Today I signed a new client, iCharts. (My inner data geek shines through on this one. But seriously, check them out if you like data and chart-making.)
The experience of pitching, planning and promising results in <90 days was awesome. (And yes, doable.) Maybe I just love the thrill of pushing things uphill, but the reality is that every element of my recent ebook – Get Scrappier - came alive in the working sessions this last week.
I also thought the experience - and insights – were worth sharing. Perhaps you too are in the position of pitching new clients or sorting out a quick-win strategy.
Below are some Fast Facts for doing so.
Keep it Simple, Know Your Audience, Use Data and Quantify Results.
In other words, do your homework. But don’t exaggerate results, or over complicate the storyline. It all sounds relatively easy, but it’s really Sales 101. And yes, in Marketing we sell. Sales, Marketing. They (always) go hand-in-hand.
Break it Down, Don’t Over Commit and Set Even-Keel Expectations.
Establish structure right away with your planning (even brainstorm) process. Bucket your thoughts, categorize your opinions and don’t over sell an idea. Facebook presence may sound like a great idea, but attaching wild follower and/or conversion growth rates in x timeframe with no baseline metrics would be slippery spot to be.
Build and Optimize to Goals versus Hard-Coding Results.
If you have enough marketing expertise behind you – or someone to help you voice an opinion – there are industry standards for site conversion, etc that can be used to set broad expectations. It does not mean that you too can achieve x in xyz timeframe, but a standard can still become a goal. And that goal, if pursued aggressively, can soon become a very real item to prove or disprove over time.
Get more scrappy (marketing) best practices by reading my latest ebook, Get Scrappier. FREE until Feb 11, 2012. Do more on less. Get Scrappy.
Staying tuned in is hard. And it’s underrated what it takes on a (daily) basis to follow the heartbeat of your customer, of your surrounding industry, even what your peers and colleagues are doing.
Don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to follow everything, or everyone. But there is an invaluable reward of staying just one step ahead. It’s about finding your “edge”.
Many of you never see me – physically – but you see see me post and comment (almost incessantly) on online channels. I sometime get asked what I get out of it, especially since so much of my interactions and learnings happen, surprise, strictly online.
Below is just a sampling of what I’ve learned from tuning in online. And how it actually helps me find my “edge”.
Offline Goes Online (news, gossip and such)
- Facebook. It’s become the visual, content source for all things news that MATTER to me. Yes, Yahoo! and the like have customized my homepage experiences to mirror content that I’d be most interested in. But honestly, it’s become my peers and what they’re sharing and following that I care most about.
- Twitter. This is the god-send of all things bigger industry news and buzz. It also clues me into great blogs, videos and more about the digital space, marketing and #smallbiz. Do_not_underestimate what an hour of Twitter per day will deliver to your eyes and brain.
Other advantages of Twitter? I can follow trending topics around very specific keywords, categories of ideas or topics and specific brands that I’m interested in (i.e. Flipboard, Yahoo!, NYT). Plus, if you’re really active and engaged you’ll take the time to comment, post and interact with the Twitter community. This is probably the biggest (investment) you’ll make online, but 100% worth it as you not only discover new things, but have new people engaging back in your conversations.
- NPR. I check this one – online – much less frequently than the above channels but I still love the fresh, insightful, even agnostic perspective I’ll get about topics that interest me beyond what peers or (endorsed) media outlets have to say.
Just For Fun (niche topics, creative injections)
- Pinterest. I am not an artist. But I am a designer. A designer of creative messaging and I am very focused on how we visually and contextually engage with users. The visual aspect of communicating (marketing) has more recently caught my eye. I am enamored, personally and professionally, with the art of images. And how a single image can make or break a piece of collateral to a prospect or current user. Pinterest also gives me some design tips, both on how to build (visual) content communities andwhat content is most engaging to the broader public.
- AMEX Open Forum. Most go here for small business news. I visit and follow OPEN for a few other reasons. First, to dream about featuring my content and work to their SMB community. But second, because I admire the marketing team behind it. The site design, while not Yahoo!, is still very unique in how it engages users and how CONTENT is creatively leveraged for cardmember conversion.
In marketing, it’s the quintessential way of communicating, on real terms and in very real ways with end-users.
The name itself hints at what we discussed – the heavy truth of what it takes to be successful in a fast-pace, “no-one-cares-about-any-one-single-thing-you-do” world we live in.
Everyone one of us who attended the session came away enriched, inspired and ready to “crack the code. But one magical element came back over and over throughout the workshop - be transparent.
I’ve blogged about this concept before, post Pivot Conference this past October. But Seth reminded me once more about the value of not just be authentic, but as marketers…sticking to what we know and uniquely defining the course for how you do business. For if you don’t, it can be a rat race of pleasing crowds. And in the end, pleasing no one.
How does this translate to everyday business needs?
1. Spread your passion (your art) through your work. Don’t let “mass appeal” dissuade you from what matters most to building your brand.
2. Define/reshape efforts only around those that care most about your work, your product.
3. Ignore noise that doesn’t reflect against the core of what you do. The peripheral is just that – noise. And it doesn’t always mean you need to change a program or product. If anything, noise is just affirmation that more than your core user base is listening and watching.
So be transparent. And focus, first and foremost, on what matters – to you and your most loyal fans and followers.
Passion. It drives (most) everything we do. From our choice of what to eat, what to wear, to whom we talk to, to who we date, and with whom we spend our time or lives with. As marketers, it defines us.
I spend a lot of time observing, as much as I do creating. And it resonates with me that when I produce my best work, or when I see others do so, it’s because my/our heart is in it. I/we care about every little detail because it genuinely matters. And it becomes (and feels) much less tactical, as it does exhilarating.
So what separates good from great marketing – in big or small organizations? It is passion.
Sounds simple. Perhaps even a bit naive to say – that passion alone might drive a good or bad marketing effort. But I actually believe it does.
A marketer is much like an artist, even a dancer. Sure there are basic guidelines we follow, certain rules that are played by. But near anyone can read a marketing textbook and go execute. But those who execute well, and in a memorable way, do so with passion behind their work.
Steve Jobs, as with many other infamous marketers, was renown for his passion. His passion for how every detail looked and felt.
The result? That everything from an email, to a store front, to an ad campaign, to a product’s shipping container exuded his (personal) passion for it. It was that simple, but very strong, emotion that conveyed itself into every end-product or message an end user received.
So unleash your passion. Talk (market) something you really care about. Steer clear of things you’d distribute only on fliers. Find that sweet spot both in life and work. It will then naturally seep into every aspect of what you do. From how you identify marketing channels, to how you focus and create messaging. Something (small), can then become very big.
Attitude. Some might say it separates the successful from the mediocre. In the field of marketing, it’s the distinction between the passive vs. the aggressive. And by passive, I don’t mean weak. And by aggressive, I don’t mean rude.
Rather passive is about signing in - doing what’s (minimally) required to get a job done. Versus aggressive is about signing on - doing what’s not necessary, but what should be done to take something beyond what the expectations were and are.
As marketers, and as individuals, we have this choice every day. To simply sign in, to check a box that we’ve done our job. Or to sign on and lean hard to not just find a new way to do something…but to do it. To sell it, to break through glass ceilings.
Attitude doesn’t just sell ideas, it lives it. Attitude isn’t just entertaining a concept, it’s making it happen. Sign on, or sign off.
We say we’re listening, but we’re not. We say we care, but we don’t.
Sadly that is the situation that many businesses (and marketers) deal with. The “I” takes over the “what do you want” and we’re caught in a vicious cycle of pleasing…bottomline.
Yet follow a few case studies of businesses who found ways to put customers first, and it’s amazing how “you” translated into the very essence of a business, a vital part of their brand.
To name a few heroes…
Zappos - Renowned for staying on lines with customers for hours to help find the perfect shoe. And a free return policy isn’t all that bad either.
Southwest Airlines - SWA shook up the airline industry with doing away with boarding groups and adding cheap flights. The sheer “equality” factor that they took with how they served customers was refreshing and fliers flocked. (Until they started raising prices and somehow they weren’t all that different from everyone else.)
Starbucks - “Only the customer knows what the perfect coffee is”. Well, sort of. But they will give me coffee after coffee, for free, until I am satisfied with what I walk away with.
All of these businesses share one thing in common – they understand the exponential power of what one very happy customer means to gaining mass credibility and trust. And furthermore, they understand what it takes to establish a positive brand experience, which (does) translate into revenue stability and growth.
It’s not flash sales, it’s not airport advertising, it’s not billboards…it’s honest, well-earned recognition that xyz business revolves around, yes, a concept/business model, but also one that’s centered on customer satisfaction.
Lest we forget - it’s about what YOU (they) want.
Personal or professional, the shadows reveal the truth about us as individuals, and in the business realm it separates the weak from the strong.
I most often center on #smb, but big or small, challenges exist. There’s a day when you must learn something new. There’s a day when you must try something different. And there’s almost always a day when you get validation you’re on the right path, while others you can feel lost and well, in the shadows.
Chasing shadows? It’s the ability to recognize there is a challenge and to face it head-on to pass through.
Case and point – SEO. SEO might as well be the Red Sea to some, even myself. (Yes, I’m admitting I’m not an SEO expert.) I know the role it plays in my toolkit, and I understand the basics. But I don’t put enough emphasis on it. Yet, I must.
Why? Because SEO (search-engine-marketing) is the fundamentals of digital content development and distribution. SEO also is the foundation of web design. Heck, it’s part of how I manage this blog to ensure there’s an organic discoverability aspect of what I create.
But I do still need to sharpen my skills around the topic? Yes. In fact, I’d argue that over 50% of marketers have no clue what SEO really is nor actually apply it to their (digital) designs and/or content management efforts.
Finding light is about creating ways to solve for bigger challenges. For example, deciding whether to learn first-hand how something (e.g.SEO) should be done or deciding to out-source the effort to someone who is (or claims) to be an expert in that given field.
My choice and maybe yours – balance the two scenarios. Learn first-hand, but also recognize my/your greatest strength will never be SEO specifically. Yet can surround yourself by others who focus on the topic and learn with them, further rounding out your skillset.
A day in the life of a small business marketer: baby steps and herculean moves. It starts small, it feels big. And it is.
Every day is about taking one step forward and making choices. Choices surrounding prioritization of Email activities versus Social Media, or Social Media versus Display media, or Display media versus mobile SEM.
The reality? It’s less about what should be done (ever), it’s about making choices that will define herculean moves. The quantum leap that lends itself to break-through communication efforts and motivational insights.
Baby steps. These are actually the strategic decisions you and/or your larger team make to establish baselines for success. For example..
- Defining the role of social media in your organization.
- Structuring revenue-centric communication priorities (a.k.a. target audience).
- Creating reporting frameworks for measuring KPIs.
Herculean moves. This is the compilation of everything we often coin as “execution”. Many folks can plan or theorize about what “should be done”. But a smaller few can get-it-done and take something from concept/ideation to final delivery. It’s about…
- Delivering a roadmap for SEO versus saying “let’s focus on SEO and here’s why”. It’s doing it.
- Agreeing to focus on xyz email campaigns and creating daily deliverables for a larger team to deliver against.
- Going from deciding a new messaging/brand strategy is needed, to carving out a a few days to deliver a 90 day plan for how messaging will/can be changed across a business.
It’s starts small, it goes big. Are you doing both?