By Stephanie Manola, Account Manager, Outlook Marketing Services
In some ways it’s made me quite numb to my own consumption of many of the messages that business and marketing content writers are fervently churning out. So much has become noise. There is a LOT of content about content—how to market, how to sell, how to engage, what’s most important. And my fear is that it is causing us all to lose a bit of perspective.
So here’s my list of business and marketing sore points – the topics I read about or see happening too often that I think require a deeper dialogue and more honest exploration. Here are the things I’m begging you to stop doing (or at least reconsider) because if you take them at face value, they could be leading you astray.
1. Following best practices.
Before you stand up in outrage ready to tell me this is blasphemy, let me qualify this a bit. Stop following best practices within reason. Every industry, market and business is different. Your distinct brand and messaging is different. Each audience is different. Your various products and services are different. There are always going to be tried and true ideas that help us shape how we forge ahead. But innovation and creativity are all about thinking differently, and sometimes “best practices” are limiting your possibilities.
The Real Takeaway: Start using your best judgment. Best practices got that way for a reason, but they’re not right for every company, in every situation. Give these “best practices” a good hard look and ask yourself if they’re right for your business or if you need to shake things up.
2. Using buzzwords.
Value add. Actionable. Leverage. Impactful. Synergy. Learnings. Disruptive. Big words, yet they say so little. Why are buzzwords so off-putting? Because their vagueness leaves readers feeling confused about what the heck you’re talking about, or wondering if you’re hiding something by fancying up the truth with flashy words. Regardless of your intentions, if you are using these words, we are tuning you out. And so are your customers.
The Real Takeaway: Be authentic and use your real voice. At the end of the day, we’re all people connecting with people and that’s how we want to be communicated with.
3. Thinking social media is the end all, be all. For free.
Now don’t get me wrong here. You can make a big splash on social media with your ingenious content and foxy personality. And it can certainly help you go a LONG way. But how you’re going to take advantage of that to reach engagement stardom is through strategic social investment. That means being smart about your time and about your money. Not every social platform is right for you and your business. And the way things are going, you will likely reach a social plateau if you don’t start putting some money where your mouth is. Case in point: We all know Facebook is laughing all the way to the bank as they make it harder and harder to achieve the reach some of us were getting used to in the old days (and by the “old days” I mean 9 months ago).
The Real Takeaway: Social media is essential to your marketing strategy. Whether you are a huge Fortune 500 brand or a small, startup ice cream stand. It will help you. But it’s only one piece of the marketing puzzle, and being strategic is how you’re going to really maximize your potential.
4. Believing everyone is a content strategy expert (including yourself).
This is dangerous. Great content is all about harnessing excellent and unique thought leadership knowledge. But ever since the content marketing revolution, too many people think developing content is like dropping by to get a coffee: cheap, quick and easily done by anyone. Think again. As the level of content out there reaches a fever pitch, you are going to want an expert in your corner who understands your customers, understands your business and strategizes as such.
The Real Takeaway: Everyone can be a topic expert. If you’re not savvy in content strategy, find someone who is. Remember: You’re making an investment in your future. (See also: 71% of marketers are increasing investment in content marketing, according to Curata. This isn’t a coincidence.)
5. Assuming you have an excellent grasp on your customers. Without ever talking to them.
In today’s fast-paced work environments, we sometimes find ourselves operating in a bubble, even when we don’t mean to. You sit in a conference room talking with your team about what you think matters to the customer. You’ve poured over all the latest research, and you live and breathe learning about your industry and your audience. You’ve spent hours strategizing, you passionately defend your ideas. You KNOW this customer, you KNOW their pain points – working tirelessly to understand their world, to live inside their head. But do you really know your customers if you aren’t spending any time engaging with them?
The Real Takeway: Talk to your customers early and often. Don’t lose touch with the reason you’re doing this in the first place.
6. Seeing marketing and sales as two totally different things.
Marketing and sales are communicating with the same people, and those people are getting increasingly empowered to expect their interactions with a company to be ever more sophisticated, coordinated and customized. Sales needs marketing and vice versa. And the growth of marketing automation platforms is driving even more integration as companies get better at aligning to the customer journey and smarter about what customers want, when they want it.
The Real Takeaway: Marketing and sales are getting cozier than ever. A smart strategy involves blending both and taking advantage of the collaboration. (Collaboration! Another buzzword that should go away…see, old habits die hard!)
7. Only measuring the behavior, not the drivers.
Ah, measurement – the true end game. We’re all familiar with metrics such as: Click thru rates (CTR), cost per engagement (CPE), impressions, visits, time on page, downloads, likes and shares. But measurement can be tricky. Already, it’s one of the hottest topics in marketing this year as the industry tries to make sense of how to really get to some valid metrics that mean anything of any relevance to revenue and return on investment. Here at OMS, we’ve been having a lot of discussions lately around this as a team and with many of our clients, and there are no easy answers. What it comes down to is: every organization is different and values different metrics. But the sooner you identify how to measure what’s actually most important to your leadership and business’ bottom line, the better.
The Real Takeaway: Ask yourself, are you looking at the right marketing metrics? Measurement matters, but so does what you’re measuring and why. Make sure you’re aligning your metrics with what matters specifically to your business.
At the end of the day, being a good marketer (or a good business decision maker) means doing your homework and evaluating current and past practices to uncover the right strategy and mix of tactics. Talk to your customers, talk to your peers and accept that the industry will constantly be changing, but evaluating what works and doesn’t work and what matters most to your business are ultimately, the most important things. Don’t lose that perspective. Stay away from marketing clichés and try to be open to new possibilities. Find and establish your own best practices.
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