40-year career, he designed memorable dance scenes for films and Broadway musicals, including All That Jazz, Cabaret, Pippin and Chicago. (Watch a salute to Fosse here.)
He earned an Oscar, three Emmys and nine Tony Awards, while creating a dark, sensual, instantly recognizable look and a unique physical vocabulary that still inspire dancers decades after his death.
Yet, much of his signature approach was born of his weaknesses.
In a 1984 BBC interview, Fosse said, “Truly, my style came from my own physical problems. I always had a slight hunch in my shoulders, so, as a dancer, I began hunching.”
He started losing his hair as a young man, “so I started wearing a lot of hats.”
“And I never had the ballet turn-out, so I said, ‘well, I can’t turn [my feet] out, so I’m going to do the opposite and turn them in.’ The whole style has come out of my defects.”
Fosse said, “I thank God I wasn’t born perfect.”
Of course, nobody is perfect. Nor is any brand. But, while you’re walking the endless path to improvement, consider how you could capitalize on your company’s weaknesses.
Start by re-positioning what you perceive as negatives. Instead, think of them as quirks, unique qualities that could have value as differentiators. No one saw Bob Fosse’s hunched shoulders or thinning hair as impairments because he leaned into them. He looked right through the cons and saw the pros on the other side. Then, he put those features to work for his dancers.
So, for example, is your company smaller than you’d like it to be?
Instead of going into debt to grow your local inventory, focus on just one product and work to earn your status as a respected national expert on that item.
Instead of hiring more people, invest in training the staff you already have so that they come to exemplify a new pinnacle of customer service.
Instead of upgrading to technical systems you can’t afford, embrace old-school business practices: personal phone calls, face-to-face meetings, hand-written thank you notes.
Each of those is an example of looking at a perceived problem through Fosse-like eyes. And each could elevate you and your brand in the hearts and minds of customers.
I drove behind a pick-up truck for a few miles the other day. On the truck’s rear window was a hard-to-read, dated, ultra-fancy logo for a local florist. My immediate thought was, “I’d never call that place for flowers.”
Why? Because of how poorly they presented their information, even though they’re in the presentation business.
Whether the florist designed or just approved the gaudy logo, I assumed they’d also do a bad job of designing tasteful floral arrangements or, at the very least, that their idea of what’s beautiful is not consistent with mine.
To me, that florist’s logo was an indicator. And often, indicators speak louder and more truthfully about a company’s abilities and commitment than its advertising and marketing content do. For instance…
- Is the restaurant’s front window filthy? If so, you don’t want to see their kitchen.
- Is the wireless provider’s website an endless maze? There’s a good chance their customer service feels like that, too.
- Is the physician’s office always short-staffed? That suggests that the doctor who cares for your health doesn’t know how to care for his employees.
Indicators are red flags that may provide insight into future encounters. A company’s commercials or online ads might allude to a great buying experience, but when its callers are kept on hold in silence or their store environments are old and tired or the staff isn’t trained and friendly, customers are sure to be disappointed with what they find in real life.
Distinctive, memorable advertising and marketing content is important, but it must also be an accurate representation of what you deliver. Exaggeration for the sake of bringing people through the virtual or actual door can quickly backfire in the form of bad reviews and angry customers.
On the other hand, you may be the best landscape architect in town, but if the lawn and bushes in front of your office are brown and crispy, potential clients might be suspicious of your good reputation.
As a consumer, it’s important to look for indicators before you buy. As a marketer, it’s even more important to recognize when your message or visual brand is misleading, inaccurate or potentially damaging in any other way.
As a marketer, what do you believe in?
What’s the philosophy that guides or differentiates your work?
Those questions may seem challenging at first, but they’re worth considering, since you could easily apply the answers to what you do every day going forward. Whether it’s one simple statement or a few basic rules you commit to, a personal marketing philosophy can be a handy tool.
As an example, these are my three philosophies:
1) Always ask the question “who cares?” about anything I write. (Is the target audience likely to find value in my copy or content?)
2) Express ideas as concisely as possible. (Respect the audience’s time.)
3) When appropriate – and sometimes when it’s not – use humor. (Work to give the audience the memorable gift of unexpected laughter.)
If you’re a writer or another type of creative, your philosophy can hone your creation and editing processes. Let it serve as your standard or a “filter” through which you run marketing content. And when it’s well-reasoned and time-tested, you can share your philosophy with clients or members of your team to support the choices you make.
If this is a new or strange concept for you, identifying your core principles may be tough, but don’t feel like you need to adopt someone else’s viewpoint. Your marketing philosophy should matter deeply to you. You should be able to defend it. Ideally, it’ll come to you organically, after you’ve had enough first-hand exposure to both the good and bad practices of the industry or your specific craft. But you still may need to ask yourself the hard question, “What do I believe in?”
Write down your marketing philosophy. Then, share this blog post with the rest of your team and ask them to do the same type of thinking. Once they have, look for any commonalities in your philosophies. Where do you align? Can your company actively focus on those mutual principles to maximize their impact?
Then, how might harnessing the power of your shared beliefs affect your company culture and morale, your hiring practices, even the customer experience you deliver?