The question “what should I be doing?” is asked by millions of marketers on a daily basis. Despite being professionals in our field, we find ourselves questioning our instincts when it comes to how to put our best foot forward for the brands we represent.
When I started writing this, I imagined it as a list of resources for brand managers in various industries (which I still might do), but the more I thought about it, the less confident I felt in the value I might provide to you as a reader. I started thinking more about what it means to be a brand manager (or whoever is in charge of marketing, at the moment) and wrote down some guiding principles instead of a collection of tactic lists.
Of course there are best practices to follow and technical requirements to meet in marketing, but my philosophy has always been to trust my gut (however “wrong” my gut may be, according to marketing norms) and rely on what the business needs when it comes to digging out a strategy and planting tactical seeds.
This may come as standard fare when reading things I write, but I’m a firm believer that there is no correct way to market anything. There is only what you believe to be true, valuable, original and juicy enough to connect your audience with your product or service. Don’t worry about what your competition is doing, what some Instagram ad told you or what your boss’s kids are telling him is the next big thing. Make something sexy, smart and original that inspires action from the right people. Assuming you have a great product to back it up, over time your audience will appreciate and reciprocate your efforts in the form of a purchase, endorsement or otherwise.
I would, however, like to offer a few tips to the trembling brand manager out there (firstly, stop trembling!).
Prove value instead of negotiating budget
As the old adage blares in our eardrums, “You get what you pay for.” It’s annoyingly true, and something my old boss used to tell us all the time when we were requesting time, materials or permission for an upcoming marketing initiative from the c-suite. The bottom line here is this: if you want to be noticed by your tribe, you have to produce and distribute good content on a regular basis. How do you produce good content? Invest in that new camera. Carve out 8 hours a week for content production. Start a newsletter. But most importantly: if you’re committing to these things (great!), you absolutely must set measurable objectives that focus on outcomes (not outputs) related to your efforts, whatever those may be. Prove that it works or prove that it doesn’t, but prove something. Otherwise, don’t bother. Doing what your gut tells you doesn’t mean you can fly by the seat of your pants all the time.
Audit your brand regularly
You won’t know where to go if you don’t know where you are. Before you jump into anything, you need to take stock of what you are doing. Which marketing efforts are working/not working? Which product or service lines get the most bang for your buck (hint: start here)? What have your predecessors tried? Did it work? If so, do it better. If not, tweak it or scrap it. Spend time with your colleagues in other departments. Ask your customers what they want and what makes them say “yes.” Read the reviews on Google, Yelp, etc. It will do your brand wonders to spend a few weeks combing through how your brand is perceived and where you stand in the market. Check the inventory before you make the pitch.
Don’t romanticize the medium
Too often, we do things because we've always done them. You’ve been rocking a newsletter for decades that you think that it is well-received, so you spend thousands every year to produce and distribute it. But what if no one's reading it? Just because you or your boss likes to produce something doesn't mean it works, and that applies to social media platforms as well. If your target audience is blue-collar workers looking for health insurance, maybe you shouldn't be spending time on Pinterest. This isn’t to say radical ideas can’t work if you lean in and stay consistent, but you have to ask yourself: is the end result of this effort directly or eventually affecting sales? Treat different channels objectively. Be scientific. Look at the numbers, map the buyer’s journey, try a mini-campaign, retreat and repeat. It’s not about you. It’s about where you can harvest the most attention.
Create at least as much as you consume
As the marketing person in the room, you have the license to browse social media more often than others in your company. Stop fooling yourself. There’s a huge difference between true social listening and mindless scrolling. If you scroll at all, do so with the intention of uncovering an insight about your audience or gauging sentiment about a campaign. While you’re doing that, leave comments, like posts, share posts, etc. At least try and grow engagement metrics while you are scrolling. However, if you want to take your content to the next level, I recommend switching the mindset to focus on developing a habit of creation over consumption. Make a rule for yourself: I can only scroll (with purpose) if I give something back to the platform in return. Don’t get on Twitter without tweeting something. Write a blog post and share it before you are allowed to read an article on Facebook. Try and separate personal vs. professional social media time. While you’re working, make good use of the platforms by contributing original content and engaging authentically.
If you thought you were alone in this, don’t worry. We’re all trying to figure this thing out. Every business needs marketing and anyone has the ability to market, but as a brand manager or marketing director or small business owner, you have the experience and a pulse on the business. Don’t undersell yourself.
You can sail this ship wherever you think it should go, and if you aren’t being empowered to do that, then maybe it’s time to reconsider your current situation. You were hired for a reason. Your business needs you. Go out there and put your stamp on things!
If you’re interested to learn more or would like to connect with us to discuss where you stand in your marketing efforts, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment on social or tweet at us @toucanads.
Toucan is a New Orleans advertising agency.