Becoming a marketing master

Becoming a marketing masterYou don’t have to be a good writer or have a mind for marketing to set a goal of becoming a marketing master. You just have to be willing to do the hard work of learning how to do it and practicing it regularly.

There’s a huge body of research that has studied how people who are at the top of their game got there. Many people assume these superstars had a wealth of natural talent that gave them a huge advantage over the others in their field.

But even when you look at remarkable performers like Tiger Woods or Warren Buffet, it’s not true. We’ve all heard the story of how Tiger started playing golf at 18 months and had over 15 years of regular practice before he began competing at a national level. Warren Buffet admits that he knew very little but invested significant time studying business and financial statements to learn how to spot patterns and trends.

In fact, the research is so consistent it has evolved into what is commonly called the ten-year rule. It states that the most accomplished professionals, no matter what field they’re in; need about ten years of intense study to get to the top of their game. The ten years isn’t an average, it’s a minimum.

And there’s one more element that matters. It can’t be casual or haphazard practice. It needs to be what is called deliberate practice. It’s you doing things with the explicit goal of improving your performance that will push you past competent to a level of excellence.

Why does all of this matter to you, in terms of marketing?

  • It means for you to develop and execute effective marketing, you need to be deliberately practicing on a regular basis.
  • It erases the excuse “I’m just not wired to be good at this” when it comes to marketing your business.

Like most other aspects of running or owning a business, it boils down to doing the hard work and committing to it for the long haul.

And there’s one other benefit to taking this sort of approach. In the case of marketing – unlike a golf game or investing, you have a potential audience and that audience requires many marketing touches before they start paying attention. The fact that marketing is a marathon not a sprint works well with this “practice every day” philosophy.

Very few marketing tactics deliver instant results and when that happens, it’s more dumb luck than anything else. Marketing is a cumulative effort. Your efforts stack up and create that consistent drip drip drip marketing that we’ve talked about before.

In many ways, marketing is the perfect skill to develop, given the ten-year rule. You have to do it consistently and intentionally to get better at it and your audience needs you to do it consistently to notice you. So the more you practice, the better you get and the better results you’ll experience.

Now the question is – what do you need to do to put this idea into play?

Daily Practice: What marketing tactics can you commit to doing on a daily basis? Is it a Facebook page update? A customer thank you call?

Weekly Practice: What can you do every single week? An insightful blog post? Sending out targeted direct mail pieces and then following up with a call?

Monthly Practice: What, come rain or shine, will you do every month? Writing a helpful newsletter that establishes your expertise? Running an ad in a niche publication aimed at your primary audience?

Be sure you build your skills by practicing every single day and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to becoming a marketing master. Not only will you get better every day but you’ll get also more customers as you practice!

In marketing the constant is change

ChangeSwitchYou know, the annoying thing about clichés is that they’re based in truth, even though that truth may be a bit worn in places. And lately I’ve been very aware of the idiom “the only constant is change” as it relates to business and especially to marketing.

Maybe it’s always been this way and our parents and grandparents had to wrestle with constant change too, but it seems to me that the acceleration curve has gotten incredibly steep over the last 15 or 20 years.

For example, when I started my career, computers were certainly a part of the mix but we never showed a client a computer-generated layout. We’d take mock ups that were drawn in pencil and very rough. Today, we upload PDFs to our extranet and they look practically finished before we’ve even begun.

I get it…I’m the first one to espouse the convenience of our new way of doing business. I love that we can work with clients (and partners) from all over the world – digitally sharing files, ideas and collaborating.

So while I long for the showmanship of the old days, I do appreciate what we have today. But sometimes it also makes me a little tired to think about.

Here’s our reality as business people. It’s never done. No matter how successful your business is – it’s in transition. Every day.

There’s a new technology or a new consumer trend right around every corner. And to stay relevant and profitable, there’s no hiding from them.

Today and tomorrow, I am leading a marketing workshop and one of the things we’ll talk about is mobile and how quickly it became a key element in any marketing strategy. I know what I’ll see. While some of them were anticipating this tsunami of a trend, others were either not ready for it or aren’t looking forward to facing it.

So how do we keep up? How do we stay current and able to anticipate what the next change is going to be so we can get a running start?

Read. Do you know that most business leaders don’t read anything more than their local newspaper? Are you kidding me? Turn off the TV and read a book a month. Find the top ten blogs in your field and subscribe to them. Find the most controversial, far out there publication or blog in your industry an subscribe to that too. It’s better to anticipate too much than get blinded by something.

Attend. Trade show and professional development attendance has been dropping since the recession took a big bite out of everyone’s travel budgets. It’s time to put some money back on that line item. You need to go and listen to experts. You need to hang out with peers and share stories and resources.

Teach. One of the best ways to learn is to commit to teach others. Make sure your entire staff is ready for what’s coming. More important, teach them how to recognize the trends and track them, so you don’t have to be the only one doing it. If you know you have to conduct a class, even if it’s an informal one, you’re much more likely to keep sharp.

There are lots of ways to stay current but it all starts with the attitude of recognizing that it’s a part of your job and it’s one of the ways you keep your company relevant and profitable.

In our world…you either keep up or you quickly become irrelevant.  Don’t be the marketing pro who is still spouting off about the latest and greatest — from 5 years ago.  Find a way to stay current and keep your clients/business there too.

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Are you Marketing Smart

Marketing Smart by my friend John Gumas from Gumas Advertising is a collection of proven strategies and tips to help you take on your competitors and win!

The book is straight-forward, pragmatic and actionable! Be prepared to dog-ear, highlight and nod your head as you read.  You know I don’t love books that tell you what you need to do but don’t tell you how to do it. No worries with this book — every page is a how to primer!

Marketing Smart is written specifically for those professionals who are creating marketing strategies/tactics for Challenger brands — fighting against a bigger competitor who is likely to outspend them every time.

John’s got tons of practical counsel on how those Davids can take their Goliaths and win.

As you know, I like to ask the authors a few questions when I’m reviewing their book.  Here’s what John had to say about Marketing Smart.

If you had to describe the content of your book in a single sentence (no run ons) what would it be?
Proven marketing strategies and tips designed to help Challenger Brands maximize their promotional efforts so they take on their larger competitors and win!

What one book that you’ve read do you wish you could claim as your own?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

In your opinion, what is the one trait that all uber successful business people possess?
Drive

What’s the biggest business mistake you’ve ever made and what did you learn from it?
Recognizing opportunity. It only knocks once, so I now make sure I analyze everything as that potential big opportunity.

Why did you have to write this book? What truth or insight was missing from the human consciousness — that you’ve now answered?
I felt there was a real need to write a marketing book designed specifically for Challenger Brands. I wanted to provide proven and practical advise in a step by step format that they should put into use immediately.

After someone is done reading your book — what do you hope they do as a result?
They understand what being a Challenger Brand really means and they learn the strategies needed to be a successful Challenger Brand Marketer. And as a result, they’ll refer back to Marketing Smart for real answers and “how to advice” for years to come.

Ready to take on your Goliath?  Get your copy of Marketing Smarts here.

 

 

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The 5 things that will derail your marketing in 2012

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but the truth is — most organizations’ marketing efforts stink.  And they stink for reasons well within the marketing department’s control.

If you’re worried that your own efforts might fall short — beware of these five danger zones that can derail you in a blink!

Inconsistency:  Does your monthly newsletter go out 5 times a year?  Does your copy tone/style fluctuate between somber and casual?  Are your weekly sales calls happening every week?

Inconsistency not only waters down your results but it also waters down your brand. If you can’t get your newsletter out on time — why in the world would I, a prospective customer, think you can deliver what you want to sell me on time?

Not having a plan:  One contributing factor to inconsistency is the wishy washiness that comes from winging it.  Without a document that maps out where you are going…in the rush of the day, you end up on detours you never intended.  Or worse, you end up on the sidelines trying to figure out your next move, rather than moving forward.

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be a leather bound edition, but it does need to be in writing and it needs to be something you reference at your weekly/regular marketing meetings.

Trying to do too much:  I want to hear a collective sigh of relief as you read this.  You simply cannot do it all.  So stop trying.  You are far better off to do a few things consistently and well, than try to manage too many marketing tactics.

The average sized organization can only successfully produce and monitor a handful of initiatives at once.  So plan it out carefully so you can deliver consistency and quality.  Every time.  That will be far more impressive than doing more every once in awhile.

Not matching your budget with your appetite:  I see this happen all the time.  A big company is stingy with their marketing dollars and does so little, they don’t even show up on the radar screen.  Or the flip side — a small company saves up all their pennies and launches a huge splash but can only sustain it for 60 days and then goes quiet.

Marketing is for the long haul.  You need to know you can sustain your efforts or their effect will be fleeting.

You.  Yup, I said it.  You’re actually the biggest risk to the marketing efforts.  Why? Because you know when you’re doing something that isn’t going to work.  You know what you can and can’t pull off.  You know that you talk about yourself too and don’t talk with the audience  about the stuff they care about enough. You know you should spend/do more and be more consistent.  Maybe you even know you can’t do it by yourself but you’re too cheap to hire some help (either staff or an agency).

So what are you going to do to get out of your own way?

What do you think?  Would you have a different set of obstacles?  Want to add any to my list?

Stock photograph courtesy of Big Stock Photo

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