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10 Things You Can Do To Create a Better Marketing Strategy

Mark Schaefer on Strategy

Why Your Marketing Strategy Stinks And What You Can Do About It.

The goal of any marketing strategy is to help you increase your brand awareness and grow your business. But in order for a marketing strategy to be successful, it has to be realistic and something you actually implement.  Even with all the information on the web about marketing strategy, content marketing and social media, understanding how to make it work together is a challenge for everyone in business.

I’ve had the feeling that we’ve been thinking about marketing strategies all wrong, missing the opportunity to be agile and flexible in our our efforts. This led me to a conversation with Mark Schaefer about all things marketing, but especially marketing strategy. How to leverage content, social and build a strategy that’s dynamic and executable. If you don’t know Mark, he’s a marketing rock star. He’s written five seminal marketing books including, The Tao of Twitter, Return on Influence, Born to Blog  and most recently, The Content Code. The insights here were inspired from our conversation recorded in this podcast.

10 Things you can do to create a better marketing strategy.

1) Focus, focus, focus.

This is a huge challenge for people in general. We already know that the human attention span is shrinking. One study puts it at 8 seconds! That’s less than the attention span of a goldfish. Our tendency when creating a strategy is to want to do everything. That’s just not possible, no matter how hard you try. I like the restraint that Mark’s builds into his strategy. He focuses on three things, he calls them the 3C’s. #1 Content: Content in the form of speeches, presentations, blogs, books. This is really how he becomes known for what he does. It’s the core of of his marketing and it’s essential to the work he does. #2 Consulting: Where he helps companies rethink their marketing strategies. That effort then influences his content and at the same time, his speaking and content influences his consulting. Lastly #3 Classes: college classes to be specific. He gets to explore ideas in depth, applying real world experience to the rigor of academia.  If something he’s working on doesn’t fall into one of those three buckets, He doesn’t do it. He may find some other way to get it done but it doesn’t get in the way of executing on his strategy.

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2) Be opportunistic and agile.

There’s a lot of classic theory on marketing strategy that suggests that you have to pick one of five core strengths and ride that from here to eternity. While you still need an overarching plan, today’s strategy has to be dynamic, then and as soon as you get going, you need to keep your eyes open for opportunities to leverage. Once you identify an opportunity, lean in as fast as you can for as long as you can until it’s no longer effective. Rinse and repeat.

3) Decide on your definition of marketing strategy.

I really like the refinement that Mark adds to his definition of marketing strategy, “something that differentiates you and is sustainable for some period of time to create profitable growth for your business”. This is a definition that I can sign up for. But it doesn’t have to be your definition, you just need to decide what a marketing strategy is and and what it isn’t for your business. This will help you measure your success.

4) Get a marketing mentor.

The Mastery of any skill can be accelerated by modeling great mentors, marketing is no different. Mentors can be a great resource of industry knowledge, a network for talent and an incredible role model to show you what success can look like. Search for an experienced mentor with a background in helping drive business results. You want to create an environment where it’s ok to be wrong, to experiment to challenge the norm.

5) Challenge your mission statement.

Most companies have a mission statement that is pure fluff. Something along the lines of “We provide outstanding values through our service and yada, yada yada…” Which somehow sounded great to those who approved it, but falls short on helping to connect with the consumer. One question you want to ask yourself is “is there anyone of your competitors who can’t say the very same thing?” If the answer to that question is yes, then it’s time to think long and hard about your differentiation. Mark has a great mission discovery process where he asks business leadership to write a finish to the following mad lib “Only we…”. If you ever try this, you will find it one of the most difficult business planning exercises to finish because you have to figure out: What makes you different? Why do people love you? Why do your customers keep coming back? Why do your competitors fear you? What is your place in this ecosystem? Are you a leader? Or a follower? Are you disruptive? What is your source of advantage right now? What do you hope that it will be? It’s hard work, but once you do it, it’s liberating because now you know, you know what you need to communicate, where you need to communicate it and who you need to communicate it to.

6) Ask the hard questions.

We all experience first hand how fragmented marketing channels are today. We have multi screen content channels all competing for attention. And the amount of this information is literally exploding at an incredible rate. So much so that annual global traffic will pass the Zettabyte threshold by the end of 2016, and will reach 2 Zettabytes per year by 2019. Who knew what a Zettabyte was? That’s nearly 5 internets by the year 2020. So now what? What do you do? What is the strategy for the time we’re in? We can’t just keep shouting louder. That just adds to the problem. We can’t just keep building an audience if they don’t mean anything to us and we don’t mean anything to them. Where do we have the opportunity to maneuver in this information-dense world? The hard questions will continue to present themselves, don’t shy away from them. There’s gold in the asking.

7) Forget engagement and think sharing.

We often talk about brand Awareness and engagement as our ultimate goal, but engagement could be something like a “like.” on Facebook, or “infinite like” on Periscope. The problem is that “likes” or their equivalent are just a drive-by or a prom queen wave. You’re patting it on the head saying, “Okay, that’s good little donkey” But when you share something, you’re standing up and saying I believe in this and you should believe in this too, this is important to me. Sharing is the only definition of engagement that makes sense in today’s business climate. It’s a big deal when someone decides to share content or refer a product or service. If you really dive down into the psychology and sociology of what creates the economic value on the social web or in content marketing, it’s not the content, it’s not even the big number of audience members that you might have, it’s what content gets shared. Because 70% of consumers say, “My purchasing decision is influenced by something that somebody shares with me.” This is the biggest economic driver on the internet right now.

Power doesn’t come from content, power comes from content that moves

8) Be humble.

We all want to have the answers, but there’s great power in knowing that you don’t and you can’t have the answer to everything. Real power doesn’t come from having all the best answers, it comes from having the right questions. And approaching a problem, or a marketing team, or a client, with humility and saying, “You know, there’s a lot of opportunities here. There’s a lot of options here. Let’s work through this process together. Let’s figure this out together, and let’s find the right questions to ask.” This is especially crucial in this fast changing world where there are new ways of doing business, being created every day.

Having the courage to be good instead of perfect is a part of blogging success and the trade-off you have to make to be consistent

9) Be a fearless learner.

We’ve all heard someone utter the words “I just don’t know if I can keep up with this technology, when I look at how these young people are using technology today, it’s just intimidating”. That is a theme that resonates at all age levels and it will never go stop. The questions “How do I learn? How do I keep up?” require that you be fearless and determined to say, “I’m not gonna be irrelevant. I’m going to embrace change”. You don’t have to know every single change and every single platform. You just need to be open, willing and eager to learn.

10) Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.

When it comes to personal growth, we are greatly influenced by those around us. They impact our way of thinking, our creativity, and our thought processes. Of course, nature still plays it’s part, but research has shown that we’re more affected by our environment than we think. While it’s great to be closely surrounded by supportive people who want you to succeed, it’s also necessary to be challenged and to have points of view. There’s a tendency for novices to have a preference for positive feedback, whereas experts want negative feedback, so that they can make progress. There is absolutely nothing wrong with projecting confidence and drawing from your intellect. you may even inspire someone. There’s a time and place for everything. The key is to be open to the possibility that another truth might exist.

 

These thoughts are my own interpretation of the interview with Mark Schaefer, listen to the entire episode to hear what he really said. Read his books, download his podcast, and definitely visit his blog, http://businessesgrow.com. You won’t be disappointed.

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