The trouble with marketing? Everyone is doing it.
That's not a surprise. Marketing is imperative for a business to grow. Without some sort of marketing, how will customers find you? Unless you've got a super-exclusive business that trades on being best-kept secret, marketing your business is essential.
Because it's so important, feelings about marketing run the gamut. For some, marketing is a necessary evil. For others, it's a passion. For most, it's both a mainstay and mystery: we have to do it, but we don't know how to do it right.
Why do so many business owners have trouble nailing the perfect marketing formula? Because everyone is doing it.
Who's the Expert?
When you're buying marketing services for your business, there is no shortage of people willing to take your money. Most of them will tell you to spend in on their services, with little regard for strategy.
Ask an advertising expert, and they'll sell you....wait for it.....ADVERTISING!
Looking for help understanding social media? A social media guru will happily "help you" with managing multiple accounts and creating regular postings.
Are either of these approaches right for your business? That's the question you alone can answer.
What's wrong with marketing is that there are too many so-called experts and not enough informed buyers. Slick agencies dazzle business owners with glitzy presentations, lock in a contact and fail to deliver results. Unscrupulous consultants give you half the solution, telling you what to do but not how to do it.
Granted, not everyone you meet will purposely-or even inadvertently-waste your money. There are many excellent marketers around. After more than 20 years in the field, I've met and worked with lots of them.
These real experts have their clients' best interests at heart and they work in partnership with clients to spark business growth, knowing that exceptional results will win them referrals and help their own business grow.
The trouble is that finding the real experts can be a challenging exercise because there is so much competition for your marketing dollars. Add to that the fact that the discipline of marketing has fragmented considerably in recent years.
When it used to be easy to find an agency that could handle all your marketing, now there are choices to be made experts in things like SEO, online advertising, social media, mobile marketing, and much more.
Entrepreneurs and executives looking for marketing help must be both wary and wise about what they're buying.
Modern Marketing is Highly Fragmented
A few years ago a simple ad campaign developed by the local radio station or a print campaign in an industry trade magazine might have been enough to generate new leads for a growing business.
Now buyers of marketing services must contend with multiple aspects of branding, marketing and communications. Topics like these can be overwhelming to business owners who don't revel in the nuances of modern marketing:
- Online vs. offline advertising
- Mobile marketing, SMS, and location-based promos
- Multi-channel strategies (consumer and B2B)
- Engaging buyers through social networks
- Creating social media strategies
- The changing landscape of PR and media
- Demand generation and lead nurturing
- Email marketing, list building and direct mail
- Content creation and curation
- Dynamic pricing and incentives
- Reviews and ratings
- Customer loyalty and retention
- Customer experience and customer journeys
- and much more...
It's nearly impossible for the average executive to stay on top of all the items listed above. This climate demands access to savvy partners who can guide you through the progress of determining what's uniquely best for your business. Once you decide, the solution is never static.
Set It and Forget It?
Business can't afford to take a "set it and forget it" approach to marketing because the landscape in constantly changing. What worked yesterday won't be as viable tomorrow, because something in the landscape will evolve.
Marketing today is like looking through a kaleidoscope. We all start with the same pieces, but how you see the ideal mix depends on how those pieces are arranged. As soon as you think you've found the perfect picture, something shifts and everything looks different.
Understanding that you're in a shifting landscape can make it easier to succeed. When you know you must constantly adjust your balance, you can focus on the things that will help steady your efforts. Three important areas to concentrate on are
- Knowing what works well today.
- Continually testing and refining your marketing mix.
- Anticipating what will work tomorrow.
Finding the right partners in this process starts with developing the ability to avoid shiny object syndrome (SOS). You shouldn't chase every new thing any more than you should cling blindly to the past. Be judicious. Explore the options, test the waters and make your own decisions rather than falling sway to someone else's enthusiasm for the next big thing, especially if their business depends on getting you to say "yes."
Balance is Best
More than ever, effective marketing is a balance of art and science. Objective metrics are critical, and so is understanding that the data can be deceiving. For example, attributing a sale to the last touch with a customer is misleading. If you don't account for the branding, awareness and visibility efforts that contribute to capturing an online lead, for example, you'll likely overestimate the stand-alone value of online lead generation.
To fix what's wrong with marketing-or more specifically, your marketing-focus on the end game: revenue and relationships. Ask yourself:
- Who are your best customers?
- What do you offer them that's unique, valuable and distinctive?
- How can you reach them to share your story?
When you know the answers to these questions, you're ready to engage an expert advisor to help. (I'll cover how to vet them in another post.)
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