Part 1 of 2
In what has become an annual tradition I’m sequestered in a leather chair at Match Cigar Bar writing my annual article on what to expect next year in the world of branding, digital advertising and web design. As I puff on my Padron 1964 Anniversary and sip on some fine whisky, I reflect on the transition between ’15 and ’16, and the state of my industry.
Last year I wrote about 5 evergreen marketing fundamentals. The year before I predicted the Top 11 Digital Marketing Trends For 2014. Both of these articles are as true today as when I wrote them, perhaps even more so. This year I contemplated writing an article in that same vein: what should we, as an industry, be adopting in the form of technology, strategy and story telling? And while there are many new ideas and platforms on the cusp of stepping into prime time, I decided it more important to to focus on “out with the old” rather than “in with the new”. In other words, we must, as an industry, perfect rather than innovate, and refine as opposed to reinvent.
Think of it as spring cleaning, just in January.
Here’s my the first 9 of my Top 16 things to stop doing in 2016:
16) Stop Posting Crap
I consider the timeframe on the internet between 1994 and 2008 the Era of Lack of Information. We’re now firmly entrenched in the Too Much Crap / Disinformation Era. We used to have to beg clients to commit to posting helpful content in an attempt to position themselves as thought leaders, improve ranking on search engines, and to accumulate, and subsequently engage, an audience on social media. These days, I can’t go 30 seconds on my Facebook feed without seeing some article predicated on complete falsehoods. With your own publishing platform comes the responsibility to provide high quality, original content that is written in your brand voice. If your article or post doesn’t possess those attributes, please, don’t publish it. Every time you do you degrade your credibility and risk diluting your brand. Oh, and an kitten dies.
The solution: Create, and stick to, a thoughtful content strategy, and make sure your articles that are accurate, engaging and have at least two of these qualities: informative, helpful, interesting, specific and emotive.
15) Stop Spamming, Even Accidentally
Spam is junk mail in digital format, and apparently it’s not just for email anymore! I see it everywhere online, from social media, to company websites. The ugly twin of #16, it appears in the form of pop-ups, unsolicited contacts via LinkedIn, click-bait blog posts and even in company Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter account posts. Spammy content is the result of not having a clear and concise content strategy. In fact, most organizations' entire social media strategy is predicated on these uninteresting, thinly veiled, but equally shameless, self promotional plugs.
The solution: Same as above: Create, and stick to, a thoughtful content strategy.
14) Stop Being Too General With Your Brand Message and Content
Not only do you have a line of products or services that you can offer your clients, you also have a specific set of ideal products or services that you want to sell to a specific and ideal group of clients. See the difference? I always tell my clients “be careful what you ask for in your marketing messaging, because you just may get it". A vague and general branding and marketing message can backfire and attract the wrong kind of client, resulting in wasting valuable time and resources dealing with low yielding transactions rather than ideal, margin rich, longterm relationships.
The solution: Define your ideal clients, offerings, and verticals, including the development of personas. Use tools and methods like SWOT analysis, triggers and empathy mapping to create an airtight brand message. Finally, deliver that message using a strategy to the right decision maker or influencer at the right time via the right media channels.
13) Stop Doing It “The Way We’ve Always Done It”
Times, they are a-changin’. Nope, the times have already changed and it’s high time your organization has caught up. If your business is in a competitive landscape, every single customer touchpoint counts. Toss your dusty box of three-panel brochures in the dumpster. Replace your archaic, non-responsive website. Stop cold calling and sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. And, for the love of all that is holy, tell your yellow page rep to take her book and online directory and take a hike (for all you millennials who are unfamiliar with the term ‘yellow pages’, click here).
The solution: See this post: Get The Box Right
12) Stop Thinking That Digital and Traditional Advertising Are Unrelated
Once upon a time, there was advertising. Then came digital advertising. And never the two shall meet. That was, and continues to be, the attitude of many agencies that cut their teeth prior to 1999. When it comes to branding and marketing, It’s important to remember that there is no such thing as Business-to-Business, or Business-to-Consumer, there is only Human-to-Human, and all communication channels, whether online or in the tactile world, are just that: channels. These days people seamlessly jump from their smartphones to in-store point-of-sale merchandise (if you’ve ever Googled a product to compare pricing or read reviews while standing in a store, you have done this yourself).
The solution: I recently penned an article about this (Note: I didn’t use an actual (analog) pen. See what I did there?). You can read it here: Why You Shouldn’t Hire A Digital Agency
11) Stop Putting Your IT Department In Charge Of Your Website
God love ‘em. Those pocket-protector attired stewards of technology are invaluable to an organization. The keep the lights of the internet burning 24-7. They keep the data accessible and the Cloud from floating away. They even speak their own secret language (that you and I don’t understand) and may even be bonafidel geniuses. They’re the best at coming up with passwords that you can’t possibly remember, but they fall short when it comes to all the things that make a great website: sales, branding, photography, user-experience, video, copywriting, story-telling and design. That takes a team of experts in each of those respective fields.
The solution: Put your website in the hands of your Director of Marketing after it has been developed by a crack team of website design and development experts.
10) Stop Throwing Good Marketing Money After Bad Marketing Money
Warning: PFA (Prepare For Acronyms)
There is an old adage in our industry: “Half my marketing budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half”. These days there is virtually no excuse for that. We have access to analytics, and through the integration of RCF’s (Remote Call Forwarding), unique landing pages , and other tracking technology we can paint you a much more complete picture of not only which of your marketing efforts are working and which are not, but which are the most and least effective. If you don’t know your CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) you can’t possibly improve your ROI. If your marketing plan for 2016 is a carbon copy of your 2015 plan, you're doing it wrong. With all the digital strategies available to laser target your campaigns, such as IP targeting and re-targeting just for starters, there is no excuse to improve the effectiveness of your marketing.
The solution: Integrate your marketing efforts with trackable tech and continue to analyze and optimize to the point of diminishing returns. Bonus points for utilizing A/B testing.
9) Stop Letting Your Brand Get Fuzzy
I’m lucky enough to interact with a huge variety of organizations in terms of size, vertical and industry on a daily basis, and one thing they usually have in common: they allow their brand message and their “why” to get out of focus. The main reason, at least for organizations that actually purposely established their brand message in the first place, is because they’ve grown, and their internal brand stewards (usually the founder and C-suite) have innately become a smaller percentage of the company and they've failed to indoctrinate that message on newer employees. However many organizations fail to establish their brand message in the first place and naturally become the passive recipients of their brand as defined by their constituents. Brands not only need to be defined, but it is imperative that they are strategically allowed to naturally evolve as the company grows and changes.
The solution: Regardless of what stage your organization is, you must define your brand, keep it consistent, and continue to keep your message focused.
8) Stop Building The Same (Ineffective) Website
The availability of ‘professional looking’ web design and development has become more accessible (and therefore less expensive) due to advancements in turn-key, cookie-cutter solutions such as Squarespace and Wordpress templates. These websites are modeled after professionally developed, custom websites and therefore look like the real thing, at least on the surface. But don’t let them fool you: while they may be similar in look and feel, and pass muster to the uninformed, the odds are that they will be vastly less effective. Often times these designs are selected merely because of their curb appeal, and while they may be pretty, beauty alone is rarely enough to achieve organizational goals, especially when it comes to client conversion and search engine ranking. If I had a dollar for every client that approached us and asked to replace an amateur, turnkey, ineffective website ….oh wait, I do…
The solution: Your website should be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Invest in in properly (just like you would any valuable employee) and it will pay for itself 100 times over.
To be continued….
If you’ve found the first 9 helpful, hang tight and we’ll publish #7-#1 after you (and I) have recovered from the New Year’s celebrations. UPDATE: Access part 2 here.